On the report for the University of Miami by Thomas Griffin

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On the report for the University of Miami by Thomas Griffin

Post by admin » Wed Mar 16, 2005 10:13 am

From the Corbett List
Author: Anne Fuller

[Please note that only the webmaster of Windows on Haiti has secured the authorization of reprinting articles from the Corbett List on this forum, a privilege that I use rarely, and only in instances that I judge to be truly worth your while. I thought this critique of the exceptional Thomas Griffin report on the human rights situation in Haiti deserves to be published here, since that report has itself been broadly presented here. If you have not read it yet, I do urge you to read it. As for Anne Fuller's critique, I am not in a position to endorse it or to reject it. Likely, the critique is valuable, though it is not immune to be critiqued itself.

Anne Fuller is a long time human rights defender and has held positions on the boards of NCHR (US) and Human Rights Watch.

The Editor ]


n[quote]On the report for the University of Miami by Thomas GriffinThe report by Thomas Griffin of his November 2004 human rights investigation in Haiti has elicited a lot of comment in the United States-favorable columns in papers in Houston, Miami and most recently, Philadelphia. Opinion here in Haiti is so polarized that the report is either hailed or dismissed, though few people have read it. It offers ammunition for both viewpoints.

The photos from the public morgue and the General Hospital are truly shocking and unfortunately real and undeniable. The reports of summary executions in Belair have been documented by others as well. The portrayal of UN forces is harsh and somewhat unfair, but not so different from what you hear many Haitians say.

But the report is blemished. The extremely upright human rights group CARLI denies four rather significant assertions the report attributes to it. I must presume tha
t language problems are part of the problem. But Griffin's eagerness to blame the US-government funded NGO IFES for so much of what has happened in Haiti is another aspect. Griffin seems ready to credit CARLI as long as it declares its wish to refuse funding from IFES.

It is always legitimate to inquire into the funding of a given organization, but it's a cheap shot to tar a program -IFES here--for the source of its funds-especially when the same rigor is not applied to other groups.

Which brings me to a major complaint I have about the report's impartiality: Griffin, whose own credentials are impressive, doesn't identify the members of his team, leaving this reader wondering what their connections might be. The director of the University of Miami School of Law's Center for the Study of Human Rights, which published the report, is a former lawyer for Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide. And Griffin thanks by name only one foreign human rights lawyer, failing to note that she too wo
rked for the Aristide government.

And I really must object to Griffin's only sources in IFES (two unnamed employees and a disgruntled former program director) and in the electoral council (the disgruntled former president)! If you want to feature opinions like these you absolutely have to get the front door version as well.

I showed the report to a couple of non-violent community activists from Cite Soleil and they agreed with much of what Griffin wrote-more than I had expected. The situation is terrible and has been so especially since the beginning of October. No traffic goes in or out except by boat. Everything is expensive. People perish from their wounds because they fear to seek medical attention. Schools have timidly reopened since January -- but several churches have totally closed up. Many areas are nearly empty.

They also agreed that Labanye has a "special relationship" with Andy Apaid of the Group of 184 and thus the government, though they could not say that Apaid enco
uraged Labanye's violence. But they shook their heads in disbelief at the description of the Lavalas forces in Cite Soleil as pro-democracy and the September 30 march as peaceful. Griffin describes a gang congealing to protect Cite Soleil from Labanye's gang-but these gangs have been fighting each other for quite a few years. In January and February 2002, for instance, dozens of people died at a particularly violent moment in gang fighting in there. Labanye and Dred Wilme, both with Aristide at the time, were top gang leaders then, too.

As for non-violent pro-Aristide forces in the popular neighborhoods of Belair, Lower Delmas, Martissant and Fort National, I will say that it is hard for most Haitians to believe that they exist. People as a general rule are terrified to enter these neighborhoods, and have been since early October. Many police have also been killed since October, there and elsewhere- 40 is a number mentioned by government officials. People are fed up with the violence in general a
nd as happens elsewhere, tend to forgive the police for giving at least as good as they get.

Griffin seems to have little historical perspective. He portrays Haiti under Aristide as a much better place to live than Haiti today and I'm afraid that's hard to demonstrate. The generator at the morgue was also out of order for weeks in earlier years. The General Hospital has failed to treat the poor sick and wounded for decades. That these terrible things continue under the interim government is shocking.

The solutions will come hard. One thing I'm sure of is that Haiti needs political stability and the time and the will to build institutions. I hope that's where things are headed now-through the essential step of good elections with broad participation by all political sectors.
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