Children of Haitian descent in Dominican Republic being barred from school, forced into labor

Children of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic are increasingly being barred from attending school following a court ruling that could lead to tens of thousands of people being stripped of their citizenship, according to a report released Friday.

Dozens of families with school-age children say they are being turned away or harassed due to arbitrary interpretations of the court ruling and Dominican laws, according to researchers at the Human Rights Institute at Georgetown University Law Center who compiled the report.

As a result, some children drop out of school or lose scholarships while others are forced into underage labor, said Kimberly Fetsick, one of the report’s authors.

“Children are being harmed, and their human rights are being violated,” she said. “Action must be taken to protect these children.”


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Stronger Haiti National Police has U.N. considering its future presence in the country











UNITED NATIONS — As an increasingly confident and stronger Haitian police force take control of Haiti’s security, major crimes are seeing a double-digit drop and the United Nations is intensifying discussions about its future in the country.


The talks of a reconfigured U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH, comes as peacekeepers prepare to mark 10 years in June, and as Haiti’s clashing politicians shows signs of compromise. Earlier this month, President Michel Martelly, lawmakers and political opponents signed an agreement creating a road map for long overdue local and legislative elections later this year.


“We are encouraged by recent announcements that these elections will take place this fall, but these words must now be turned into action and must translate into voters casting their ballots at the polling stations,” Canada’s U.N. Permanent Representative Guillermo Rishchynski said Monday.


Rishchynski, and other U.N. Secretary Council members were asked Monday to consider five broad options for a reconfigured U.N. presence in Haiti post 2016. The options range from a special envoy, special political mission to a new mission — all with no military component. The other two options are a new mission with a small military quick reaction force or a renewal MINUSTAH’s mandate with a continued downsizing of its 5,702 troops.


The options are outlined in a report by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. It notes that between 2012 and 2013, Haiti saw a 21 percent drop in homicides, reversing a five year trend, and kidnappings dropped by 53 percent.

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Haiti loses former ambassador, expert on Dominican relations









Guy Alexandre, a former Haiti ambassador to the Dominican Republic who recently published a book on how to improve the relationship, died Friday of a heart attack. He was 68.


“He was an honest, uncompromising intellectual,” Evelyn Margron Alexandre said about her husband who died in Port-au-Prince en route to the hospital. “He believed in people, he believed in knowledge.”


Born in St. Marc, Alexandre was first assigned to the Dominican Republic in 1991. His diplomatic career ended in 2003 during the uprising against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Alexandre would later serve as an adviser on international relations under Haiti’s 2004-2006 interim government. He then joined the International Organization for Migration in Haiti, serving as a senior adviser and program manager where he, among other things, oversaw a program for returning deportees.


“In a way, he was the institutional memory of Haiti on migration and as such was a valued expert on the subject for IOM,” said IOM spokeswoman Ilaria LANZONI.


But it was Alexandre’s expertise on Haiti-Dominican relations that made him the go-to person for journalists, activists and governments seeking a better understanding of the tense diplomatic relations.


In recent months, he had become invaluable as both nations met to address a number of issues, including last year’s Dominican court ruling stripping citizenship from persons born to undocumented foreigners. The issue deeply worried him, his wife said.


“He could have been the person to bring the voice of reason on how we can approach that problem,” said former Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue.

“Haiti is losing at this time one of our great intellectuals and one of the most efficient diplomats we ever had.”


Former Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said Alexandre was not only a big brother to him, but “a true democrat always looking for a pragmatic way to use his empirical studies or his authority to improve the daily reality of Haitians.”


Victims applaud Haitian court decision on Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier






For two months last year, retired gynecologist Nicole Magloire arrived at the packed Port-au-Prince courtroom weekly and took her usual seat — front row, just to the right. Magloire, 75, did so again Thursday as a three-judge panel reconvened after a nine-month hiatus to decide on the fate of former President-for-Life Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. She didn’t expect much. Then the judges dropped a bombshell: allegations that Duvalier tortured, killed and imprisoned opponents should go forward.

“We didn’t give up,” said Magloire, one of the 30 people who have filed human rights complaints against Duvalier. “This has given us a huge boost to continue the resistance we started, and to not betray the people who died.”


The judges’ decision to reinstate crimes against humanity was a huge blow to the frail former dictator, who has been battling to stay out of prison since returning in January 2011 from France after 25 years in exile.


