Saturday, February 13, 2010

ABA: Deportation System “Severely Flawed”

By William Fisher

The number of people deported from the U.S. annually has grown from just over 69,000 to over 356,000 in the past eight years, while resource-starved immigration judges issue decisions without sufficient time to conduct legal research and analyze complex legal and factual issues.

This is among the key findings of a new comprehensive review of the current deportation process by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration and one of America’s leading law firms.

The study concludes that the removal (deportation) system “is severely flawed and fails to afford fair process to all non-citizens facing deportation from the United States.”

The study details many of the deficiencies in the current system and advocates for systemic reform.

It says, “There is strong evidence that (legal) representation affects the outcome of immigration proceedings.” But in 2008, it continues, 57 per cent of people in removal proceedings were not represented. Of those in detention, 84 per cent were forced to proceed without lawyers.

“Not only are many people unable to afford counsel, but remote detention facilities, short visiting hours, restrictive phone access, and transfers all have a devastating effect on a non-citizen’s ability to retain counsel and maintain an attorney-client relationship.”

The study, carried out in cooperation with the law firm of Arnold and Porter, finds “stark disparities” between the rates of asylum grants among immigration judges and, as a result, “a non-citizen’s success in immigration court may depend to a troublesome extent upon which judge is assigned his or her case.”

Among other findings:

The “tremendous increase” in deportations “has not been met with commensurate resources.”

Immigration judges completed on average 1,243 cases per year. (In comparison, Veterans Law Judges decide about 729 cases per year (of which only 178 involve hearings) and Social Security Administration administrative law judges decide about 544 cases per year.)

Given the overwhelming case load and the lack of adequate support staff, immigration judges primarily issue oral decisions, meaning that decisions are made without sufficient time to conduct legal research and analyze complex legal and factual issues.

There are “stark disparities” in the rates of asylum grants among immigration judges and as a result, “a non-citizen’s success in immigration court may depend to a troublesome extent upon which judge is assigned his or her case.”

Most Board of Immigration Appeals cases are decided by a single member, as opposed to the past practice of using three-member panels to decide cases. This change has resulted in fewer decisions favoring asylum seekers.

Most decisions are “short opinions” that fail to provide a sufficient explanation for the decision. The rate at which non-citizens are appealing Board decisions to the federal courts has increased from 9.4 per cent in 2002 to 26.7 per cent in 2008. In 2008, non-citizens filed more than 10,000 federal court appeals of Board decisions.

The absence of counsel, the overwhelming dockets, the lack of adequately
explained and reasoned decisions, and the disparities among judges’ decisions are just a few of serious problems plaguing the removal system, the study declares.

Beth Werlin, Litigation Clearinghouse Attorney at the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center, writes, “These problems not only diminish the public’s confidence in the system, but even worse, they compromise the statutory and constitutional guarantee of fair process for each person facing removal.”

She concludes, “As Congress takes on immigration reform this year, it should be mindful of those whom the current removal system is failing. Given the gravity of removal — which can range from permanent separation from family in the U.S. to being returned to a country where a person fears for his life — we must demand that the process is meaningful, fair and leads to just results.”

At the same time, a study by The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University concluded that the announced goal of a broad Justice Department project to improve the performance of the Immigration Courts — started during the Bush Administration but now a continuing challenge for President Obama — “has failed to achieve many of its ambitious purposes.”

This mixed verdict is based on the actual improvements so far realized in the operations of the immigration court system after a three-year Justice Department effort.

The TRAC study found that the annual number of deportation cases brought in the nation's federal courts more than quadrupled during the eight years of the Bush administration. It reported that the September 2008 total of 11,454 immigration prosecutions represented an increase of over seven hundred percent from the same month seven years earlier, September 2001).

The study reported that in fiscal year 2008, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers apprehended at least 791,568 deportable non-citizens; initiated 291,217 removal proceedings in the immigration courts against non-citizens; detained 378,582 non-citizens; and effected the deportation of 358,886 non-citizens.

The study says, “Immigration lawyers, civil rights advocates and some members of Congress have for many years been concerned about the operation of the Immigration Courts that are now a part of the Justice Department. But beginning in 2002, a change in EOIR (Executive Office for Immigration Review) court procedures ordered by then Attorney General John Ashcroft resulted in a stream of unfavorable decisions by appellate level judges in different parts of the country.”

It notes that Ashcroft's successor, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, then ordered the Justice Department to undertake a special study of the EOIR.

In August of 2006 Gonzales, acting upon the findings of this internal study and the first in a series of studies documenting inexplicable disparities in how asylum cases were being decided, ordered the Justice Department to launch a corrective effort he said was necessary "to improve the performance and the quality" of the Immigration Courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Gonzales' directive listed 22 specific measures. In March 2007, outgoing EOIR Director Kevin Rooney sent a memo to his staff updating the implementation of the proposed changes and in many cases providing target deadlines for their implementation.

The TRAC study says the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), “has fallen far short of hiring the additional judges that the Justice Department had initially said were required; continues to hire judges without immigration law experience while available evidence indicates that comprehensive training in this complex legal area is not provided; has failed to provide evidence that it has established a system for seriously testing the immigration law knowledge of judges; has still not developed a judicial code of conduct or established a standardized system for handling complaints regarding the professional conduct of existing immigration judges; and has not worked out procedures to provide the judges the sanction authority they need to control their courtrooms.”

As in recent years, the TRAC study fund that the five federal districts with the largest proportion of immigration prosecutions in FY 2008 were strung out along the border with Mexico. In Texas South (Houston), Arizona (Phoenix), New Mexico (Albuquerque), Texas West (San Antonio) and California South (San Diego), for example, immigration matters made up 73.7 per cent or more of all those charged with a federal crime.

