the powers that be by
The Boston Globe
April 19, 2005
Upsetting the powers that be
By Kate Campbell
Human Rights Investigation
Calls Haiti “More Violent and More Inhuman”; Report Documents
U.S. Role in Chaotic Interim Government
Download CSHR report at:
Globe Correspondent PHILADELPHIA -- Tom Griffin vividly remembers the
day he sat in a rural Haitian clinic beside 10-year-old Gima and watched
the boy die of starvation. It was during the first of what would become
many humanitarian missions for Griffin, an immigration lawyer who first
witnessed Haiti's dismal poverty on that day in 2000. ''He was so weak
he couldn't speak," said Griffin, 42, who was raised in the Boston
area and moved recently to Philadelphia. ''His grandmother had brought
him on the back of a donkey."
By the time Gima arrived at the clinic in mountainous Fond-des-Blancs,
said Griffin, he weighed just 30 pounds and was so far beyond help that
medical staff sought only to make him comfortable in his last days.
On a trip in November, increasingly aware of Haiti's political chaos,
Griffin packed a borrowed digital camera. Ten days later, he returned
to Philadelphia with a collection of horrific photographs. Soon to follow
was a report documenting the violence and despair churning in the slums
of one of the world's poorest countries.
''I'm working to upset the powers that be," he said. ''I want to
awaken all of us complacent people who seek to avoid the gruesome inhumanity
of the world and how it always victimizes the most innocent and weakest."
Griffin's report -- titled ''Haiti: Human Rights Investigation, [*]
November 11-21, 2004," with photos of brutalized bodies and mutilated,
abandoned corpses -- is grabbing attention. Last month he addressed
diplomats at the Canadian Parliament, officials at the Organization
of American States, and the Congressional Black Caucus
''The United States certainly has a responsibility to stabilize Haiti,"
congresswoman Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, said in a phone
interview. ''We helped destabilize it."
Concerned by news of political prisoners and former government officials
being held without charges, Waters flew to Haiti last month to investigate.
Griffin's report, she said, played a part in her decision to go. ''The
prisons were in deplorable condition," she said. ''People were
thrown in jail without charges. There were filthy mattresses and many
people crammed into small cells." Waters said the United States
should call on Haiti's interim prime minister, Gerard Latortue, to release
the political prisoners.
''People have forgotten the whole issue of Haiti," said Larry Birns,
head of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, which monitors US-Latin
American relations. ''The Griffin report has reawakened indignation."Driven
by faith Griffin said his Roman Catholic faith is the engine that drives
His education at Boston College High School illuminated the role of
service and aimed him toward his life's work.
''It really impressed in me to make ourselves the best so we can serve
others," said Griffin, who earned his law degree from Suffolk University.
''If Jesus is the center of your life and you listen to his words, he's
asking you to love so much that, to society, it becomes radical."
''How we treat the least among us, that is how we treat God," he
said. And it is mistreatment
that Griffin has recorded.
Toward the end of his visit to Haiti, a gun battle erupted. When it
ended he went into Port-au-Prince's Bel Air neighborhood and found 35-year-old
Inep Henri, who had been shot in the eye. Henri's family tended to his
wounds at home rather than take him to the city hospital because, they
said, police often take shooting victims from hospitals and execute
them. Griffin persuaded the family to have Henri hospitalized. When
he later found Henri at the city hospital, he lay untreated in a crowded
emergency room. Despite Griffin's pleas, Henri was not treated and died,
Griffin, a founding partner of the Philadelphia law firm Morley Surin
& Griffin, paid his own way to Haiti with the goal of writing a
report the world would read. After his return, he completed one for
the University of Miami School of Law's Center for the Study of Human
Rights. Graphic photographs of Henri and others are included in the
document, which alleges rampant human-rights abuses and implicates the
interim Haitian government.
Raymond Joseph, spokesman for the Haitian embassy in Washington, called
the report ''one-sided," saying Griffin was a supporter of deposed
president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and ''failed to document acts of violence
first committed by pro-Aristide gangs against the police." Griffin
said that he has ''nothing to do with Aristide" and that what he
reported and photographed speaks for itself.
Fighting for the disenfranchised is nothing new for Griffin. He was
part of a delegation that brought attention to the unsolved 2001 killing
of human-rights lawyer Digna Ochoa in Mexico.