Reynold Georges, Duvalier’s lead attorney, said shortly after the ruling that he wanted to reserve comment until he reads the decision.


But Georges did say that he takes issue with the ruling. The panel needed to wait for a decision on his filing, charging that the court lacked jurisdiction in the case because “there is a statute of limitations, and second, they have already judged Duvalier before on economic crimes. They cannot come back with that again.”


Georges also argues that in Haiti the statute of limitations on human rights crime is 10 years and international law doesn’t apply because Haiti never ratified it.


“You cannot condemn someone using a law that doesn’t exist,” he said.


Nicole Phillips, a human rights lawyer with Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy, praised the ruling, as did others, including the Canadian government.


“This ruling today is a total victory not only for the victims of Jean-Claude Duvalier but also the Haitian legal system,” said Phillips, who was in the courtroom as the decision was read. “This is showing that a court is willing to address the issue of impunity as Duvalier is floating around as a senior statesman. Now, you have a court that has ordered a very thorough investigation into the facts, crimes committed by him as well as people close to him. This is a very, very important ruling.”


Duvalier has long maintained his innocence. In a 2011 interview with the Miami Herald, he and his lawyers punched holes in the 25-year-old legal case. They challenged it on procedural grounds and argued that the statute of limitations had expired.


Duvalier himself shrugged off claims that he and his supporters pillaged the national treasury and that he spirited away $120 million in public money when he fled on Feb. 7, 1986. He also denied charges that he had ordered the deaths and imprisonment of opponents, including Magloire. A one-time anti-Duvalier student activist under Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, Magloire was jailed on Nov. 28, 1980, under the “Baby Doc” regime, along with scores of other Haitian intellectuals and journalists. Some were severely beaten and exiled by the regime’s secret police, the TonTon Macoutes, after they were arrested under a 1969 anti-communist law that considered government criticism “crimes against the state.”

But even as Magloire and human rights observers applaud the appeals court’s decision, they were not always so confident after launching their fight to overturn an investigative judge’s 2012 decision that Duvalier should only face the lesser corruption charges.

They questioned whether the case would move forward.

President Michel Martelly had suggested during the campaign that amnesty be granted to Duvalier and former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who also had returned from exile. Martelly later backed off the statement, saying he would let the judiciary do its work.

Last month in an unrelated case, an investigative judge stopped short of accusing Aristide in the unsolved high-profile political assassination of Haiti’s most well-known journalist, Jean Léopold Dominque. Instead, the judge recommended that nine individuals be charged in his 2000 murder, including an ex-senator from Aristide’s political party. The recommendation is now in the hands of another three-judge Appeals Court panel.

In a move his supporters call efforts to reconcile Haiti’s past and present, Martelly has invited Duvalier, Aristide and other former presidents to official events, including the Jan. 1 independence celebrations in Gonaïves. Aristide declined but Duvalier was photographed standing next to Martelly.





9 in Haiti Accused in Journalist Case











PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A judge on Friday concluded the investigation into one of Haiti’s most notorious political assassinations, accusing nine people, including close associates of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide of having had a hand in the killing of the radio journalist Jean Dominique.

Mirlande Libérus, a former senator from Mr. Aristide’s political party, Lavalas, was indicted as the organizer of the murder in April 2000 of Mr. Dominique, owner of Radio Haiti Inter, and a security guard, according to a summary of the judge’s report made public by an Appeals Court panel on Friday.

Gunmen shot the two victims as Mr. Dominique was arriving by car at the radio station’s office in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, according to the report.

Evidence indicated that Mr. Libérus had been ordered by Mr. Aristide to silence Mr. Dominique, a popular journalist and human rights activist, the report said, citing witnesses who had testified before Judge Yvikel Dabrésil. The judge did not indict Mr. Aristide as part of the conspiracy, apparently concluding that evidence was insufficient.

Mr. Dominique’s widow, Michèle Montas, welcomed news of the report, saying it was a “positive step.”

Sorrow over Haiti quake still deep, 4 years later



Four years ago, Marguerite Berthold was standing in her yard in Port-au-Prince when the earth began to shake. She ran into her house and went up to her porch. Her house collapsed but the porch remained standing and she survived.


She spent the next two days searching for her son and fervently praying. Eventually she found him alive but with two broken legs.