Repairing the Third Rail

Last in a series

By William Fisher

As Haitians struggle to comprehend what has happened to their lives – and begin to try to put them back together – the United Nations is reaching out to “a vast and influential network.” The Boston Globe reports that this is Haiti’s network of about 60,000 voodoo priests, “firmly entrenched in their displaced communities, and eager to lend a hand.”

To the outside world, it reports, “Their faith has long been shrouded in mystery,” says the Globe. “But in post-quake Haiti, the practitioners of voodoo have taken on a more practical role, enlisted by the government to help count the dead, tend to the injured, and soothe the psychologically damaged,” the newspaper writes.

But while the UN may find the priests useful, development experts – who already have made copious recommendations for Haiti’s reconstruction – appear to be looking to other kinds of resources.

For example, two veterans of aid to Haiti, Robert Mcguire and Robert Muggah, have proposed a 700,000-strong national civic service corps to energize the reconstruction effort. They say it could harness untapped labor rapidly and instill national pride and confidence.

“A civic service corps would get the young and able out of the tent cities in and around Port-au-Prince and into work. They could start with the once-iconic center of the capital, but also could begin planting trees, working the fields and providing services in Haiti's countryside. At a minimum, this would reverse generations of unfair stigmatizing of the youth there,” they write.

Creation of such a group “would be a symbolic first step toward renewing the social contract with the people,” they say.

Muggah, based at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, is a principal of the SecDev Group and is currently advising multilateral and bilateral organizations on Haiti's recovery. Maguire is on the faculty of Trinity Washington University and chairs the Haiti Working Group of the United States Institute of Peace in Washington.

Another expert, Mark L. Schneider, Peace Corps director in the Administration of President Bill Clinton, has been weighing in on Haiti, focusing on restoring and improving education.

He says, “Let's take the Ministry of Education: What you need to do now is not just put back the same bricks. You need to build a new education policy in Haiti. Some forty percent of the kids weren't in school before the earthquake. And eighty percent of those who were in school were in private schools where they had to pay and those schools weren't very good. There's very little public education. You need to have a commitment to a public school education system that offers a decent education to the kids in Haiti. That needs to be built. So you need to have education experts from around the world come and partner with the new Ministry of Education in Haiti.”

The January 17 New York Times featured the views of a number of authorities on various aspects of reconstruction and governance.

John McAslan, an architect, says “the urge to rebuild rapidly should be tempered by a thorough examination of new designs for safer, more energy-efficient and less expensive structures.”

Robert Neuwirth, author of “Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, a New Urban World,” notes that there are about a billion squatters in the world today. He suggests, “Rather than being put in refugee camps, people can seize the initiative and squat in their old communities, without aid groups clamping down on them…These nascent communities — self-organized and temporary at first — can serve as the building blocks of new neighborhoods.”

James Dobbins is former special envoy to Haiti under President Bill Clinton and director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation. He says that while Haiti’s institutions will need rebuilding, “These institutions should not be rebuilt on the old inefficient and corrupt foundations. This disaster is an opportunity to accelerate oft-delayed reforms in each of these sectors.”

He cites the uncompetitive costs at the port of Port-au-Prince and the need to link breaking up or at least reorganizing the government-controlled telephone monopoly to fundamental management reforms.

Steven Solomon, author of “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization,” notes that today only two percent of Haiti’s forest cover remains. “During storms, water rushes off barren hillsides, causing deadly mudslides, clogging streams with soil and sewage and disappearing before it can replenish Haiti’s diminishing groundwater reserves. As a result, nearly half of all Haitians lack satisfactory access to clean drinking water, and more than two-thirds live without adequate sanitation. Water poverty is the main reason for Haiti’s abysmal illness and early mortality rates,” he says.

He adds, “The network of water and sewer pipes should be built with flexible materials that can be shallowly buried and easily repaired.”

Jonathan M. Hansen, who is writing a book on the history of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, suggests that this iconic base could play a role in Haiti’s rebirth as a field hospital, a refugee camp or a depot for the distribution of food, medicine, clothing and other emergency supplies.

It is clear that Haiti will not want for development ideas as it charts its future course. However, development professionals emphasize the centrality of coordination, accountability, a long-term team approach, and far more involvement than has been evident in the past from the Haitian people and Haitian consultants. They also underscore the need to depoliticize aid and end the start-stop-start work patterns that have characterized past aid efforts.

But Prof. Maguire told IPS that the history of aid to Haiti has been a toxic combination of corruption among the government and business elites of the country, a politically-driven agenda of the U.S., and the selfish interests of private sector international investors who “wanted to maintain the status quo” and who viewed Haiti only as “a low-wage and stable dictatorship” able to manufacture basic garments and other textile products.

In a 2003 report, “US Policy Toward Haiti: Engagement or Estrangement?” Maguire noted that “Great attention was paid to Haiti in the period leading up to and following the demise of the Duvalier family dictatorship in 1986, and then again in the period following the 1990 presidential election of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, his subsequent removal from office in 1991 as a result of a violent military coup d’etat, and his later restoration to office as a result of a UN-sanctioned and US-led military intervention.”

He noted that Haiti’s geographical proximity, a variety of developments there linked to ongoing U.S. policy interests, and the presence in the U.S. of a large and growing Haitian-born and Haitian-American population, have combined to make this poverty-ridden Caribbean country one of the third rails of American politics.

