Global Justice Clinic Calls for Transparency in the Development of Haiti’s Mining Sector

CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENT

Global Justice Clinic Calls for Transparency in the Development of Haiti’s Mining Sector

On July 24th, the Haitian media reported that Senator Hervé Fourcand submitted a draft mining law to Parliament for its consideration.  This law has not been made available to the public despite repeated requests made by GJC collaborator, the Kolektif Jistis Min (KJM), a collective of Haitian social movement organizations that support communities affected by metal mining.  The passage of the mining law would unlock the sector.  The law that currently governs mining in Haiti is seen as outdated, and considered the key obstacle to future metal mining.

In late August, GJC Haiti Project Director Ellie Happel and Oxfam America staff met with members of Congress and the State Department in Washington, D.C. The objective of the meetings in D.C. was to request that U.S. actors encourage the Haitian government to disclose the draft law and to hold a meaningful public debate about its content. Such a debate is crucial at this time, since Haiti does not yet have a modern mining industry, and the human rights and environmental risks attendant to the nascent sector are significant.  At the beginning of December, Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois submitted a letter to the President of Haiti’s Parliament, suggesting that he makes the draft law public and stating concerns about the human rights and environmental risks that mining poses. Four other members of Congress signed the letter.

The lack of access to information about Haiti’s mining sector is a longstanding problem.  In 2013, the Haitian Senate passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on mining, citing the “opacity” of information about the country’s mineral resources.  In 2015 GJC and KJM testified at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the situation of the right to access to information in Haiti.  The Commission found the testimony about the “existing obstacles to the exercise of the right of access to public information”—specifically in the context of mining—“troubling.”

GJC provides an extensive analysis of the draft mining law in its report co-authored with Hastings College of Law, Byen Konte, Mal Kalkile? Human Rights and Environmental Risks of Gold Mining in HaitiGJC found that this version of the draft law fails to adequately protect Haiti’s environment, violates the Haitian Constitution of 1987, and does not respect the rights of Haitian communities.  GJC created a brief analysis of the law to use in advocacy efforts.  GJC translated it into Kreyòl, and KJM similarly uses it in advocacy efforts in Haiti, including to inform radio interviews.

August 29, 2017. 

Clinics call on the U.S. government to take urgent steps to address insecurity and gang violence in Haiti

HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT

Clinics call on the U.S. government to take urgent steps to address insecurity and gang violence in Haiti

The NYU Global Justice Clinic, the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, and the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School call on the U.S. government to take urgent steps to address insecurity and gang violence in Haiti.  The clinics are deeply concerned that the U.S. government continues to support de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry, despite strong evidence of his government’s involvement in broadening violence.  The Clinics are alarmed about recent and serious threats against human rights defenders, particularly concerning staff of the Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH). The status quo puts human rights defenders—and all Haitian people—at risk.  The clinics are in close contact with Haitian civil society, and stress that recent U.S. legislation, the Haiti Development, Accountability, and Institutional Transparency Act and the Global Fragility Act, recognizes the right of Haitian people to self-determination. Together, the clinics urge the U.S. government to:

  1. Support Haitian-led investigation of and accountability for human rights abuses
  2. Ensure transparency in the U.S. investigation of the murder of former President Jovenel Moïse
  3. Take concrete, effective steps to enforce U.S. laws on arms trafficking
  4. Shift support from Dr. Henry towards an inclusive and Haitian-led political process.

June 27, 2022. Statements of the Global Justice Clinic do not purport to represent the views of NYU or the Center, if any.

