Friday, July 29, 2011

Regarding MINUSTAH

One of the last things I did before I left MCC was co-author this position statement on MINUSTAH, the UN's peacekeeping mission in Haiti. If you're inclined to read it, get a cup of coffee and find a comfortable place to sit - it's lengthy. It draws from the analysis and research of many people, from former MCC service workers to MCC's Haitian partner organizations to research students and international human rights groups. For some reason the formatting of this blog didn't allow me to copy and paste the footnotes, so if you'd like a legit copy, complete with citations and the Appendix (Benchmarks for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal, as outlined in the August 2008 Report of the Secretary General), please let me know.

Submission to the UN Security Council
Recommendations for Future of the MINUSTAH Mission to Haiti
June 30, 2011

It has long been acknowledged that Haiti needs sustained commitment from the international community for socio-economic development, and this need has become more pressing since the devastating earthquake in January 2010. MCC and LAMP commend the attention being given to Haiti in this regard. However, we wish to highlight that insecurity in Haiti is not a result of warring groups or armed conflict, but rather a byproduct of poverty with deep historical and structural roots. We believe, along with the Haitian civil society organizations with whom we work, that stability, rule of law and socio-economic development in Haiti are not, nor should be, dependent on an international military presence. Therefore, we urge the United Nations to work towards the termination of the MINUSTAH mission in Haiti as soon as possible with a strategy that can build long-term sustainable peace.

In the upcoming deliberations concerning the renewal of Resolution 1944, we ask the Security Council to review MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti, addressing five specific concerns: 1) mission legitimacy, 2) the inappropriate use of military forces, 3) allegations of human rights abuses, 4) the need for greater mandate clarity, and 5) the feasibility of current benchmarks for timely withdrawal. Finally, we recommend that the Security Council to prepare a concrete timeline for the mission’s full withdrawal from Haiti.

1. Mission Legitimacy
MINUSTAH violates articles 8.1, 263-1, 98-3.3, and 139 in the Haitian Constitution, which affirm Haitian sovereignty and note that any international agreement, treaty, or covenant must be ratified by the Haitian National Assembly. MINUSTAH was authorized in 2004 by former Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, an unelected official, who did not seek the proper approval of the Haitian legislature for the mission’s presence. The lack of this legislative endorsement enforces the perception within the Haitian population of MINUSTAH as an unwelcome occupying force.

2.The Military Component
The military component of MINUSTAH’s presence is inappropriate in the current Haitian context for the following reasons.

Perception of MINUSTAH
With no warring parties, armed conflict, peace agreement to enforce, or threat of civil war, a military presence is unnecessary. The utility of MINUSTAH is countered by the perception by the Haitian population of MINUSTAH as being a heavily armed occupying force conjuring fear rather than a sense of safety. A well-trained police force of Haitians serving and protecting Haitians would be more effective and appropriate given the situation.

Relative Peace in Haiti and Comparable Countries without Peacekeeping Missions
There are countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region with much higher levels of insecurity that are not host to Peacekeeping Missions. In Jamaica, with a population of 2.6 million, there were 1428 reported murders in 2010. It is reported that approximately 700 homicides, out of a population of almost 9 million, took place in Haiti in the last year. Haiti has had a democratically elected government in place since 2006 and the recent peaceful transition of power to an opposition political party can be cited as further indication of the country’s relative stability. In fact, this fulfills one of the key benchmarks elaborated in 2008 for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal [see Appendix].

Government’s Request to Remove Chapter VII from Mandate
Prior to the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1840 in October 2008, President Rene Preval requested that reference to Chapter VII of the UN Charter be removed from MINUSTAH’s mandate , which would effectively eliminate the mission’s authorization to use force for reasons other than self-defense.

Responding to the Most Pressing Security Needs
A military component is inappropriate to meet protection needs of the most vulnerable in the Haitian population. An example of this is the persistent lack of preventative measures within the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Port au Prince. Lack of security and lighting has exacerbated gender-based violence (GBV). MINUSTAH itself has recognized that its mandate and the wider responsibilities of the international community require a reinforced effort to protect IDPs, including women and children, from their exceptionally vulnerable circumstances.

As of January 6, 2011, KOFAVIV, a Haitian grassroots women’s organization, documented over 640 cases of rape since the earthquake. SOFA, a Haitian Women’s Health Organization, documented 718 cases of gender based violence in their clinic from January to June 2010. Doctors without Borders reported 68 cases of rape in April 2010 at one of their clinics in Port-au-Prince. The vast majority of women living in camps who were interviewed reported being raped by two or more individuals, almost always armed and at night.