As much as US officials and policy makers at times may have wanted Haiti to ‘just go away,’ he wrote prophetically, “This will not happen short of a highly improbable geological episode that will either physically displace, or submerge, the island that Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic! “

Haiti is not quite displaced or submerged. But it is broken, which means the UN, the US and international donors will have to decide how much energy they are prepared to devote to mending it.

The Failure of Aid

Second in a series.

By William Fisher

The sick, injured and stressed people of Port au Prince are unlikely to be impressed by the small army of reconstruction contractors and development experts who are preparing to descend on Haiti. The reason? They’ve seen it all before.

Over the years, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere has seen billions of dollars in aid appear – and disappear. They have witnessed aid programs characterized by start-stop-start, shaped largely by American political ideologies. And they have seen the corrupt rulers of the country amass fortunes while ordinary people existed on one or two dollars a day.

The Duvalier family ruled Haiti from 1957 to 1986. Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier was elected by the largest majority in Haitian history. Once in power, he became a dictator, creating a violent military police force known as the Tonton Macoutes. Papa Doc's son, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier followed his father into power. In 1986, the Haitian people revolted and Baby Doc fled to France with millions of dollars stolen from the Haitian treasury.

Jubilee USA, a network calling for elimination of debt owed by poor countries, estimates that Baby Doc alone diverted at least $500 million in public funds to his private accounts, and that 45 percent of Haiti’s debt in recent decades was accumulated during the corrupt Duvalier reign.

"Since 1804 Haiti has had 30 coups and 20 constitutions," says Robert Muggah, research director of the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey.

So it is not surprising that ordinary Haitians would be cynical about the prospects of post-earthquake aid being substantially different from the past. Most experts say the country’s history as an aid recipient has made it a poster child for how not to administer development assistance.

A 2006 report by the US National Academy of Public Administration, “Why Foreign Aid to Haiti Failed,” outlines the shortcomings of development assistance to Haiti over the long term. Despite an estimated nine billion dollars in aid over the years, Haiti remains near the bottom of global poverty and development indexes. It ranks in 146th place in the most recent UN Human Development Report, for example.

Haiti has also been adversely affected by a brain-drain. The educated usually emigrate, and then support families at home through remittances, which are estimated to total $1.5 billion to $1.8 billion annually. But even many of the uneducated have prospered in the Haitian Diaspora, revealing what many observers describe as their natural strong will to survive.

According to ISN Security Watch, remittances have more of an impact because the funds go directly to poor Haitians, while much development aid goes through corrupt officialdom. ISN is a project of the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich).

What role will development assistance play in post-earthquake Haiti? To understand where development in Haiti needs to go, it’s important to know where it’s been.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has generally been the lead organization for development aid to Haiti. Insights into how successful it has been can be found in a September 2000 report by Jess T. Ford, then a senior State Department official.

Assessing the impact of U.S. aid on Haiti’s justice system, Ford wrote, “Over the last six fiscal years, the United States provided about $97 million in assistance to help Haiti establish its first civilian-controlled police force and improve aspects of its judicial sector, which includes various judicial institutions, procedures, and legal codes.”

He reported that, despite some modest achievements, “the police force has not effectively carried out its basic law enforcement responsibilities, and recent events suggest that politicization has compromised the force, according to U.S. and other donor officials. The judicial sector also has serious weaknesses, according to U.S. and other donor officials. The sector has not undergone a major reform and, as a result, lacks independence from the executive branch and has outdated legal codes and cumbersome judicial proceedings. Further, the judicial institutions have personnel shortages; inadequate infrastructure and equipment, such as shortages of vehicles and legal texts; and an ineffective internal oversight organization unable to stem corruption.”

Overall, Ford wrote, these institutions provide justice services to only a small segment of the population, because the institutions rely heavily in judicial proceedings on the use of French rather than Creole -- the language of the majority of the population, he said.

The key factor affecting the lack of success of U.S. assistance has been the Haitian government’s lack of commitment to addressing the major problems of its police and judicial institutions, he said.

Fast-forward to 2005, a critically important USAID year, coming on the heels of a 2004 Haitian rebellion. That coup d'etat happened after conflicts that occurred for several weeks in Haiti during February 2004. It resulted in the premature end of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's second term. He left Haiti on a U.S. plane accompanied by U.S. military/security personnel, and it is still unclear whether the U.S. forced him to leave.

USAID’s objectives that year included decreasing narcotics trafficking, strengthening democracy, providing humanitarian assistance, stemming the flow of illegal migrants, fighting HIV/AIDS, generating employment, and strengthening civil society’s ability to resist authoritarianism.

The agency’s development menu contained support to the interim government in efforts to stabilize the country in preparation for local, parliamentary and presidential elections later that year, and USAID efforts encourage creation of jobs, support institutions, offer health, education and humanitarian assistance and respond to hurricanes and similar natural disasters.

There were programs for peace and security; governing justly and democratically; supporting Haiti’s social development, access to basic health services and HIV/AIDS prevention; distance-based education; response to the food riots and hurricanes; school feeding programs; and provision of emergency food and shelter in response to increasing food insecurity and hurricanes. Total USAID expenditure for 2005 was approximately $51 million.

But even Haiti’s most generous friends would acknowledge that the country has little to show for that year’s – or arguably any year’s – international aid.

In fact, many experts contend that some aid has done more harm than good. For example, loans from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) imposed “structural adjustment” conditions on Haiti, opening its economy to cheap U.S. agricultural products.

Farmers, unable to compete, stopped growing rice and moved to the cities to earn low wages, if they were lucky enough to get one of the scarce sweatshop jobs. People in the highlands were driven to deforest the hills, converting wood into salable charcoal, which created an ecological crisis -- destabilizing hillsides, increasing the destructiveness of earthquakes and causing landslides during the rainy season.