GJC Issues Statement on Haiti’s Constitutional Referendum

HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT

GJC Issues Statement on Haiti’s Constitutional Referendum

The Global Justice Clinic, the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, and the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School issued a statement on June 8, 2021, calling on the U.S. government to join civil society’s demand that the government of Haiti cancel the planned constitutional referendum in Haiti. The referendum, which will ask Haitian people to vote “yes” or “no” on a new Constitution, is illegal. It is the most recent, bold effort by President Jovenel Moïse to consolidate power and comes on the heels of dozens of presidential decrees that undermine checks on the executive. Haitian civil society has widely denounced the referendum, noting its illegality and emphasizing the impossibility of holding a vote under the current administration. International actors are increasingly recognizing the illegitimacy of the referendum, and the danger to democracy that it poses. However, continued technical support and provision of aid to the government of Haiti to hold elections means that international actors, including the United States government, are tacitly supporting the unconstitutional vote. With long experience working in solidarity with Haitian civil society, and building off our February statement, the clinics urge the U.S. government to urgently and publicly call to cancel the referendum.

June 8, 2021. Statements of the Global Justice Clinic do not purport to represent the views of NYU or the Center, if any.

Press Release: Haiti Land Grab Violates Women’s Rights and Deepens Climate Crisis, Say Rights Groups

HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT

Haiti Land Grab Violates Women’s Rights and Deepens Climate Crisis, Say Rights Groups

NYU Global Justice Clinic and Solidarite Fanm Ayisyèn submission to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women underscores consequences of violent land grab against women in Savane Diane, Haiti

A violent land grab that displaced women farmers in Savane Diane, Haiti, constituted gender-based violence and has aggravated climate vulnerability, NYU’s Global Justice Clinic and Solidarite Fanm Ayisyèn (SOFA) told the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women in a submission lodged late last week. The Savane Diane land grab, which expropriated land used by SOFA to teach women ecologically sustainable farming techniques, is just one of many in recent months. Land grabs in Haiti are on the rise, while the Haitian judiciary has failed to respond.

“We are asking for the Special Rapporteur’s attention because we have been unable to secure justice in Haiti,” said Sharma Aurelien, SOFA’s Executive Director. “This land helped women combat poverty and benefited all of society,” she continued.

In 2020, armed men violently forced SOFA members from land that the Haitian government had granted them exclusive rights to use, severely beating some. SOFA learned that an agro-industry company, Stevia Agro Industries S.A., was claiming title to the area to grow stevia for export. The Haitian government revoked SOFA’s rights to the land, without a court process, and, in early 2021, the late President Jovenel Moïse converted the land into an agro-industrial free trade zone by executive decree.

“The Minister of Agriculture set himself up as a judge, siding with Stevia Industries and allowing it to continue its activities while SOFA was ordered to suspend ours” said Marie Frantz Joachim, SOFA coordinating committee member.

The organizations’ submission underscores the compounding rights violations caused by the land grab. It is deepening poverty and food insecurity in the area, and women who have sought work with Stevia Industries have experienced sexual exploitation and wage theft. The grab also violates residents’ right to water in a context of deepening climate crisis: the land seized includes three State-protected water reservoirs.

“We lost our water reserves because they have now become the [company’s]. Meanwhile, we are experiencing a major water crisis,” said Esther Jolissaint, an affected SOFA member in Savane Diane.

Climate change, land grabbing, and violence against women are interconnected phenomena, say the organizations. Haiti is often named as one of the five countries most affected by the climate crisis. Land grabbing can both result from and contribute to climate vulnerability, as increasingly scarce agricultural land is converted to environmentally degrading monoculture agriculture or other industrial use. Women are particularly vulnerable.

“Rural women’s land rights and access to agricultural resources are essential to securing their human rights and supporting climate resilience,” said Sienna Merope-Synge, Co-Director of GJC’s Caribbean Climate Justice Initiative. “Land grabbing against women should be recognized as a form of gender-based violence,” she continued.

The joint submission emphasizes SOFA’s call for reparations and restitution for women affected by the land grab. It also highlights SOFA and Haitian social movements’ call for greater protections for peasant land rights, as rural communities in Haiti note an uptick in land grabbing. Greater international attention and condemnation is needed, the organizations say.  “We are calling for solidarity from others engaged in the global struggle to ensure respect for human rights,” concluded Aurelien.

