Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Louisiana Justice Institute Joins Human Rights Groups in Expressing Concerns About Upcoming Haitian Elections

Experts will be in Haiti for the elections, Sunday, November 28.

A delegation of U.S. and Haitian human rights organizations are in Haiti as unofficial election and human rights observers to monitor the Presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for Sunday November 28. The delegation is concerned that the rapid spread of a cholera epidemic across the country could gravely affect voter participation and threatens the validity of the election process. The group will be in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas from Monday, November 22 through Wednesday, December 1.

Over the last several months, organizations represented in the delegation have been monitoring the situation on the ground. Despite overarching concerns about the increasingly desperate situation of Haiti’s homeless Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and about the exclusion of a number of political parties from the electoral process, representatives of the organizations and partners have been preparing in good faith to observe events during Haiti’s elections. There is a particular concern of insufficient preparation and response on the ground from those responsible for curbing the cholera epidemic, including international NGOs and international donor nations. With such pressing concerns unresolved, many members of Haitian civil society organizations, as well as numerous Presidential candidates, believe it nearly impossible to hold elections that would meet the most minimal standards of fairness and credibility at this time.

While in Haiti the delegation will monitor the human rights and political situation surrounding the elections, with particular attention to those most affected by the Quake, including police and U.N. response to protests, possible voter boycotts, voter access and participation levels, the cholera epidemic response; and the status of overall relief efforts. The delegation’s members will be in close contact with an array of local and national civil society organizations during their stay.

Among those who will participating in the delegation:

Melinda Miles, Director, Let Haiti Live, a project of TransAfrica: “Cholera is a game changer in the most fundamental sense. It is an immediate and critical crisis that requires all hands on deck in response. It is not for us to predict when the crisis will level off. What we can say, definitively, is that now is that the time for focus on the human needs first and not politics.”

Etant Dupain, Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye, Noise Travels, News Spreads: “Although the elections are necessary, in the midst of a humanitarian crisis there needs to be more attention to vulnerable populations. The NGOs have not responded adequately to the crisis and everyday there are more people dying, more people becoming infected due to a lack of potable water. Attention needs to be paid to the people who continue to live under tarps today. It is sad because these elections will not change anything, you see many people expressing their lack of support for the process.”

Alex Main, Policy Analyst, Center for Economic and Policy Research: "These elections were already highly problematic before the cholera epidemic began to spread. Haiti's electoral authority - the CEP - suffers from a lack of credibility; legitimate parties have been excluded from participating in the legislative elections; and very few effective measures have been taken to ensure that Haiti's over 1.3 million displaced people would have access to the polls. As a result of these problems, there was already a high probability that voter turnout would be very low and that the elections would be widely seen as illegitimate.”

Jacques Etienne Morial, Co-Director, The Louisiana Justice Institute:
“As respectful, understanding and supportive as we are of the determination of Haiti to assert its independence and stand on its own feet, the growing cholera epidemic imperils the legitimate elections that Haitians so urgently need to achieve this noble goal. Moving forward under the prevailing conditions undermines public confidence in any outcome that the people of Haiti deserve and need to move their recovery forward.”

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