A frequently asked question is whether the impact of aid will be different during the post earthquake period, and whether President René Préval is up to the task of managing the huge resources destined to flow into his country in the coming months.

"Préval is the legitimately elected president of Haiti, and the obligation of the international community is to assist him and Prime Minister (Jean-Max Bellerive) in fulfilling their leadership role," says Mark Schneider of the International Crisis Group.

But the current government has no shortage of critics. "I can think of no country in the world that would have so pathetically handled the post-earthquake situation," says Larry Birns, director of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs. "It's a caricature of what a government is supposed to be.”

The final installment of this series will explore approaches to more effective aid to Haiti.


Part One of a Series

By William Fisher

In Haiti, now close to the one-month mark since the devastating earthquake of January 12, victims continue to perish from a variety of causes, including death by red tape: they fall between the cracks of a still-poorly- uncoordinated aid effort. The physicians working in Haiti call these “the stupid deaths” – by which they mean avoidable.

Yet amidst the chaos and suffering that inevitably accompanies natural disasters, there are people who are beginning to plan for Haiti’s future. And, for many, their optimism is rooted in the miserable performance of international assistance in the past. Against that background, they say, they have nowhere to go but up.

It is an unusual combination of optimism and realism that is driving development experts to try to shed the blemished history of international aid to Haiti, rid the issue of a generation of devastating politicization, and think way outside the conventional development paradigm.

The fate of one particularly important project is emblematic of factors that have consistently and severely reduced the effectiveness – even the existence – of viable development projects.

Eric Michael Johnson of the Department of History at the University of British Columbia, told IPS, “The US role towards Haiti can best be understood as a kind of abusive paternalism, at times condescending and at others domineering depending on how fully Haitian governments obey the patriarch's dictates.”

To illustrate his point, Johnson told IPS what happened after the first coup d'etat and reinstatement of President Bertrand Aristide in late 1994 to a term that ended in 1996. This was followed by five years of René Préval (who is also President today). In 2000 Aristide once again won overwhelmingly in the Haitian elections. Aristede’s second election did not please the new American President, George W. Bush.

Johnson then recounts how the Bush Administration conspired to cut off funds already appropriated for a vital infrastructure and public health project.

An award of $146 million dollars from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) had already been approved, but at US insistence was not being disbursed. Some $54 million of this loan was intended for desperately needed water and sanitation projects. Johnson says, “This decision likely resulted in the needless deaths of an untold number of poor Haitians.”

In 2006, the Robert F. Kennedy Center filed a Freedom of Information Act Request to force the US to release documents related to this decision. According to the documents, “there was clear evidence that the United States blocked the loans because they objected to the election of Aristide,” Johnson says.

The IDB approved these loans between 1996 and 1998, and Haiti paid around $10 million in interest even before the loans were dispersed. By 2001 there was no reason for the IDB to continue blocking these loans. But block them they did.

The loans were not disbursed and, on November 8, 2001, the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to President Bush stating that "it is wrong to impose an inflexible policy which conditions US relations and aid, be it loans or grants, entirely on a country's political process" and insisting that "it is imperative that the US remove its blockade of essentially all aid to Haiti, particularly the loans currently held up at the Inter-American Development Bank."

The US – the largest contributor to the IDB -- continued to put roadblocks in the way of disbursement of these loans, even while Haiti was paying interest on the loans it hadn't received. In 2002 Haiti stopped payment.

A study published in the journal “Health and Human Rights” stated: "Public statements by US government officials soon explicitly linked non-disbursement with political concerns. In early 2002, the journal concluded that the IDB did not intend to disburse the loans, and the Haitian government suspended interest payments.

Haiti’s loan arrears rendered the loan ineligible for disbursement meaning, Johnson says, “the US government’s plan to slow disbursement succeeded in blocking the loans indefinitely."

The bottom line, Johnson says, is that these loans were denied to Haiti “because the Bush Administration objected to Haiti’s internal politics, a decision that violated the IDB’s charter.”

He adds, “The development loans were being used as a weapon to oppose the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Even after the loans were finally approved in 2003 (primarily because of Congressional pressure) the water projects were only moving into their implementation stage by mid-2007.

The lack of clean water has seriously impacted health, Johnson says, noting that at least 84.4 per cent of households had experienced at least one case of infectious illness.

This is a situation, Johnson says, “that could have been different.” He believes, the U.S. “shares significant responsibility for this and owes the people of Haiti for the decisions of past administrations.”

Writing in The Huffington Post, Johnson notes that "Haiti has a historically unhealthy dependence on foreign commerce and finance, from the colonial days of the sugar trade to the current assistance provided by developed countries."

"Now the same politicians and financial elites that helped create this mess are proposing an even larger program following the same mode," he says.

But he is quick to point out that “the Haitian people are not children and they can effectively manage their own affairs if given the chance to do so.”

Johnson’s point of view is echoed by USAID itself, which says, “It will be important that Haitians themselves assume responsibility for and full ownership of their future. Government, civil society and the business sector should lead the setting of the national development agenda.”

An encouraging variety of Haitian and International development professionals is now working to craft ideas for rebuilding projects that are necessary, practical and fundable. Most development professionals say that, unlike projects in the past, these initiatives should not be U.S. creations alone, superimposed on Haitian needs or programs that favor the elites only; participants are hopeful they will bear the fruit of sustained cooperation between ordinary Haitians and the international community.

The next installment of this series will describe some of the specific development initiatives undertaken by the U.S. and international institutions and donors.