[1] Statements of the Global Justice Clinic do not purport to represent the views of NYU or the Center, if any.

[2] Structure, Solidarité des Femmes Haïtiennes (SOFA). The women self-identify as “peasant women” (femmes paysannes) who work in agriculture, and as a way to symbolize their struggle against oppression.

This post was originally published as a press release on April 5, 2022.

Leer el comunicado de prensa en español.
Li not pou laprès an Kreyòl.

Press release: U.S. government must adopt moratorium on mandatory use of biometric technologies in critical sectors, look to evidence abroad, urge human rights experts

TECHNOLOGY AND HUMAN RIGHTS

U.S. Government must adopt moratorium on mandatory use of biometric technologies in critical sectors, look to evidence abroad, urge human rights experts

As the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) embarks on an initiative to design a ‘Bill of Rights for an AI-Powered World,’ it must begin by immediately imposing a moratorium on the mandatory use of AI-enabled biometrics in critical sectors, such as health, social welfare programs, and education, argue a group of human rights experts at the Digital Welfare State & Human Rights Project (the DWS Project) at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law, and the Institute for Law, Innovation & Technology (iLIT) at Temple University School of Law.

In a 10-page submission responding to OSTP’s Request for Information, the DWS Project and iLIT argue that biometric identification technologies such as facial recognition and fingerprint-based recognition pose existential threats to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Drawing on comparative research and consultation with some of the leading international experts on biometrics and human rights, the submission details evidence of some of the concerns raised in countries including Ireland, India, Uganda, and Kenya. It catalogues the often-catastrophic effects of biometric failure, of unwieldly administrative requirements imposed on public services, and the pervasive lack of legal remedies and basic transparency about use of biometrics in government.

“We now have a great deal of evidence about the ways that biometric identification can exclude and discriminate, denying entire groups access to basic social rights,” said Katelyn Cioffi, a Research Scholar at the DWS Project, “Under many biometric identification systems, you can be denied health care, access to education, or even a drivers’ license, if you are not able or willing to authenticate aspects of your identity biometrically.” An AI Bill of Rights that allows for equal enjoyment of rights must learn from comparative examples, the submission argues, and ensure that AI-enabled biometrics do not merely perpetuate systematic discrimination. This means looking beyond frequently-raised concerns about surveillance and privacy, to how biometric technologies affect social rights such as health, social security, education, housing, and employment.

A key factor of success for the initiative will be much-needed legal and regulatory reform across the United States federal system. “This initiative represents an opportunity for the U.S. government to examine the shortcomings of current laws and regulations, including equal protection, civil rights laws, and administrative law,” Laura Bingham, Executive Director of iLIT stated. “The protections that Americans depend on fail to provide the necessary legal tools to defend their rights and safeguard democratic institutions in a society that increasingly relies on digital technologies to make critical decisions.”

The submission also urges the White House to place constraints on the actions of the U.S. government and U.S. companies abroad. “The United States plays a major role in the development and uptake of biometric technologies globally, through its foreign investment, foreign policy, and development aid,” said Victoria Adelmant, a Research Scholar at the DWS Project. “As the government moves to regulate biometric technologies, it must not ignore U.S. companies’ roles in developing, selling, and promoting such technologies abroad, as well as the government’s own actions in spheres such as international development, defense, and migration.”

For the government to mount an effective response to these harms, the experts argue that it must also take heed of parallel efforts of other powerful political actors, including China and the European Union, which are currently attempting to regulate biometric technologies. However, it must also avoid a race to the bottom or jump into a perceived ‘arms race’ with countries like China, by pursuing an increasingly securitized biometric state and allowing the private sector to continue its unfettered ‘self-regulation’ and experimentation. Instead, the U.S. government should focus on acting as a global leader in enabling human rights-sustaining technological innovation.