On Sunday, Berthold and her son, Wongaton Villace, now 15, attended a special church service in Mattapan focused on remembering those who died and offering thanks for those who survived.


Four years after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, left roughly 230,000 dead, hundreds of thousands more injured, and more than a million homeless, about 50 people — many of whom were in Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010 — gathered at First Christian Church Source of Grace on Blue Hill Avenue on Sunday morning.


Conducted in Haitian Creole, French, and English and infused with ecstatic singing, the service was joyful, but also intertwined with grief.


“A lot of our family fell,” said the Rev. Jean Jeune as he began the 2½-hour service.


“We have a lot of suffering in our soul, in our spirit, in our heart,” he said in remarks that were translated into English for a reporter who attended.


The congregation, packed into two rooms on the second floor of an office building, later joined their voices in a song proclaiming their faithfulness.


Backed by keyboard, an electric bass guitar, drums, and an accordion, many of the congregants closed their eyes and raised their hands above their head. Some cried.


“Four years ago, if it wasn’t for God, a lot of us would not be here,” Jeune said before another song began. He encouraged celebration of the blessings that had been bestowed but repeatedly recognized the struggle many of his congregants had endured since 2010.


“Four years of suffering” from the loss and trauma and memories of the devastating tragedy, he said. Read more here:








The Discontented









IN HAITI the year is ending with squalls of street protest. Shows of public anger have been going on for weeks in Port-au-Prince, the capital, and other major cities. The protests are amorphous. Gatherings of differing sizes and intensities have been called by various entities, ranging from opposition parties to the trade unions.

If there is a thread running through them, it is a general discontent with President Michel Martelly’s 27-month-old administration. The country is still traumatised by 2010’s devastating earthquake and years of what Mr Martelly calls “bad governance”. (He means the period before he came into office; his critics say the maladministration continues.) This despite a slew of populist programmes to build things like stadiums and the attempts of Mr Martelly, a former entertainer, to win people over: he has even broadcast his own commentary of a big football match from Miami.

Even his supporters admit Mr Martelly himself is partly to blame for the trouble. He has been dilatory in pushing through a new electoral law, which has meant a two-year delay to elections for the Senate and in local municipalities. That gave the opposition a potent reason to mobilise protesters. One of the biggest and most violent demonstrations so far—on November 18th, the 210th anniversary of the battle that secured Haiti’s independence from France—focused on the overdue elections. That protest left one person dead as a few thousand Martelly supporters clashed with thousands of opposition marchers.

Under pressure—from the unquiet streets at home and from foreign diplomats—Mr Martelly has belatedly pushed through a new election law, which was published last week in Haiti’s official gazette. That earned him congratulations from the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Haiti, Sandra Honore, and from seven ambassadors of the international donors’ “core group” (America, France, Brazil, Spain, Canada, the European Union and the Organisation of American States). Read more:

Haiti and Dominican Republic resume talks on controversial Constitutional Court ruling






CARACAS, Venezuela (CMC) — Haiti and the Dominican Republic have agreed to establish a joint commission to discuss the migration problem caused by a recent ruling by the Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic that has the effect of rendering stateless, thousands of people of Haitian descent residing in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country. Haitian President Michel Martelly and his Dominican counterpart Danilo Medina met on Tuesday on the sidelines of a meeting of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) and of PetorCaribe The meeting was chaired by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

“I announce the creation of a high-level committee with representatives of both sides to address various issues on the bilateral agenda,” Maduro said, adding that the joint commission would comprise five representatives each from the two countries. He said Venezuela, the United Nations, the European Union and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have been invited as observers. Maduro said the proposed commission would address issues regarding trade, migration, environment, security and the border. The purpose of such an initiative is to find a just, proper and balanced solution through which the interests and rights of all parties are protected.

Last month, CARICOM said it would defer consideration of the application by the Dominican Republic to join the regional integration grouping following the Constitutional Court ruling. Leaders of the three-member CARICOM Bureau, comprising host country Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Haiti, said the 15-member regional grouping would also seek to raise the court ruling with several bodies including the Association of Caribbean States, the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) as well as maintaining “our interest and active participation at the Organization of American States (OAS).

On September 23, the Constitutional Court in Santo Domingo has ruled in favour of stripping citizenship from children of Haitian migrants. Read more:


What are US Border Patrol Agents Doing in the Dominican Republic?