By William Fisher

Haiti experts are warning that unless the international community comes up with new, more imaginative and more inclusive approaches to reconstruction and development in the earthquake-ravaged nation, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country can look forward to more of the same.

They see the suffering and deprivation caused by the earthquake as a human and physical disaster. But they also see it as an opportunity to change the way aid is allocated, managed and distributed so that it results in progress that works for all the people, not simply the country’s elites. The goal, they say, is better-built roads and buildings, sound education, infrastructure and public health and justice systems. They believe that this goal demands an approach to development planning that calls for the active participation of the Haitian people.

“Without it,” says Robert Maguire, a professor at Trinity College in Washington, D.C. and head of the Haiti working group at the U.S. Institute of Peace, “We will simply see another lost generation -- with hundreds of millions of donor dollars being directed to projects that perpetuate the status quo and enrich those business, government and military elites who have been personally profiting from international donor generosity for many generations.”

One of the more experienced Haiti experts, Maguire adds, “Haiti is a lot more than a free-enterprise-zone filled with low-wage textile workers.”

And Bill Quigley, legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans, and a Katrina survivor who has been active in human rights in Haiti for years with the Institute for Justice, puts the challenge this way:

“The current crisis is an opportunity for people in the US to own up to our country’s history of dominating Haiti and to make a truly just response.”

The story of Haiti and international efforts to influence it is complicated by history, politics, greed, corruption, waste and race.

Here’s how that history is seen by Quigley:

He contends that the US owes Haiti billions of dollars. He bases this assessment on Colin Powell’s ‘Pottery Barn rule’ -- ‘If you break it, you own it.”

Quigley says, “The US has worked to break Haiti for over 200 years. The US has used Haiti like a plantation. The US helped bleed the country economically since it freed itself, repeatedly invaded the country militarily, supported dictators who abused the people, used the country as a dumping ground for our own economic advantage, ruined their roads and agriculture, and toppled popularly elected officials. The US has even used Haiti like the old plantation owner and slipped over there repeatedly for sexual recreation.”

Quigley recalls that in 1804, when Haiti achieved its freedom from France in the world’s first successful slave revolution, the United States refused to recognize the country.

He writes, “The US continued to refuse recognition to Haiti for 60 more years. Why? Because the US continued to enslave millions of its own citizens and feared recognizing Haiti would encourage slave revolution in the US.”

Following the slave revolution in 1804, “Haiti was the subject of a crippling economic embargo by France and the US. US sanctions lasted until 1863. France ultimately used its military power to force Haiti to pay reparations for the slaves who were freed,” Quigley says.

“The reparations were 150 million francs. (France sold the entire Louisiana
territory to the US for 80 million francs!) Haiti was forced to borrow money from banks in France and the US to pay reparations to France. A major loan from the US to pay off the French was finally paid off in 1947. The current value of the money Haiti was forced to pay to French and US banks? Over $20 Billion – with a big B.

Racial politics have always played a significant role in Haiti. Generally, largesse from the international community has gone to the light-skinned, French-speaking Haitian elites in government, business and the military. Corruption among these elites was legend.

Little aid actually got to the darker-skinned, Creole-speaking “common people” of the country – and the elites built no school systems, no public health systems, no infrastructure for these common people.

In fact, at one point in its storied history, Haiti was divided into separate sections for lighter and darker-skin citizens. In 1806, Haiti consisted of a black-controlled north and a mulatto-ruled south. That was a mere five years after a former black slave, Toussaint Louverture, became a guerrilla leader and overthrew French rule, abolished slavery and proclaimed himself governor-general of an autonomous government. For decades afterward, Haiti was crippled by reparations it was forced to pay to former slaveowners.

Quigley recalls that “The US occupied and ruled Haiti by force from 1915 to 1934. President Woodrow Wilson sent troops to invade in 1915. Revolts by Haitians were put down by US military – killing over 2000 in one skirmish alone. For the next nineteen years, the US controlled customs in Haiti, collected taxes, and ran many governmental institutions. How many billions were siphoned off by the US during these 19 years?”

Then, he says, from 1957 to 1986, “Haiti was forced to live under US backed dictators ‘Papa Doc and ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier. The US supported these dictators economically and militarily because they did what the US wanted and were politically “anti-communist” – now translatable as against human rights for their people.”

Quigley charges that Duvalier “stole millions from Haiti and ran up hundreds of millions in debt that Haiti still owes. Ten thousand Haitians lost their lives. Estimates say that Haiti owes $1.3 billion in external debt and that 40% of that debt was run up by the US-backed Duvaliers.”

He says, “Thirty years ago Haiti imported no rice. Today Haiti imports nearly all its rice. Though Haiti was the sugar growing capital of the Caribbean, it now imports sugar as well. Why? The US and the US dominated world financial institutions – the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – forced Haiti to open its markets to the world. Then the US dumped millions of tons of US subsidized rice and sugar into Haiti – undercutting their farmers and ruining Haitian agriculture. By ruining Haitian agriculture, the US has forced Haiti into becoming the third largest world market for US rice. Good for US farmers, bad for Haiti.”

Quigley notes that in 2002, during the George W. Bush administration, “the US stopped hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to Haiti which were to be used for, among other public projects like education, roads. These are the same roads that relief teams are having so much trouble navigating now!”

And, two years later, he says, “the US again destroyed democracy in Haiti when they supported the coup against Haiti’s elected President Aristide.”

In the area of economic development, Quigley notes that “US based corporations have for years been teaming up with Haitian elite to run sweatshops teeming with tens of thousands of Haitians who earn less than $2 a day.”

“The Haitian people have resisted the economic and military power of the US and others ever since their independence. Like all of us, Haitians made their own mistakes as well. But US power has forced Haitians to pay great prices – deaths, debt and abuse.