The submission makes the following recommendations:

  1. Impose an immediate moratorium on the use of biometric technologies in critical sectors: biometric identification should never be mandatory in critical sectors such as education, welfare benefits programs, or healthcare.
  2. Propose and enact legislation to address the indirect and disparate impact of biometrics.
  3. Engage in further review and study of the human rights impacts of biometric technologies as well as of different legal and regulatory approaches.
  4. Build a comprehensive legal and regulatory approach that addresses the complex, systemic concerns raised by AI-enabled biometric identification technologies.
  5. Ensure that any new laws, regulations, and policies are subject to a democratic, transparent, and open process.
  6. Ensure that public education materials and any new laws, regulations, and policies are described and written in clear, non-technical, and easily accessible language.

For more information, please contact:

  • Katelyn Cioffi (katelyn.cioffi@nyu.edu), Twitter: @katelyncioffi
  • Victoria Adelmant (victoria.adelmant@law.nyu.edu), Twitter: @VictoriaAdamant
  • Laura Bingham (laura.bingham@temple.edu), Twitter: @laurambing

The Digital Welfare State and Human Rights Project at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law aims to investigate systems of social protection and assistance in countries worldwide that are increasingly driven by digital data and technologies. Follow them on twitter: @humanrightsnyu

The Temple University Institute for Law, Innovation & Technology (iLIT) at Beasley School of Law pursues action research, experiential instruction, and advocacy with a mission to deliver equity, bridge academic and practical boundaries, and inform new approaches to technological innovation in the public interest.

January 17, 2022.

Profiling the Poor in the Dutch Welfare State

TECHNOLOGY AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Profiling the Poor in the Dutch Welfare State

Report on court hearing in litigation in the Netherlands about digital welfare fraud detection system (‘SyRI’)

On Tuesday, October 29, 2019, I attended a hearing before the District Court of The Hague (the Netherlands) in litigation by a coalition of Dutch civil society organizations challenging the Dutch government’s System Risk Indication (“SyRI”). The Digital Welfare State and Human Rights Project at NYU Law, which I direct, recently collaborated with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in preparing an amicus brief to the District Court. The Special Rapporteur became involved in this case because SyRI has exclusively been used to detect welfare fraud and other irregularities in poor neighborhoods in four Dutch cities and affects the right to social security and to privacy of the poorest members of Dutch society. This litigation may also set a highly relevant legal precedent with impact beyond Dutch borders in an area that has received relatively little judicial scrutiny to date.

Lies, damn lies, and algorithms

What is SyRI? The formal answer can be found in legislation and implementing regulations from 2014. In order to coordinate government action against illicit use of government funds and benefits in the area of social security, tax benefits and labor law, Dutch law allows for the sharing of data between municipalities, welfare authorities, tax authorities and other relevant government authorities since 2014. A total of 17 categories of data held by government authorities may be shared in this context, from employment and tax data, to benefit data, health insurance data and enforcement data, among other categories of digitally stored information. Government authorities wishing to cooperate in a concrete SyRI project request the Minister for Social Affairs and Employment to use the SyRI tool by pooling and analyzing the relevant data from various authorities using an algorithmic risk model.

The Minister has outsourced the tasks of pooling and analyzing the data to a private foundation, somewhat unfortunately named ‘The Intelligence Agency (‘Inlichtingenbureau’). The Intelligence Agency pseudonymizes the data pool, analyzes the data using an algorithmic risk model and creates a file for those individuals (or corporations) who are deemed to be at a higher risk of being involved in benefit fraud and other irregularities. The Minister then analyzes these files and notifies the cooperating government authorities of those individuals (or corporations) are considered at higher risk of committing benefit fraud or other irregularities (‘risk notification’). Risk notifications are included in a register for two years. Those who are included in the register are not actively notified of this registration, but they can receive access to their information in the register after a specific request.

