Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention. Joint written statement submitted by CETIM, MRAP, IADL and WILPF.A/HRC/13/NGO/21
I. History of a genocide and of an ecocide1
When, in 1492, Columbus landed on the island he named La Española (Haiti and Santo Domingo), he found a veritable orchard populated by a large indigenous population living in peace.
The deforestation of the island to make room for crops of the conquerors and physically eliminating the natives, who were replaced by Africans reduced to slaves, began as early as 1500. This explains how the forest that covered 80 percent of the country at the time of the conquest was reduced to as little as 2% in Haiti and 30% in Santo Domingo by the beginning of the 21st century, with terrible ecological and climatic consequences.2
II. The first Republic of Latin America and the Caribbean and first black republic in the world
It is just a little more than 200 years ago, on 1st January 1804, when the population of Haiti abolished slavery and declared itself an independent republic.
The abolition of slavery provoked the fear that it would serve as an example to the slaves of European colonial possessions and the neighboring United States, where slavery continued until the Civil War in the 1860s. For these reasons, Haiti had to endure a long period of international isolation.
In 1802, Napoleon, who had aimed to restore slavery in the colonies, sent a military expedition of 24,000 men to Haiti under the command of General Leclerc, who won at first the submission of some Haitians under the false promise not to reinstate slavery.
Toussaint Louverture and other Haitians were not fooled, and together they fought against the French with uneven successes. However, when the rebels learned of the arrest of Toussaint Louverture, his deportation to France and the restoration of slavery in other colonies such as Guadeloupe, they took up their combat with a vengeance. They routed the army sent by Napoleon and finally came to Port-au-Prince in October 1803. The French forces, which had lost several thousand men, including General Leclerc and several other generals, evacuated the island in December 1803.
Since then and to this day, Haitians have been subjected to invasions (by the US from 1915 to 1934), dictatorships under the patronage of the United States, coups and new invasions.
III. Aristide first democratically elected President: deported by the United States and France
When Aristide, the 1st President of the democratically elected Haitian history, took the helm of Haiti in February 1991, he proposed to increase the minimum wage of 1.76 dollars to 2.94 dollars per day. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) criticized the initiative, saying it would mean a serious distortion of labour costs. The US companies located in Haiti (being almost all the foreign companies) supported the USAID analysis and with CIA support prepared and financed a coup against Aristide in September 1991.3 As the international response (the embargo) and the internal chaos paralyzed the work of the U.S. companies in Haiti, the country’s troops restored Aristide to the presidency in 1994 while at the same time giving impunity and a comfortable retirement to the military leaders of the coup.
The US armed forces, intervening in Haiti with the approval of the Security Council of the United Nations took hold of the country’s documentation of human rights violations committed by the military dictatorship and probably the evidence of the CIA involvement. The United States authorities continue to hold these documents, despite the protests that have been addressed to them on numerous occasions.4
The scenario of 1991 was repeated in 2004: re-elected in 2001, Aristide found himself vilified politically, economically besieged by the US and asphyxiated by the International Monetary Fund. This time, his ouster was orchestrated by the United States, with France playing the second fiddle, and ex post facto legitimized by the Security Council. Aristide committed the imprudence of demanding from France the restoration of the “compensation” that Haiti had paid it in the nineteenth century, estimated at present value to be 21 billion dollars.
In fact, France had made Haiti pay for its independence. In 1814, France demanded from Haiti an indemnity of 150 million gold francs, reduced to 90 million in 1838. When Haiti accepted to meet this demand, France recognized Haiti as an independent nation and began to collect payments in instalments until the sum was finally paid off in 1883.
In the wake of the ouster of Aristide in 2004, a “donor conference” was held in Washington. A year later, of the 1080 million dollars promised, only 90 million were received in Haiti, half of which was earmarked for organizing the elections.
The MINUSTAH (UN Mission for the Stabilization in Haiti, created by the Security Council 30 April 2004) committed, under the guise of fighting the proliferation of armed crime, veritable massacres in Cite-Soleil, the poorest part of Port-au-Prince and a stronghold of Aristide supporters: 6 July 2005 and on 16, 22 and 28 December 2006 with the use of heavy weapons they mowed down the miserable hovels piece by piece as if they were made of paper.
IV. The earthquake
Various institutions, Doctors without Borders (MSF) and others, denounced the fact that the US military deployment blocked access of urgent medical assistance during the very first days.
On January 21, Francoise Saulnier, Director of legal service of MSF announced that five patients had died at the medical centre installed by her organization. Ms. Saulnier added: “Surgery is an urgent priority in such disasters. It is well known. You have three days to get people out of buildings, then the next three to give them post-surgery care and after food, shelter, water, all that comes after. All this has been mixed up, (…) giving attention to people’s lives has been delayed while the military logistics, which is not useful on the third day, but the fourth or perhaps on the eighth day has crowded the airport and has led to mismanagement.” According to Ms. Saulnier, the three days thus lost created serious problems of infection, gangrene and this has led to amputation that could have been avoided.
V. The role of the Security Council
The UN Security Council, which meets in less than 24 hours when the subject matter is of interest to the major powers, waited a week before holding a session and took as the only decision to increase the increase the size of the MINUSTAH to 8940 military and 3711 police.