It isn’t exactly the towering 20-foot wall that runs like a scar through significant parts of the US-Mexican borderlands. Imagine instead the sort of metal police barricades you see at protests. These are unevenly lined up like so many crooked teeth on the Dominican Republic’s side of the river that acts as its border with Haiti. Like dazed versions of US Border Patrol agents, the armed Dominican border guards sit at their assigned posts, staring at the opposite shore. There, on Haitian territory, children splash in the water and women wash clothes on rocks.


One of those CESFRONT (Specialized Border Security Corps) guards, carrying an assault rifle, is walking six young Haitian men back to the main base in Dajabon, which is painted desert camouflage as if it were in a Middle Eastern war zone.


If the scene looks like a five-and-dime version of what happens on the US southern border, that’s because it is. The enforcement model the Dominican Republic uses to police its boundary with Haiti is an import from the United States.


CESFRONT itself is, in fact, an outgrowth of a US effort to promote “strong borders” abroad as part of its Global War on Terror. So US Consul-General Michael Schimmel told a group from the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic in the Dominican Republic back in 2008, according to an internal report written by the law students along with the Dominican immigrant solidarity organization Solidaridad Fronteriza. The US military, he added, was training the Dominican border patrol in “professionalism.”


Schimmel was explaining an overlooked manifestation of US imperial policy in the post-9/11 era. Militarized borders are becoming ever more common throughout the world, especially in areas of US influence.


CESFRONT’s Dajabon commander is Colonel Juan de Jesus Cruz, a stout, Napoleonic figure with a booming voice. Watching the colonel interact with those detained Haitian teenagers was my first brush with how Washington’s “strong borders” abroad policy plays out on the ground. The CESFRONT base in Dajabon is located near the Massacre River that divides the two countries. Its name is a grim reminder of a time in 1937 when Dominican forces slaughtered an estimated 20,000 Haitians in what has been called the “twentieth century’s least-remembered act of genocide.” That act ensured the imposition of a 227-mile boundary between the two countries that share the same island.


As rain falls and the sky growls, Cruz points to the drenched young Haitians and says a single word, “ilegales,” his index finger hovering in the air. The word “illegals” doesn’t settle well with one of the teenagers, who glares at the colonel and replies defiantly, “We have come because of hunger.”


His claim is corroborated by every report about conditions in Haiti, but the colonel responds, “You have resources there,” with the spirit of a man who relishes a debate.


The teenager, who will undoubtedly soon be expelled from the Dominican Republic like so many other Haitians (including, these days, people of Haitian descent born in the country), gives the colonel a withering look. He’s clearly boiling inside. “There’s hunger in Haiti. There’s poverty in Haiti. There is no way the colonel could not see that,” he tells Cruz. “You are right on the border.”


This tense, uneasy, and commonplace interaction is one of countless numbers of similar moments spanning continents from Latin America and Africa to the Middle East and Asia.


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Sean Penn: Madonna in Haiti to See His Aid Work


Madonna is in Haiti to visit humanitarian projects that ex-husband Sean Penn has been overseeing since the Caribbean nation’s devastating earthquake in 2010, the actor said Monday.


Penn said in a brief phone call to The Associated Press that he had invited Madonna, with whom he has “maintained a great friendship over the years,” to visit several times and that she had come with her son Rocco. He said they arrived a “couple of days” ago, and he wasn’t sure when she would leave.


“She’s here, she’s seeing, she’s made the effort to come here, and I’m thrilled by that,” Penn said, adding that he hoped Haiti might inspire her to seek out a cause in the country. “She has a unique platform, and wherever she chooses to bring that to, it’s very well.”


Madonna’s been busy posting photos on Instagram. One shows her posing with others at a new hospital built by public health pioneer Dr. Paul Farmer in the central part of the country. The caption: “Revolution of Love in Haiti.” Another picture shows a view of the mountains at dusk. The caption: “Sunset in Haiti. This is Heaven!”


Penn has served as an ambassador-at-large for Haiti since early 2012. He received the recognition for his work as head of a humanitarian group he co-founded in the aftermath of the earthquake, the J/P Haitian Relief Organization. The group has focused on housing and relocating thousands of people from a golf course that was among hundreds of impromptu settlements that sprang up after the quake.


His group recently sponsored five Haitian runners to participate in the New York marathon.