The preceding understanding of how the system works can be derived from the legislative texts and history, but a surprising amount of uncertainty remains about how exactly SyRI works in practice. This became abundantly clear in the hearing in the SyRI-case before the District Court of The Hague on October 29. The court is assessing the plaintiffs’ claim that SyRI, as legislated in 2014, violates norms of applicable international law, including the rights to privacy, data protection and a fair trial recognized in the European Convention on Human Rights, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the EU General Data Protection Regulation.  In a courtroom packed with representatives from the 8 plaintiffs, reporters and concerned citizens from areas where SyRI has been used, the first question by the three-judge panel was to clarify the radically different views held by the plaintiffs and the Dutch State as to what SyRI is exactly.

According to the State, SyRI merely compares data from different government databases, operated by different authorities, in order to find simple inconsistencies. Although this analysis is undertaken with the assistance of an algorithm, the State underlined that this algorithm operates on the basis of pre-defined indicators of risk and that the algorithm is not of the ‘learning’ type. The State further emphasized that SyRI is not a Big Data or data-mining system, but that it employs a targeted analysis on the basis of a limited dataset with a clearly defined objective. It also argued that a risk notification by SyRI is merely a – potential – starting point for further investigations by individual government authorities and does not have any direct and automatic legal consequences such as the imposition of a fine or the suspension or withdrawal of government benefits or assistance.

But plaintiffs strongly contested the State’s characterization of SyRI. They claimed instead that SyRI is not narrowly targeted but instead aims at entire (poor) neighborhoods, that diverse and unconnected categories of personal data are brought together in SyRI projects, and that the resulting data exchange and analysis occur on a large scale. In their view, SyRI projects could therefore be qualified as projects involving problematic uses of Big Data, data-mining and profiling. They also made clear that it is exceedingly difficult for them or the District Court to assess what SyRI actually is or is not doing, because key elements of the system remain secret and the relevant legislation does not restrict the methods used, including the request to cooperating authorities to undertake a SyRI project, the risk model used, and the ways in which personal data can be processed.  All of these elements remain hidden from outside scrutiny.

Game the system, leave your water tap running

The District Court asked a series of probing and critical follow-up questions in an attempt to clarify the exact functioning of SyRI and to understand the justification for the secrecy surrounding it. One can sympathize with the court’s attempt to grasp the basic facts about SyRI in order to enable it to undertake its task of judicial oversight. Pushed by the District Court to clarify why the State could not be more open about the functioning of SyRI, the attorney for the State warned about welfare beneficiaries ‘gaming the system’. Referring to a pilot project pre-dating SyRI, in which welfare authority data about individuals claiming low-income benefits was matched with usage data held by publicly-owned drinking water companies to identify beneficiaries who committed fraud by falsely claiming they were living alone while actually living together (to claim a higher benefit level), the attorney for the State claimed that making it known that water usage is a ‘risk indicator’ could lead beneficiaries to leave their taps running to avoid detection. Some individuals attending the hearing could be heard snickering when this prediction was made.

Another fascinating exchange between the judges and the attorney for the State dealt with the standards applied by the Minister when assessing a request for a SyRI project by municipal and other government authorities. According to the State’s attorney, what would commonly happen is that a municipality has a ‘problem neighborhood’ and wants to tackle its problems, which are presumed to include welfare fraud and other irregularities, through SyRI. The request to the Minister is typically based ‘on the law, experience and logical thinking’ according to the State. Unsatisfied with this reply, the District Court probed the State for a more concrete justification of the use of SyRI and the precise standards applied to justify its use: ‘In Bloemendaal (one of the richest municipalities of the Netherlands) a lot of people enjoy going to classical concerts; in a problem neighborhood, there are a lot of people who receive government welfare benefits; why is that a justification for the use of SyRI?’, the Court asked. The attorney for the State had to admit that specific neighborhoods were targeted because those areas housed more people who were on welfare benefits and that, while participating authorities usually have no specific evidence that there are high(er) levels of benefit fraud in those neighborhoods, this higher proportion of people on benefits is enough reason to use SyRI.