All of this occurs despite the presence of 8,651 military personnel and 3,146 UNPOL members on the ground. There is still a troubling lack of internal patrols within Haiti’s approximately 1,100 IDP camps. Since Human Rights Observers have started critiquing the lack of security in camps there has been in an increase in camp security. Currently there is a permanent presence of a 200-strong UNPOL force in 6 high-risk camps, in combination with daily patrols in 70 other priority areas. However, that leaves over 1,000 camps without any permanent presence or daily patrols. GBV in the camp is a much more real security risk than civil war, further highlighting the ineffectiveness of a peace-keeping force versus FPUs and civil police forces.

FPU’s as a More Viable Solution
Formed Police Units (FPUs) are more suitably trained for the security situation in Haiti than military forces. Military soldiers are not trained to handle the kind of civil unrest that frequently occurs in Haiti and this has been demonstrated time and again.

Most recently, during the first round of the 2010 presidential elections, MCC election monitors in the Artibonite were present in multiple voting centers when partisans stormed the centers, ripped ballots and stole ballot boxes while MINUSTAH soldiers stood by. A similar situation occurred in Cite Soleil. LAMP election observers in Soleil 19 were present when INITE party representatives took over a polling station and refused to allow non-INITE supporters to vote. A massive riot broke out, while dozens of MINUSTAH soldiers present were unable to respond. In such a situation, civilian police or FPUs would have had the training and experience to safeguard the election process. Military soldiers are not trained or equipped to make arrests, protect perpetrators and victims, investigate offenses, or submit police reports and fact finding papers that are the basis of criminal cases. It has been our experience that soldiers trained for combat actually pose a danger in situations of civil unrest. As such, we recognize that the military contingent should no longer be a part of the mission.

The perceived lack of legitimacy combined with the perception of the UN as an “occupying force” will persist so long as there is a presence of military personnel and equipment. Increasing the civilian police presence while decreasing the military presence would strengthen the PNH and allow them to begin taking over some of the roles currently carried out by soldiers and FPUs.

3. Human Rights Abuses
It is of additional concern that MINUSTAH soldiers have been implicated in human rights violations. We acknowledge that MINUSTAH’s mission is difficult and that causalities can occur, even when forces are attempting to protect a population. However, we believe that when unnecessary force is used, international agents in Haiti must be held accountable. LAMP’s co-founder and legal director first began documenting MINUSTAH human rights abuses in Cite Soleil in 2004 following the coup d’etat. Since then, LAMP has discovered and reported on abuses of power by MINUSTAH forces including use of excessive force to counter demonstrations. Other studies and reports have identified MINUSTAH soldiers as issuing threats of death, physical harm, and sexual violence. To date these allegations have not been investigated or addressed.

There have been numerous allegations of sexual exploitation perpetrated by MINUSTAH soldiers, none of which have been prosecuted by Haitian or international authorities. The Sri Lankan battalion was repatriated in 2007 after numerous allegations of transactional sex with underage girls and with the promise that Sri Lanka would pursue the case. To date there has been no information available on the prosecution of the battalion.

MINUSTAH soldiers in Haiti must respect Haitians’ human rights. Failure to investigate and prosecute human rights violations only delegitimizes the accomplishments of the mission.

On October 21, 2010, Haiti’s Health Ministry recorded over 1,000 cases of a cholera-like illness and 135 associated deaths in the Artibonite region. These were the first cases of cholera reported in Haiti in at least 60 years. By February 9, 2011, the Ministry of Health recorded 4,549 cholera-related deaths and 231,070 people infected. In early May, a UN panel linked cholera to a UN base in Mirebalais housing Nepalese soldiers. To date, no definitive responses have been carried out to address the violation of the Haitian population’s right to adequate water.

4. Mandate Clarity
Since MINUSTAH does not have a traditional peace-monitoring mandate, it has been difficult to determine specifically how the mission ought to operate. Similar peacekeeping missions in Africa have been implemented to monitor peace agreements. Such is the case in Sudan, where UNMIS ensured implementation of the country’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement, as well as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where MONUC was invited to observe the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement. In the absence of such an agreement, MINUSTAH’s mission has been difficult to define and carry out.
The successes of MINUSTAH, such as decreased kidnapping rates and gang activity, have not hastened their departure, but rather expanded their role. The March 2011 Report of the Secretary General (S/2011/183) and current MINUSTAH mandate (S/RES/1944) describe the ever-increasing roles filled by MINUSTAH that are outside traditional peacekeeping and security-provision mandates, such as HIV/AIDS training and counseling programs, building dams and water catchment systems, managing cash for work programs, media campaigns for female legislative candidates, repairing schools, building roads, environmental awareness-raising on diaspora television stations in the United States, etc.