“It is time for the people of the US to join with Haitians and reverse the course of US-Haitian relations.

Robert Maguire of the U.S. Institute of Peace says, “At times, American policy makers have watched Haiti with deep concern over the impact of developments there on the US. Certainly this was the case in the aftermath of Haiti’s independence in
1804, when American leaders, particularly in its plantation South, feared that the Caribbean country’s ’virus of freedom’ would spread to the slave plantations in the Carolinas, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia. Other times, American engagement in Haiti has evolved far beyond observation to direct intervention, most notably during the 19-year US military occupation of 1915 to 1934.”

Veteran journalist Greg Palast also takes a dark look at Haiti’s history – including the performance of the international aid community in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.

“Send in the Marines.” he writes. “That's America's response. That's what we're good at. The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson finally showed up after three days. With what? It was dramatically deployed — without any emergency relief supplies. It has sidewinder missiles and 19 helicopters.”

But, he says, “don't worry, the International Search and Rescue Team, fully equipped and self-sufficient for up to seven days in the field, deployed immediately with ten metric tons of tools and equipment, three tons of water, tents, advanced communication equipment and water purifying capability. They're from Iceland.”

Gates wouldn't send in food and water because, he said, there was no "structure ... to provide security." For Gates, appointed by Bush and allowed to hang around by Obama, it's security first. That was his lesson from Hurricane Katrina. Blackwater before drinking water,” he says.

Palast asks, “How did Haiti end up so economically weakened, with infrastructure, from hospitals to water systems, busted or non-existent - there are two fire stations in the entire nation - and infrastructure so frail that the nation was simply waiting for ‘nature’ to finish it off? “

For Palast, the blame lies as much with Haiti’s corruption and the donor community’s acquiescence as with the earthquake.

“Don’t blame Mother Nature for all this death and destruction. That dishonor goes to Papa Doc and Baby Doc, the Duvalier dictatorship, which looted the nation for 28 years. Papa and his Baby put an estimated 80% of world aid into their own pockets - with the complicity of the US government happy to have the Duvaliers and their voodoo militia, Tonton Macoutes, as allies in the Cold War. (The war was easily won: the Duvaliers’ death squads murdered as many as 60,000 opponents of the regime),” he says.

“What Papa and Baby didn't run off with, the IMF finished off through its
‘austerity’ plans. An austerity plan is a form of voodoo orchestrated by
economists zomby-fied by an irrational belief that cutting government services will somehow help a nation prosper,” he says.

In 1991, he recalls, “five years after the murderous Baby fled, Haitians elected a priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who resisted the IMF's austerity diktats. Within months, the military, to the applause of Papa George HW Bush, deposed him.”

History repeats itself, “first as tragedy, then as farce,” he says. “The farce was George W. Bush. In 2004, after the priest Aristide was re-elected President, he was kidnapped and removed again, to the applause of Baby Bush.”

Against that background, what is being proposed and who is proposing it?

Ideas are arising from many quarters.

In an editorial (Monday Feb. 1), The New York Times proposed four principles to guide the reconstruction phase of international aid. Aid programs, it said, should promote self-sufficiency, open up the countryside, rebuild and maintain infrastructure, and tap the Diaspora.

It noted that Haiti has considerable economic advantages, like low labor costs and a law that grants its goods preferential access to the United States market. Extending that law and encouraging investments in industries like garment-making and tourism could swiftly create tens of thousands of jobs. Rebuilding and modernizing agriculture to grow staples and export products like coffee and mangoes would mean food, cash and employment. Dispersing the population beyond overbuilt, overburdened cities, like the now-shattered capital, is a good idea now cloaked in urgency.

It concludes: “It will take a lot of money, creativity, and vigilance and sustained commitment to rebuild Haiti — from Haitians and from the world. There are smart people thinking about how to do it. And that is a start.”

Haiti may be suffering from shortages of many things, but recommendations are not one of them. Among them is the suggestion that Haiti should be temporarily taken over by an international organization, which would govern it and oversee its rebuilding. Counter by the belief that years of failed, foreign-imposed aid projects underscore that this time Haitians need to develop and implement their own plans. Followed by calls for a joint Haitian-international reconstruction agency to administer a kind of Haitian Marshall Plan.

UN secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is expected to announce shortly that former President Bill Clinton will take on an expanded role in coordinating United Nations efforts to resurrect Haiti.

Another idea has come from former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Appearing on MSNBC last week, he suggested that the United Nations should establish a temporary “protectorate” over Haiti during the reconstruction period. During that time the UN would be in complete charge and Haiti ‘s government would, in effect, have little influence over events. The former Jimmy Carter lieutenant acknowledged that such an effort would need to be crafted and explained very carefully so that no one confuses it with Colonialism.

It is unclear how Brzezinski’s idea would square with an objective hailed by almost everyone – making the aid effort more inclusive.

But for any of these ideas to come to fruition, most experts agree that a
sea-change will be necessary among all the stakeholders – Haitian, US and international.

For example, Haiti must avoid the debacle of 2008, when lack of access to clean water posed devastating health consequences and constituted a clear violation of Haitians’ right to water according to both domestic and international legal obligations.

That revelation was contained in a report from the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ), Partners In Health (PIH), the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center (RFK Center), and Zanmi Lasante. The release of the report, “Wòch nan Soley: The Denial of the Right to Water in Haiti,” came just months after public outrage over rising food prices led to a full-blown political crisis in Haiti.