Finally, and of great relevance to the intensity of the Court’s judicial scrutiny, the question of the gravity of the invasion of human rights – more specifically, the right to privacy – was a central topic of the hearing. The State argued that the data being shared and analyzed was existing data and not new data. It furthermore argued that for those individuals whose data was shared and analyzed, but who were not considered a ‘higher risk’, there was no harm at all: their data had been pseudonymized and was removed after the analysis. The opposing view by plaintiffs was that the government-held data that was shared and analyzed in SyRI was not originally collected for the specific purpose of enforcement. Plaintiffs also argued that – due to the wide categories of data that were potentially shared and analyzed in SyRI – a very intimate profile could be made of individuals in targeted neighborhoods: ‘This is all about profiling and creating files on people’.

Judgment expected in early 2020

The District Court announced that it expects to publish its judgment in this case on 29 January 2020. There are many questions to be answered by the Court. In non-legal language, they include at least the following: How does SyRI work exactly? Does it matter whether SyRI uses a relatively straightforward ‘decision-tree’ type of algorithm or, instead, machine learning algorithms? What is the harm in pooling previously siloed government data? What is the harm in classifying an individual as ‘high risk’? Does SyRI discriminate on the basis of socio-economic status, migrant status, race or color? Does the current legislation underpinning SyRI give sufficient clarity and adequate legal standards to meaningfully curb the use of State power to the detriment of individual rights? Can current levels of secrecy be maintained in a democracy based on the rule of law?

In light of the above, there will be many eyes focused on the Netherlands in January when a potentially groundbreaking legal precedent will be set in the debate on digital welfare states and human rights.

Christiaan van Veen, Director of the Digital Welfare State & Human Rights Project at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law. 

November 1, 2019. 

 

CSOs Call for a Full Integration of Human Rights in the Deployment of Digital Identification Systems

TECHNOLOGY AND HUMAN RIGHTS

CSOs Call for a Full Integration of Human Rights in the Deployment of Digital Identification Systems

The Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development (the Principles), the creation of which was facilitated by the World Bank’s Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative in 2017, provide one of the few attempts at global standard-setting for the development of digital identification systems across the world. They are endorsed by many global and regional organizations (the “Endorsing Organizations”) that are active in funding, designing, developing, and deploying digital identification programs across the world, especially in developing and less developed countries.

Digital identification programs are coming up across the world in various forms, and will have long term impacts on the lives and the rights of the individuals enrolled in these programs. Engagement with civil society can help ensure the lived experience of people affected by these identification programs inform the Principles and the practices of International Organizations. 

Access Now, Namati, and the Open Society Justice Initiative co-organized a Civil Society Organization (CSO) consultation in August 2020 that brought together over 60 civil society organizations from across the world for dialogue with the World Bank’s ID4D Initiative and Endorsing Organizations. The consultation occurred alongside the first review and revision of the Principles, which has been led by the Endorsing Organizations during 2020. 

The consultation provided a platform for civil society feedback towards revisions to the Principles as well as dialogue around the roles of International Organizations (IOs) and Civil Society Organizations in developing rights-respecting digital identification programs. 

This new civil society-drafted report presents a summary of the top-level comments and discussions that took place in the meeting, including recommendations such as: 

  1. There is an urgent need for human rights criteria to be recognized as a tool for evaluation and oversight of existing and proposed digital identification systems, including throughout the Principles document 
  2. Endorsing Organizations should commit to the application of these Principles in practice, including an affirmation that their support will extend only with identification programs that align with the Principles 
  3. CSOs need to be formally recognized as partners with governments and corporations in designing and implementing digital identification systems, including greater country-level engagement with CSOs from the earliest stages of potential digital identification projects through to monitoring ongoing implementation
  4. Digital identification systems across the globe are already being deployed in a manner that enables repression through enhanced censorship, exclusion, and surveillance, but centering transparent and democratic processes as drivers of the development and deployment of these systems can mitigate these and other risks

Following the consultation and in line with this new report, we welcome the opportunity to further integrate the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other sources of human rights in international law into the Principles of Identification and the design, deployment, and monitoring of digital identification systems in practice. We encourage the establishment of permanent and formal structures for the engagement of civil society organizations in global and national-level processes related to digital identification, in order to ensure identification technologies are used in service of human agency and dignity and to prevent further harms in the exercise of fundamental rights in their deployment. 