These are necessary objectives that will certainly affect sustainable growth in Haiti and that merit funding, but they do not require military personnel, and MINUSTAH’s highly publicized involvement in these efforts risks compromising the rest of the UN’s relief and development work in the eyes of much of the population. United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has programs in place to foster economic growth and strengthen the police and judicial systems such as the Rule of Law program to train magistrates and legal professionals.

MINUSTAH’s role in dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake and in reconstruction efforts, has been heavily criticized by aid workers in Haiti and Haitian civil society, who fear that the militarization of aid unfairly criminalizes Haitians. Globally, soldiers are not trained to carry out relief with tact and compassion but rather operate in the mindset of a conflict scenario. We would reiterate that a military response to social and economic problems often leads to increased violence and is ineffective in dealing with the root of structural problems.

As such, we question proposals to further integrate international efforts to reconstruct and develop Haiti with the existing mandate of the mission.

5. Benchmarks for Withdrawal
The August 2008 Report of the Secretary General (S/2008/586) outlines benchmarks for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal. Paragraph 74 of the August 2008 resolution states, “It is clear that if the benchmarks are met, Haiti will still need long-term support. However, they should help to identify a critical threshold of stability beyond which a peacekeeping presence could be progressively reduced and ultimately withdraw, and the country could contemplate reversion to a normal framework of bilateral and multilateral assistance.”

Despite the vague nature of the benchmarks, we are concerned that little reference has been made to them in subsequent mandates and reports. It would appear that there are currently no indicators by which MINUSTAH is measuring its effectiveness with the goal of eventual withdrawal from Haiti.

At this juncture it seems unclear whether or not all of these benchmarks need to be met before MINUSTAH can withdraw. MCC and LAMP respectfully question the appropriateness of requiring that socio-economic benchmarks be met by a military operation.

A MINUSTAH mandate that eliminates the military component of the mission and places more emphasis on police training and monitoring would create measurable indicators allowing the for the mission’s withdrawal.

Based on the above discussion, MCC and LAMP would like to make the following recommendations to the UN Security Council concerning the future of MINUSTAH.

Short-Term Recommendations:
  1. Address the absence of legal legitimacy for MINUSTAH’s presence by seeking approval for the mission from the Haitian National Assembly in accordance with Article 139 of the Haitian Constitution.
  2. Eliminate the Chapter VII Military Component of MINUSTAH and focus on police training and monitoring. 
  3. Separate the security and humanitarian components of MINUSTAH’s mandate, so that other UN agencies and NGOs can fulfill humanitarian and development functions independently from the mission and thus discontinue any further militarization of aid. 
  4. Respond to allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by members of MINUSTAH by investigating credible allegations and responding appropriately. 
  5. Improve security in the IDP camps, particularly against gender-based violence, through additional patrols of camps, installation of lighting and other security measures. 
  6. Re-evaluate and re-introduce benchmarks for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal into MINUSTAH’s 2011-2012 mandate.
Long-Term Recommendation:

Formulate an explicit timeline for MINUSTAH’s full withdrawal in coordination with the Haitian government. Close collaboration with the Haitian government will enable both parties to identify priority structural and capacity needs that must be addressed before MINUSTAH can be successfully terminated. Long-term sustainable development and peace is dependent upon the ability of the Haitian government to continue state-building activities in the absence of MINUSTAH.

About the Submitting Organizations:
MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) is the relief, development and peace building arm of Anabaptist churches in the US and Canada and has been working in Haiti for 53 years. MCC Haiti’s advocacy program seeks to address the root causes of poverty, injustice and violence in Haiti. MCC also supports partner organizations engaged in education, job training, literacy, conflict resolution and human rights.
MCC’s United Nations Liaison Office strives to be a voice for those with whom MCC works around the world.
The LAMP for Haiti Foundation Human Rights Program (LAMP) advocates for the respect and protection of basic human rights in the areas of greatest misery and poverty in Cite Soleil, Port-au-Prince. LAMP works at the cross section of human rights and medicine, housing both a human rights law office and a medical clinic in Bois Neuf, Cite Soleil, a slum of Port-au-Prince.

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