Volunteers helping on the ground in Haiti

Tom Luce with Esterne Bruner, Grand Ravine Human Rights Council leader, victims and other aid groups discuss what to do after 300+ homes were burned and 20 innocent people were murdered. Sept. 2006

Practiced with great success in the 1980’s in countries
like El Salvador and Guatemala, international human rights “accompaniers” assist and stand/walk with  human rights workers on their own turf who are threatened with kidnapping, torture, and assassination for
their work bringing human rights abuses to justice.

The presence and visibility of these volunteers was found to dramatically reduce the incidence of violence against the human rights workers, andat the same time increase the morale and willingness of the local people to engage actively in pursuing justice for the crimes committed
against them.

Today in Haiti, while the security situation is much improved, for the leaders of the community human rights councils in places like Gran Ravine and Cité Soleil, the threat of violence is still very real.  In 2006 the leader of the Gran Ravine CHRC, Esterne Bruner was assassinated for his efforts to seek justice for the victims of the Soccer Massacre in 2005.  In spite of this horrible act the leaders vowed to continue on.  They have endured violent threats since then.

Hurah managed to bring several accompaniers including its founder, Tom Luce, to work side by side with Haitian human rights defenders in the violent aftermath of the illegal removal of President Aristide. We worked with massacre victims and illegally imprisoned poor people.  At this point we have no formal accompaniment program.  Individuals interested in doing this type of work should contact Tom Luce  He might be able to work out a special assignment with some group, or refer you to another active accompaniment agency.

Here are the guidelines formerly used:  While HURAH accompaniers are not meant to be in harm’s way (indeed
we take every opportunity to avoid dangerous situations), their presence gives visibility to the work of these dedicated individuals under threat, and makes it much more difficult for those who would like to see them disappear to carry out attacks with impunity. In addition to providing this visibility and moral support, accompaniers
also assist and report on other current activities.

Specific additional tasks for accompaniers depend in a large part upon the skills, knowledge, and background of the volunteers. In particular we can use lawyers, law students, and pre-law students, journalists and journalism students, those with computer technology skills who can work on the IT equipment in Haiti, including the solar array, and anyone else interested in seeing and helping the human rights situation in Haiti.  French or Haitian Creole language is very helpful, but if you don’t speak the language translators may be available to assist you.




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