When in September 2009 the extension of the MINUSTAH’s mandate was discussed in the Security Council, various diplomats asserted the need to give new direction to the mission. The representative of Costa Rica said that what Haitians needed was a better future, and for them to have to eat they, they had to be able to count on a dynamic agricultural sector. He wondered it was necessary to continue at great cost the militarization of MINUSTAH and the reconstruction of the armed forces of Haiti when the country was under no external threat, adding that it was urgent to overcome the obstacles posed by regime of landownership. But the MINUSTAH continued following the same direction with a pre-eminent military component.
There are currently some 18000 American soldiers and 12000 soldiers and policemen of the MINUSTAH. In proportion to the population and territory, this force is equivalent to the military forces deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
VI. The minimum wage increase as a detonator?
Since May 2003 the minimum wage in Haiti was 70 gourds per day, or the equivalent of $ 1.75 per day, the rate that prevailed in 1991 when Aristide wanted to increase it to $ 2.94 per day. In 2007, inflation had hugely exploded and hit the prices of basic products. Taking this inflation into account, the minimum industrial wage should be between 550 and 600 gourds. After two years of discussion, the Haitian Parliament approved in April 2009 a minimum wage increase to 200 gourds, or just under $ 5 per day. The President of the Republic and the Haitian government refused to enact the new law.
As a result, huge demonstrations by students and workers took place calling for the enactment of the law. These protests were violently suppressed by the Haitian police and MINUSTAH.
Finally, in August 2009, the minimum wage was set at 150 gourds a day (about 3.5 dollars). Totally insufficient to live on, but unacceptable to the maquiladoras!
Perhaps this increase in the minimum wage explains, at least in part, the occupation of Haiti by US armed forces, as was the case during the military coup in 1991…5
VII. Theft and appropriation of children
Haiti has a long history of theft of children, illegal adoptions, including suspicions of child organ trafficking.
There are currently many transgressions of the principle “in the child’s best interest”: theft of children, acceleration of adoption procedures and the expatriation of children for alleged humanitarian ends. All these in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on International Adoption, of the Guidelines of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the protection of children in the case of armed conflicts or of natural disasters, and recommendations of UNICEF. The UNHCR and UNICEF consider that in circumstances similar to those experienced by Haiti, it is necessary TO FREEZE the proceedings, not to start new ones, not use the term “orphans” improperly or abuse it, nor the term of “unaccompanied children” until it is known with certainty the fate suffered by their parents and their immediate families. And these agencies insist not to expatriate so as not add to the traumatism of the catastrophe the trauma of brutal separation from the usual living environment and the breaking of all family ties.
The Netherlands took 109 children from Haiti who, at first sight, were in the process of being adopted; the United States took 53 to Pittsburgh “to improve their health”, although, according to some reports, this could also facilitate the adoption of those among them who could meet the required conditions. It could also mean that these 53 children or any who might follow were not then engaged in a process of adoption. France has already expatriated more than 120, apparently due to an “accelerated” process of adoption.
According to a spokesman for UNICEF, Veronique Taveau, the policy of the international organism is to seek family reunification at any cost and for this reason she expressed concern over the decision.
When adoption procedures are completed, “The Central Authorities of both States shall ensure that the transfer takes place safely, in appropriate circumstances and, if possible, along with the adoptive parents or prospective adoptive parents” as stated in Article 19, paragraph 2, of the Convention on International Adoption. This means that in such tragic circumstances, the adoptive parents should go to bring the adopted child and not await its arrival the arrival airport.
In summary, the question is not to “help” Haiti but that of respecting its people and to repay as much as possible for what was stolen in 500 years.
To compensate in money, in reforestation, in development of diversified agriculture, in equipment, in reconstruction, etc..
And, as a first priority, to remove all foreign farmed forces from its territory.
In addition, in view of the foregoing, we urge all States, especially the members of the UN Security Council to:
– respect the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and unity of Haiti;
– cancel Haiti’s external debt vis-à-vis multilateral and bilateral creditors (without this being counted as aid to the suffering people!);
– stop any process of adoption of children by foreigners until the situation in Haiti is stabilized.
1) This declaration has been prepared in collaboration with Mr. Alejandro Teitelbaum, jurists and specialist in international human rights law.
2) Isabelle Ligner, AFP, “Haiti, exemple extrême de deforestation et de perturbation du cycle de l’eau”
3) Haití After the Coup. A Special Delegation Report of the National Labor Committee. Education Fund in Support of Worker and Human Rights in Central America, New York, April 1993.
4) See Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, Report of the Independent Expert, Annexes, United Nations, E/CN.4/2001/106, 30 January 2001, in which he makes reference to 160 000 pages of documentation taken by the US armed forces in 1994 from military installations and paramilitary in Haiti.
5) Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDDD), Reprimen protestas por el salario mínimo en Haití; http://www.alterpresse.org/spip.php?article8410; Batay Ouvriye , Haití - Salario mínimo. Adital – 23.03.08; Faubert Bolívar, Alterpresse, En Haití el salario mínimo es de 70 gourdes, 2/06/09; Wooldy Edson Louidor (ALTERPRESSE, especial para ARGENPRESS.info), Haití: La lucha por el aumento del salario mínimo, 4 de septiembre de 2009.