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25202: Brianhaiti: Fwd: Half Hour For Haiti: Protect Human Rights Observers (fwd)
May 24, 2005
Half Hour For Haiti: Protect the Rights of Human Rights Observers
Thank you for everyone who responded to last week's appeal for UN protection
of demonstrations on Flag Day. The UN peacekeepers did, in fact, provide
security for the demonstrations, and as a result no one was killed during the
protests. Unfortunately, Haitian police fired at people going home after the
demonstrations, killing at least one.
Yvon Neptune, the subject of the May 3rd alert, is still alive, but still in
prison. His condition continues to get worse (updates are available under
"Recent News" at www.ijdh.org).
This week's action is to protect human rights observers. The issue has
become particularly acute over the last two weeks, because the Haitian
will not let journalists visit Yvon Neptune. This is a continuation of a
policy instituted in early March, when the government refused to let attorney
Kurzban, who was part of a delegation organized by Rep. Maxine Waters, even
enter the country. We are asking everyone to sign a petition, asking 1) the
Haitian government to allow Mr. Kurzban access to Haiti on the same terms as
other American citizen; and 2) the United Nations and the United States to
assure that Mr. Kurzban's rights as a lawyer and human rights observer are
respected, at http://www.ipetitions.com/campaigns/Kurzban
Background: Ira Kurzban is a prominent human rights and immigration lawyer,
and has been the U.S. attorney for Haiti's democratically elected governments
since 1991. He has also represented members of Haiti's constitutional
governments, including President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, now in exile in South
Africa, and former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and Interior Minister Jocelerme
Privert, both political prisoners in Haiti, as well as many other clients in
Haiti. Mr. Kurzban has been a prominent critic of the Interim Government of
Haiti's (IGH) human rights record.
Kurzban travelled to Haiti on March 7, 2004, with a human right delegation
led by Rep. Maxine Waters. The delegation had announced their visit in
advance, including their intention to visit Yvon Neptune and other political
prisoners in Haitian jails. When the delegation's American Airlines flight
Port-au-Prince, the U.S. Embassy's chargé d'affaires in Haiti informed Mr.
Kurzban that Haitian authorities would arrest him if he entered the country.
Mr. Kurzban replied that he had nothing to hide, and tried to enter anyway,
IGH officials blocked him, without providing an explanation. He was forced to
return to the U.S. on the next flight. The other members of the delegation
were allowed to continue, but the delay prevented them from making some of
their planned meetings.
Mr. Kurzban's unexplained exclusion is a violation of his clients' rights to
an attorney. It also fits squarely within a pattern of attempts to thwart
investigation and reporting on human rights violations in Haiti, especially in
prisons. IJDH's report on the December 1, 2004 Prison Massacre documented
how independent Haitian human rights workers, journalists, and even families
detainees are denied access to prisoners. On January 14, journalist Abdias
Jean was executed by police, as he was covering a police sweep in a poor
neighborhood. In April the police arrested and harrassed Ginette Apollon and
Loulou Chéry, two labor leaders returning from a conference where they had
criticized the IGH's human rights record. Now, the IGH will not let
speak with Yvon Neptune. This pattern not only affects individual
and prisoners; it has a chilling effect on all independent human rights
workers. It is especially worrisome as the IGH has announced elections for
November and December.
Please visit http://www.ipetitions.com/campaigns/Kurzban
and sign the petition in support of Ira Kurzban and all human rights workers.
For more information on Yvon Neptune's imprisonment, see the "Recent News"
section of www.ijdh. org, and
For more information on Ginette Apollon and Paul Loulou Chéry, see
For more information on Ira Kurzban's exclusion, see
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