Posts Tagged ‘Haiti’

In memoriam Leandro Despouy: Argentinean human rights defender at the global level

March 16, 2020

When a good friend and soul mate dies, it is sometimes difficult to write something meaningful. So it was when I learned that Argentine human rights lawyer Leandro Despouy – whom I have known since 1976  – had died on 18 December 2019 in Buenos Aires, after a two-year battle with cancer. He was born on 4 April 1947 in San Luis.

The Argentine media paid quite a bit of attention to his passing but (understandably?) focused on his place in Argentinean politics (in the Radical Party) and his institutional role as Head of the Auditoría General de la Nación from 2002 – 2016.  But Leandro Despouy was of great importance to the international human rights movement as it developed in the last quarter of the 20th century. I hope that this ‘obituary’ does some justice:

He started as a lawyer and university teacher before state terrorism (in the form of the far-right death squad Alianza Anticomunista Argentina, known as Triple A) pushed him into exile in 1975 to France. He stayed a refugee until 1983 when he was able to return to his beloved country where he was appointed Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador for Human Rights by President Alfonsin. More about what he was able to do in that capacity follows below but I wanted to give special attention how remarkably active Leandro was during his exile. He did not succumb to porosity and made the best of his chances. Always upbeat and entrepreneurial he had great social skills.

Friends helped him with a part-time job (between 1975-1977) as professor of Political Economy at the Université de Paris VIII. In order to make ends meet he accepted many different part-time jobs, including (his favorite!) driving around fashion models and their clothes. The models were quickly enamored of this elegant Latino and sometimes donated suits making him the best dressed refugee in Paris. His own work situation improved when he became one of the assistants of well-known parliamentarian Nicole Questiaux for the 13th arrondissement in Paris and as from July 1981 for her replacement, Louis Moulinet.

Interestingly enough his first activist attention while in exile went to the repressive situation in Uruguay (he told me it was easier to keep politics out of it than in the case of his own country) and it was in that context that we set up SIJAU (Secretariat Internationale des Juristes pour l’Amnestie en Uruguay). Leandro – with the help of French lawyers like Joinet and Weil – managed to organise in December 1978 in the French Senate (!) an international conference that helped the opposition to unite and put pressure on Uruguay.

He undertook a similar effort on Paraguay with the creation of SIJADEP (Secretariat Internationale des Juristes pour l’Amnestie et Democratie en Paraguay).

Leandro was regularly in Geneva to follow up with the UN (and sleeping on my couch) and when the first UN mandate for disappearances was created he was briefly hired as a consultant by the then Director Theo van Boven. The Argentine Ambassador got wind of it and with ‘terrorist’ accusations this had to be terminated quickly.  In the summer of 1982 he did a short stint as Professor of Human Rights at the Centre International des Droits de l`Homme, in Strasburg, France.

Then comes the return to Argentina with the slow process of normalisation and the question of how to deal with the crimes of the recent past. From 1984-1989  he is General Director of Human Rights at the Ministry for Foreign Affaires and with it comes a series of opportunities at the international level. Here some examples:

President of the First International Conference of States Parties on the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1987).

In 1983 Leandro becomes a Member of the UN Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (later reduced to an advisory body for the new Human Rights Council). He plays a very active role, as Chairman and as:

  • Special Rapporteur of the Subcommission on disabled persons and human rights to study the connection between human rights, violations of fundamental human freedoms and disability which resulted in his final report, “Human Rights and Disabled Persons.” Which was adopted by ECOSOC resolution 1992/48 of March 1992
  • Special Rapporteur of the same on extreme poverty and human rights. Interim report adopted on 10 June 1994, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/19

In 2000 Leandro heads the Argentine Delegation at the 57th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and from March 2001 to March 2002 he is President of this Commission (currently the United Nations Human Rights Council).

In 2002 in Argentina he becomes the President of the Auditor General’s office (a function reserved for a member of the opposition under the Argentine constitution) but continues to accept assignments of an international nature:

In 2003: he is appointed as Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, United Nations Human Rights Council (until 2009). In that capacity he and four other special rapporteurs asked in 2005 to be admitted to Guantanamo Bay to visit the prisoners held at the US naval base. He and one other was refused permission (see: https://newsarchive.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=608&LangID=E}

He remained a sought-after speaker at courses and conferences, such as those organized by the International Institute of Humanitarian Law of San Remo, the Committee of the International Red Cross, FLACSO Argentina ,Harvard University, the European Society of International Law, and the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle.

In 1993 he becomes the Assistant Special Representative of the Secretary Generals of the United Nations and Organization of American States, in the context of the UN and OAS joint mission to Haiti.  Between 1999 and 2006 he regularly carried out Expert tasks mandated by a variety of UN agencies for short jobs in e.g.: Brazil, Paraguay, Equatorial Guinea, Colombia, Russia and Ecuador.

This is of course not a complete biography and any additional information would be most welcome. Leandro certainly deserves a lot more recognition at the international level. When Ben Whitaker died in 2014. Leandro was one of the first to honor his contribution [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/07/16/ben-whitaker-died-one-of-the-early-human-rights-defenders-at-the-international-scene/]. I hope this does the same for Leandro.

Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti looks for Executive Director

February 19, 2019


The Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) advances the Haitian people’s struggle for justice and democracy on the international stage. In partnership with our Haitian sister-organization, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), IJDH advocates, litigates, builds constituencies and nurtures networks to create systemic pathways to justice for marginalized Haitians and to hold international human rights violators accountable. IJDH amplifies Haitian voices in places outside Haiti where decisions about their rights are made and helps to build an accurate, rights-based narrative of Haiti internationally.

IJDH fights for justice with high-quality legal and advocacy strategies, creativity, humility, inspiration, humor, and a compassionate, inclusive and supportive work culture. We are a small but mighty, ambitious and principled organization with a track record of securing unlikely wins for justice for marginalized communities and influencing global public discourse about human rights and justice in Haiti. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/10/14/haiti-hrd-mario-joseph-uses-his-appearance-in-the-mea-ceremony-well/]

Position Description:

Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director has overall strategic and operational responsibility for IJDH’s staff, programs, and execution of its mission. As the public face of the organization and leader of IJDH’s dynamic 6-person team, the Executive Director will prioritize:

• Providing vision and strategic direction for IJDH’s innovative advocacy portfolio in accordance with the organization’s mission;

• Raising funds to meet and grow IJDH and BAI’s combined budget of $1.4 million, including through cultivating and maintaining relationships with donors and foundations and providing financial management oversight;

• Maintaining and building a strong partnership with the BAI and other allies and collaborators, including NGOs, diaspora groups and the media to strengthen IJDH’s impact and achieve organizational goals.

Qualifications include: Substantial knowledge of Haiti; Significant social justice or human rights experience; Ability to speak and write English, and to communicate effectively in Haitian Kreyol and/or French with a commitment to learn Kreyol;

This is a full-time salaried position with health care benefits, four weeks annual paid vacation and paid sick days. The Executive Director will ideally be based in Boston or New York.

How to Apply: Please submit a resume, cover letter and three references to hiring@ijdh.org by March 1, 2019. Please include ‘Executive Director’ in the subject line. References will only be contacted for short-listed candidates.

Two-year fellowship in Haiti

April 1, 2015

This Haitian NGO  announces a two-year fellowship for an emerging lawyer committed to pursuing a career in public interest law, especially interested in candidates who know Haiti and speak Haitian Creole and/or French. The announcement is online.
 They also offer a one-year fellowship (unpaid) for a lawyer passionate about social justice and seeking to participate in their ground-breaking cholera case. That announcement is also online here.
As the deadline is officially passed, hurry, but applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and the position is open until filled
Contact: Ruth Vaughan (ruth@ijdh.org).

Webinar on Haiti with Author Fran Quigley and Mario Joseph on 12 February

February 6, 2015

Mario Joseph, Final Nominee MEA 2013, will be able to join the webinar, si Dye vle. on Thursday, 12 February at 8pm EST with author Fran Quigley and IJDH Director Brian Concannon. Fran published How Human Rights Can Build Haiti: Activists, Lawyers, and the Grassroots Campaign in September 2014. The book profiles Brian, BAI’s Managing Attorney Mario Joseph, and many other human rights defenders in their fight for justice in Haiti.
 
 
 

Webinar with Author Fran Quigley — by IJDH Boston.

Louis Joinet (“Luis le Juste”) finally and rightly honored in France

March 26, 2014

It is with great pleasure that I am able to announce that a great human rights defender from France, Louis Joinet, is honored with a colloque on the topic “Is sovereignty still the basis of international law?”. It coincides with the publication of his book: “Mes raisons d’Etat” [‘My reasons of state’ or better ‘How I saw the national interest].

Had he been fluent in English (he picked it up too late in life) he would have been probably one of the most famous human rights experts in the world. His nicknames range from “Louis le Juste” to “the Obstinate”. He played a major role within the French state apparatus as from the 1960s. One of the founders of the ‘Syndicat de la magistrature‘ in 1968 (sometimes called the ‘red judges’), he became the first director of the National Commission on Informatics and Freedoms [Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés]. He served five different Prime Ministers during the 1980s as advisor. It was during those days that I met him regularly to set up and run a number of Committees dealing with the military regimes in the Southern Cone of Latin America (e.g. SIJAU, SIJADEP). We travelled often to the region and on many occasions I saw returned refugees come up to Louis to embrace and thank him for the support he gave them in exile.

In the meantime during 33 years he was an expert in various UN bodies, travelling all over the world. Most pronounced was his leading role in the Sub-commission for Human Rights and the Protection of Minorities (now renamed and relegated to a research role for the new Council), where he spearheaded a great many and daring innovations, concerning many  issue including disappearances, torture, international crimes and amnesty. His popularity with (certain) States suffered, but most NGOs considered him to be a hero.