We call on United Nations and regional human rights mechanisms, including the High Commissioner on Human Rights, treaty bodies, and Special Procedures, to take up the severe human rights risks involved in the context of digital identification systems as an urgent agenda item under their respective mandates.

We welcome further dialogue and engagement with the World Bank’s ID4D Initiative and other Endorsing Organizations and promoters of digital identification systems in order to ensure oversight and guidance towards human rights-aligned implementation of those systems.

  1. Access Now
  2. AfroLeadership
  3. Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC)
  4. Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)
  5. Derechos Digitales
  6. Development and Justice Initiative 
  7. Digital Welfare State and Human Rights Project, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice
  8. Haki na Sheria Initiative 
  9. Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation (HRF)
  10. Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB) 
  11. Namati

This press release was originally published on December 17, 2020

NYU Clinics File Lawsuit Seeking Disclosure of Trump Policy Behind Termination of TPS for Haitians

HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT

NYU Clinics File Lawsuit Seeking Disclosure of Trump Policy Behind Termination of TPS for Haitians

On Thursday January 25, 2018, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers’ Guild and Margaret Satterthwaite, NYU School of Law professor and director of the Global Justice Clinic (GJC), filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to obtain records documenting the reasons behind the U.S. government’s decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians. NYU School of Law’s Immigrant Rights Clinic provided legal counsel.

On November 20, 2017, the Trump Administration terminated TPS for Haiti, stating that the conditions caused by the earthquake no longer exist.  Many reports, including Extraordinary Conditions:  A Statutory Analysis of Haiti’s Qualification for TPS, published by the GJC in October, show that families in Haiti continue to face displacement, homelessness, one of the worst cholera epidemics in the world, hunger, and other challenges that make Haiti unsafe for return. The termination will affect the estimated 58,000 Haitian TPS holders and their families. TPS is set to terminate in July of 2019.

President Trump’s recent racist statements towards certain foreign nations, including Haiti, make the public’s right to access information that influenced the decision to terminate TPS that much more urgent.

January 25, 2018. 

Communications from NYU clinics do not represent the institutional views of NYU School of Law or the Center, if any.

GJC’s Ellie Happel Expert Witness in Case Blocking Trump Administration from Terminating TPS For Haiti

HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT

GJC’s Ellie Happel Expert Witness in Case Blocking Trump Administration from Terminating TPS For Haiti

On Thursday, April 11, 2019 Judge Kuntz of the Eastern District of New York issued a nationwide Preliminary Injunction that blocks the Trump Administration from terminating TPS for Haiti.  Global Justice Clinic Haiti Project Director Ellie Happel was the first witness called by the plaintiffs in the case.  Ellie’s expert testimony was based both on her experience living in Haiti during the time under consideration (2010–2017), and on the facts presented in the Global Justice Clinic report, Extraordinary Conditions: A Statutory Analysis of Haiti’s Qualification for TPS

The Trump Administration ended TPS for Haiti in November, 2017.  Judge Kuntz ruled that the decision by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to terminate TPS for Haiti was improperly influenced by the White House.  The decision was “reverse engineered” to “get to no,” ruled Judge Kuntz, finding that the Plaintiffs were likely to succeed on claims they brought under both the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  The judge found that there was significant evidence that the decision to terminate was a “preordained outcome,” including evidence that suggesting that, in fewer than 30 minutes, a DHS employee reworked a memo that favored extending TPS for Haiti to one that supported termination.  The Court found that the plaintiffs’ Equal Protection claim raises “serious concerns.”  “Based on the facts on this record, and under the [relevant legal framework], there is both direct and circumstantial evidence [that] a discriminatory purpose of removing non-white immigrants from the United States was a motivating factor behind the decision to terminate TPS for Haiti.”  Judge Kuntz concluded that “absent injunctive relief, Plaintiffs, as well as 50,000 to 60,000 Haitian TPS beneficiaries and their 30,000 U.S. Citizen children stand to suffer serious harm.”