One of the report’s main findings was of an undeniable link between the
international community’s political interference and the intolerably poor state of potable water in Haiti. Using documents obtained by the RFK Center through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury Department, the report exposes the U.S. government’s role in blocking the disbursal of millions of dollars in loans that would have had life-saving consequences for the Haitian people.

The loans, which the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) approved in 1998 for urgently needed water and sanitation projects in Haiti, were derailed in 2001 by politically-motivated, behind-the-scenes interventions on behalf of the United States and other members of the international community.

The director of one of the groups, Monika Kalra Varma, Director of the RFK Center for Human Rights, told Truthout, “Over the years, help for Haiti has been shaped by ideological politics and broken promises.”

She charged that, “Generally the international community has made pledges to Haiti and not fulfilled them. Donor states have human rights obligations in Haiti as well - they must do no harm. When states pledge funds to Haiti which the Haitian people and government rely on in figuring out how to meet the needs of its people, particularly when you're talking about monetary pledges to strengthen water, education, and health systems and that money doesn't come in, the donors have violated their human rights obligations.”

Journalist and historian Eric Michael Johnson, writing in The Huffington Post, notes that “Haiti has a historically unhealthy dependence on foreign commerce and finance, from the colonial days of the sugar trade to the current assistance provided by developed countries.”

“Now the same politicians and financial elites that helped create this mess are proposing an even larger program following the same mode,” he says.

Johnson writes that “since 2004 Haitian exports to the United States increased by 32%while, during the same period, the Haitian minimum wage declined by 36%. “

Yet another approach is being suggested by two old Haiti hands, Robert Muggah and Robert Maguire. Robert Muggah, based at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, is a principal of the SecDev Group and is currently advising multilateral and bilateral organizations on Haiti's recovery. As noted earlier, Robert Maguire is on the faculty of Trinity Washington University and chairs the Haiti Working Group at the US Institute of Peace.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times on January 31, Maguire and Muggah suggested that a 700,000-strong Haitian national civic service corps “would harness untapped labor rapidly and instill national pride and confidence.”

“Haiti will need big ideas to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating magnitude 7.0 earthquake this month. The reported death toll has topped 150,000, and the reconstruction needs are incalculable. How about starting with a 700,000-strong national civic service corps made up of Haitian youth? There are many reasons why such an entity makes a lot of sense,” they write, adding:

”Haiti is a young country. An estimated 70% of the population is under 30; the 15-to-29 segment alone makes up 50% of the population. Demographers have long cautioned how excessively youthful populations can potentially exacerbate underdevelopment and accentuate political instability. Although Haiti registers among the lowest levels of education in the Western Hemisphere, Haitian youth are a wellspring of creativity, talent and potential. You don't need to be a community-development specialist to know that they are stifled by a lack of meaningful opportunities.”

Fortunately, they say, “Haiti has an enabling environment to set up a civic service corps. Article 52 of the Haitian Constitution commits citizens to national service, though it has never been activated. What is more, there are many Haitian and international organizations mobilized and ready to help the government get this going.”

They believe a civic service corps “would get the young and able out of the tent cities in and around Port-au-Prince and into work. They could start with the once-iconic center of the capital, but also could begin planting trees, working the fields and providing services in Haiti's countryside. At a minimum, this would reverse generations of unfair stigmatizing of the youth there.”

This plan, they say, “would also harness untapped labor rapidly. Before the Jan. 12 earthquake, 50% of youth in their 20s were out of work. Putting them in service toward rebuilding the capital and outlying areas would be a first step to restoring their and their country's pride and dignity.”

The Kennedy Center’s Kalra Varma noted that multilateral aid has frequently been marked by stop-start-stop politics, with aid stopping when Haiti elects a leader not favored by donors. She cites the refusal of the
Inter American Development Bank (IDB) to release funds earmarked for water projects, which would have benefited the poor. “The IDB is controlled by its largest donor, the U.S. and the U.S. did not like Haiti’s government of the day,” she said.

She added, “All too often, aid has been slow to arrive, uncoordinated, and planned with no input from the people most affected -- that legacy must and can end today. We have an opportunity to break with the past and ensure that assistance is given in a way that strengthens Haitians’ fundamental rights to food, water, and health. The Haitian people deserve no less.”

The other groups include the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ), the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Partners In Health/Zanmi Lasante, and TransAfrica Forum.

Loune Viaud, Director of Strategic Planning and Operations at Zanmi Lasante, a health organization, cautioned, “The only way to avoid escalation of this crisis is for international aid to take a long-term view and strive to rebuild a stronger Haiti—one that includes a government that can ensure the basic human rights of all Haitians and a nation that is empowered to demand those rights.”

The groups cited past relief efforts in Haiti that were uncoordinated, unpredictable, and lacked community participation, often leading to increased suffering. They called on the international community to seize on this opportunity to advance human rights and sustainability in the ravaged country.

“The magnitude of the catastrophe is not entirely a result of natural disaster but rather, a history of deliberate impoverishment and disempowerment of the Haitian people through a series of misguided polices,” said Brian Concannon Jr., Director of IJDH. “Lack of donor accountability and continued aid volatility will only guarantee even greater suffering.”

In an editorial prepared for distribution, Kalra Varma and Kerry Kennedy, wrote, “ As international aid begins to pour into Haiti, we have a brief moment to break with past mistakes and bring real change to Haiti.” U.S and international aid efforts “could be characterized, at best, as unsustainable and, at worst, deliberately harmful,” they wrote. Kerry Kennedy is the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy.

The editorial continues, “In 2000, the U.S. and the Inter-American Development Bank approved millions of dollars of what would have been lifesaving loans for improvements to water, health, education, and road infrastructure, only to later withhold these funds because they opposed then President Aristide. While the loans were eventually released, the communities where the very first water projects were to be financed still lack access, ten years later, to reliably clean drinking water, contributing to countless deaths due to waterborne illness.”