Together with his late and much-beloved wife Germaine he had a less-known but rewarding social life that includes assisting young street criminals and a passion for circus and street theater. His musical talent is illustrated in the picture below from my private collection, where he is seen playing the accordion with Argentinian Leandro Despouy watching (August 1988).

1988 Aug Subcommission party in Prevessin Louis Joinet Leandro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The colloque in Louis honor is taking place on 27  Mars  2014, 18h30, at  Université  Panthéon-‐Assas, Centre  Panthéon,  Salle  des  Conseils, in the series of lectures under Professor Olivier de Frouville.

The book “Mes raisons d’Etat. Mémoires d’un épris de justice” is published by La Découverte: http://www.editionsladecouverte.fr/catalogue/index-Mes_raisons_d_etat-9782707178459.html

 

Margaret Sekaggya succeeded as HRD Rapporteur by Michel Forst: Reassuring

March 13, 2014

In March, Margaret Sekaggya will finish her term as the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. For more than five years the Ugandan Margaret Sekaggya has served the mandate with dedication and commitment, and has played an integral role in promoting the work of and furthering protection for human rights defenders around the world.

Also it has been announced that the new Special Rapporteur will be Michel Forst , from France.

Michel ForstHe is a lawyer by training and the Secretary General of the Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l’Homme de la Republique Française. From 2008 – 2013, he was the Independent Expert of the United Nations on the situation of human rights in Haiti. He was Director General of Amnesty International in France and worked in the human rights department of UNESCO. Mr. Forst is also a founding trustee of Front Line Defenders.

In short, Margaret Sekaggya did a great job – like her predecessor Hina Jilani – and the credentials of the new Rapporteur give all reason to hope that the level of knowledge and commitment will be maintained. Glad to report something good coming out of the Council!

Human Rights Defender Daniel Dorsainvil and wife killed in Haiti – suspicious to say the least

February 19, 2014

In a recent post I referred to the worsening climate for Human Rights Defenders in Haiti (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/haiti-judicial-harassment-against-human-rights-lawyers-continues/ and now we learn of the killing of one of the leading HRDs, Daniel Dorsainvil (or Dorsinvil) and his wife in the streets of Porte-au-Prince:

haiti_murder (Photo Credit: Facebook/Girldy Lareche Dorsinvil and Facebook/Daniel Dorsinvil)

 

 

Nicole Phillips in RYOT News of 18 February reports that on Saturday 8 February 2014, Daniel Dorsainvil and his wife Girldy Lareche were shot and killed by an unidentified man who fled the scene on a motorcycle.  The double homicide left three children without their parents, Read the rest of this entry »

Witness 2013 overview in video

January 10, 2014

In relation to the other post of today about Witness’ new application, I want to draw your attention to the video posted on 23 December giving excerpts from the human rights channel covering police brutality, torture, chemical weapons attacks, etc. Through the lenses of bystanders, witnesses, and sometimes even perpetrators, you see the darkest episodes of humanity, all with the ease of a click, and the speed of an upload. They come from  Daveyton, South Africa in late February, watching with other shocked bystanders as officers handcuffed Mido Macia to their van and drove away, dragging the taxi driver down the gravel road behind them; from Haiti were you can listen to Haitian earthquake survivors, who testified that officials, landowners, and thugs were attempting to force them out of tent camps and into the streets. And in the pre-dawn hours of mid-August, in a suburban Damascus hospital, witnessing in horror victims as young as babies suffering from what would later be confirmed to be a chemical weapons attack. [In 2013, the Human Rights Channel curated nearly 2300 videos from 100 countries, but as the importance of citizen video becomes clear, so too do the challenges it involves, including the need for verification and the potential of misuse.]

Haiti: Judicial harassment against human rights lawyers continues

October 28, 2013

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedreports that on 22 October 2013, human rights lawyer André Michel in Haiti was arbitrarily held in police custody after police attempted to carry out a search on his vehicle. He was eventually released the next morning but remains at risk of arrest. André Michel is involved, as legal representative of the complainant, in a case of corruption and embezzlement of public funds allegedly implicating members of the President’s family. Read the rest of this entry »

Haiti HRD Mario Joseph uses his appearance in the MEA ceremony well

October 14, 2013

Mario Joseph Final Nominee MEA 2013

Mario Joseph, Haiti – Final Nominee MEA 2013

An unintended consequence of the MEA ceremony on 8 October was that Mario Joseph – one of the 3 Final Nominees for this award – used his speech to make clear how disturbed he was by the UN’s refusal to assume its responsibility for the cholera epidemic caused by UN troops in Haiti. Mrs Pillay – the UN High commissioner for human rights – in her speech replied to the challenge by repeating an earlier position that had mostly gone unnoticed: “I have used my voice both inside the United Nations and outside to call for the right — for an investigation by the United Nations, by the country concerned, and I still stand by the call that victims of — of those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation”. Associated Press reported this on 8 October but left out the context by just stating: ‘Pillay said at an awards ceremony for human rights activists in Geneva… streamed live on the Internet.’  So, now you know!

via UN human rights official urges compensation for Haiti cholera victims – Washington Post.