In addition to Ellie’s role as an expert witness in this case, the Global Justice Clinic was involved in a FOIA lawsuit that divulged relevant records from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the State Department.  These records were integral to this case and others challenging the Trump Administration’s termination of TPS for Haiti.  Professor Margaret Satterthwaite served as a plaintiff in the FOIA lawsuit.

April 16, 2019.

GJC Partners in Haiti and Guyana Testify Before IACHR on Detriment of Extractive Industry in the Caribbean

CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENT

GJC Partners in Haiti and Guyana Testify Before IACHR on Detriment of Extractive Industry in the Caribbean

On October 26, 2021, advocates and experts from five Caribbean countries, Haiti, Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and The Bahamas, presented on the impact of extractive industry activities on human rights and climate change in the Caribbean in a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Samuel Nesner, a founding member of Kolektif Jistis Min and long-time partner of NYU Law’s Global Justice Clinic, presented on the serious harm of extraction and land grabs in Haiti to the human rights of rural communities. Another Global Justice Clinic partner and member of the South Rupununi District Council, Immaculata Casimero, presented on the impact of extractive industries on indigenous women.

Samuel Nesner highlighted that for centuries land in Haiti has been expropriated and transferred to the elite with rural communities facing the brunt of the harm. Repeated expropriation of land, also known as land grabbing, has forced farmers and their families from their land, many times under threat of violence and almost always without adequate compensation for the loss of their land and sole source of income. Many believe that the land grabs relate to the content of the soil: much of the area that has been taken from farmers in the rural North is known for its mineral resources. Between 2006 and 2013, the Haitian government granted four U.S. and Canadian companies more than 50 mining permits. Many were granted in flagrant violation of Haitian law, without consultation of the dozen communities who live on the land under permit, and without first conducting an adequate environmental and social impact assessment. Residents of these communities have reported that company representatives entered their land without permission, taking samples and digging holes in their farmland. 

Immaculata Casimero noted that extractive industries pose a particular danger to indigenous peoples, who face longstanding land tenure insecurity. In Immaculata’s own Wapichan territory, many traditional indigenous lands are left unrecognized by the Guyanese government—and therefore vulnerable to big businesses looking to obtain agricultural leases on their land and extractive industries seeking to mine gold from their land. Immaculata emphasized that allowing mining on indigenous land harms their cultural heritage and way of life, and that women are especially affected as the main conveyors and protectors of this cultural heritage. Mining not only damages cultural heritage, but also the community’s health: it has led to mercury poisoning by contaminating crucial headwaters and has compounded the effects of climate change, with flooding, lower crop yields, and higher food insecurity. The presence of new miners has also raised social concerns, such as an increase in gender-based violence and prostitution.

Following the speakers’ presentations, IACHR Commissioners commended the speakers on their efforts to address the urgent issue of the impact of extractive industries in the Caribbean. IACHR Commissioner Margaret May Macauley (Jamaica) expressed her concern about the “complete lack of prior information and prior consultation before the majority, if not all, of these extractive industries commence. That is, the governments of these States enter into contracts with the corporations without prior information to the peoples who reside in the lands, on the lands, or by the seas, and they do not engage in prior consultation with them… The persons are left completely unprotected.” This certainly rings true in Haiti and Guyana, where foreign companies have repeatedly profited off the land of Haitian farmers and the Wapichan people without prior consultation about the use of their land.

February 14, 2022.