It adds, “In 2004, the international community pledged $1 billion to support Haiti. The RFK Center, along with the health organization Zanmi Lasante and the NYU Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, tried to track the fulfillment of those pledges, but never received clear and consistent answers from donor states on the status of the aid. With no transparency or coordinating body to turn to, the Haitian people had no hope of knowing if that money ever got to Haiti, much less where it was directed and how it could be used to improve their communities. Haitian government sources later confirmed that most of the pledges had never been fulfilled.”

The future of Haiti is a huge question mark. An even larger question is whether the US and the international community will set aside ancient prejudices that historically have stood in the way of imaginative and inclusive approaches to Haitian reconstruction and development – and will do so again unless there is a dramatic change of mindset, strategy and tactics.

This article originally appeared at

Seven Paragraphs That Shook US-UK Relationship

By William Fisher

A British court has ordered the publication of previously secret information that appears to reveal the UK government's complicity with the US in the torture of Binyam Mohamed, a UK resident who was imprisoned by the US at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The decision by the English Court of Appeals affirmed an earlier High Court ruling that ordered the release of seven paragraphs that the British government had sought to suppress because the administration of US president Barack Obama "explicitly threatened that publishing the information would harm the intelligence-sharing relationship between the two nations."

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband argued that the publication of those seven paragraphs would endanger Britain's national security.

But, as the Court of Appeals noted in their decision, the information at issue had already been placed in the public domain through a U.S. court decision in November 2009. In that case the judge, after reviewing extensive evidence of Mohamed's allegations of torture, noted that the government did "not challenge or deny the accuracy of Binyam Mohamed's story of brutal treatment."

Jonathan Evans, director general of the British intelligence service MI5, denied his staff had withheld documents relating to Mohamed from the parliamentary intelligence and security committee (ISC) or sought to cover up its involvement in the torture of detainees.

Evans said claims by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, that there was a "culture of suppression" within the service were "the precise opposite of the truth."

In an article in the UK’s DailyTelegraph newspaper, Evans wrote that MI5 was trying to protect the country from "enemies" who would use "all the tools at their disposal" – including propaganda – to attack.

"We will do all that we can to keep the country safe from terrorist attack. We will use all the powers available to us under the law," he wrote.

MI5 told the ISC Mohamed was interrogated "in line with the service's guidance to staff on contact with detainees".

However, a seven-paragraph summary released by the appeal court shows that the CIA told MI5 Mohamed had been subjected to "continuous sleep deprivation ... threats and inducements".

While Mohamed's case has wound its way through the English courts, he has also sought justice in American courts as the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against Jeppesen DataPlan, a Boeing subsidiary. That lawsuit, Mohamed v. Jeppesen, charges that Jeppesen knowingly participated in the CIA's forced disappearance and torture of Mohamed and four other men through the provision of critical flight planning and logistical support services to the aircraft and crews used by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in its "extraordinary rendition" program.

The Obama administration has sought to dismiss the Jeppesen case at the very outset by invoking the “state secrets privilege”, claiming that allowing this case to proceed will endanger national security. Last December, the case was reheard by a panel of eleven judges in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Their decision is pending.

Asked by IPS about the UK court’s decision to release the seven-paragraph document, ACLU staff attorney Ben Wizner said, “Never before have so many high-level officials worked so hard to suppress what everyone already knew. Think about it: Here we have two heads of government, two secretaries of state, the chiefs of two intelligence services, and many others at the highest levels of government, all conspiring to hide information that was in plain view.”

The only remarkable thing about the released document is how unremarkable it is!” he added.

The document, he told IPS, “has nothing to do with protecting national security. It has only to do with preventing legal accountability for torture. But the wall of impunity is crumbling.”

Wizner told IPS the ACLU would file a new motion to call the attention of the Ninth Circuit judges to the British decision.

He said he “doesn’t see how the U.S. government can invoke the state secrets privilege to keep the Jeppesen case from coming to court when all of the so-called state secrets are now in the public domain.”

Binyam Mohamed was under the control or in the custody of U.S. authorities for seven years before his release back to his home in England in February last year.

The released paragraphs confirm Binyam’s torture, referring to his sleep deprivation, the threat to ‘disappear’ him, the fact that ‘the interviews were having a marked effect on him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering’ and the fact that ‘the reports provided to the SyS made clear to anyone reading them that BM was subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.’

US officials played down claims that the appeal court's disclosure of CIA information passed to MI5 would damage intelligence-sharing with Britain, as fresh doubts emerged about the accuracy of information given to MPs.

But Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman, said the US was "deeply disappointed" in the court judgment. "We shared this information in confidence and with certain expectations," he added.

Another White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the court decision would not provoke a broad review of intelligence liaison between Britain and the US because the need for close co-operation was greater than ever.

The UK government has indicated that it will not appeal the judgment.

Mohamed’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, director of the legal charity Reprieve, said: “Our government went to enormous lengths to prevent the British public from seeing this tiny fraction of Binyam’s story. They still refuse to admit that he was abused. Today’s decision is very welcome, but the paragraphs revealed are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to British complicity in torture – much more is to come.”

The redacted paragraphs:

“It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM (Binyam Mohamed) had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.

“It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him.

“ His fears of being removed from United States custody and ‘disappearing’ were played upon.

“It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews

“It was clear not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the inter views were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.

“We regret to have to conclude that the reports provided to the SyS made clear to anyone reading them that BM (Binyam Mohamed) was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.

“The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.”