Griffin said he also knew a great deal about Paul Farmer -- the physician
and anthropologist who founded the Boston-based nonprofit Partners in
Health, which offers community-based healthcare in Haiti -- and considers
him a tremendous inspiration. Griffin said he met and talked briefly
with Farmer, who has written extensively about health and human rights,
when he spoke in Boston.'Totally dedicated' Griffin grew up one of five
children. His parents divorced when he was a teenager, and his mother
raised the children alone. He spent 10 years as a federal probation
and parole officer in New York and Boston before becoming a lawyer.
Retired federal probation officer George Santa Cruz said he is not surprised
by Griffin's commitment to justice. ''He's passionate about Haiti, the
people there, and their suffering," said Santa Cruz, who worked
with Griffin in Boston and traveled with him to Haiti. ''He's a brave
man morally, as well as physically, and that combination has served
him well as far as what he's doing in Haiti."
Griffin's connection to Haiti and a respect for the resilience of the
families he came to know in the country's poorest neighborhoods began
with volunteer work. In 2000, while a member of St. William's parish
in Dorchester, Griffin first visited Haiti with the St. Boniface Haiti
Foundation. ''Tom works at great personal risk for the people who have
no voice," said Rita Russo, vice president of programs at St. Boniface.
The Boston-based nonprofit works with US Catholic parishes to provide
healthcare for Haiti's poor.
Griffin is ''totally dedicated not only to the Haitian cause, but to
wherever he sees injustice and a lack of human rights," said Francois
LaTour, director of Philadelphia's Haitian Community Center, who has
worked on immigration cases with Griffin for several years.
February marked the first anniversary of the sudden departure of Aristide,
who is in exile in South Africa. Whether he was forced out or chose
to resign remains a point of controversy.
In addition, ''the security and human-rights situations in Haiti have
seriously deteriorated since the massive prison escape of Feb. 19,"
said Ettore Di Benedetto, a senior analyst with the International Crisis
Group, an independent nonprofit. ''Allegations of excessive use of force
by police and police killings, including summary
executions, must be investigated," Di Benedetto added.
Haiti is also dealing with an AIDS crisis. ''It faces the most serious
situation outside of sub-Saharan Africa," said Mark L. Schneider,
senior vice president of the International Crisis Group.
''The reality is that Haiti's health infrastructure is almost nonexistent.
Its public hospital and health clinics were weak, underfunded, and understaffed
even before the political crisis of a year ago, and they have not even
begun to recover."
Although he felt called to pursue
justice for poor Haitians, he wants to focus on his immigration work
and his wife and young son, who worry about his dangerous and time-consuming
''I'd rather not be an activist on this issue," said Griffin, sitting
in his living room in a Philadelphia suburb. ''But I guess people are
listening, and that's all I ever wanted."
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company*
Human Rights Investigation Calls Haiti “More Violent and More
Inhuman”; Report Documents U.S. Role in Chaotic Interim Government
Download CSHR report at:
Forwarded by the Haitian Lawyers' Leadership Network
Men Anpil Chaj Pa Lou!!!
- is Kreyol for "Many hands make light a heavy load."
Here is what you can do to help us help
the people of Haiti:
HLLN - Action Requested from
Haiti solidarity groups and
Haitian activists for justice and democracy:
Subscribe to and circulate the
Ezili Danto mailings and posts
to your mailing lists and e-mail contacts. Subscribe or
unsubscribe by writing to: Erzilidanto@yahoo.com
Adopt and circulate the
Resolution (updated below) from the Haitian Lawyers
Circulate the human
rights reports, especially the latest Miami Law Center report
Do Press Work: Join our letter writing campaigns to help free the political
prisoners in Haiti, to stop the persecution of Haiti's most popular
political party and democratic movement and to restore Constitutional
rule. Write a letter, call the media, fax, - See our Press
Work page for sample letters and for contact information.
Volunteer to help us maintain
our Contact Information Sheet by sending us updated or new phone numbers
and addresses to put on our Contact
Information Sheet pages
Virtual interns and volunteers
are also needed to help us translate selected materials into French,
Kreyol, or Spanish to reach a wider audience. Volunteers with some research
and computer skills are likewise needed to help us update our "List
of Victims" and "Personal Testimonies"
pages under Campaign One.
(We have the information, what we don't
have we know where to extrapolate them, but need help to put it together
and in the format on our website page.)
More Network volunteer
also needed to concentrate as primary coordinators/contributors to one
of our seven
One internet savvy volunteer needed who is interested in logging and
archiving, for our new Ezili Danto blog, (not yet unveiled) the regular
Erzilidanto posts we send out so that those who only want to see these
at their leisure, or, who cannot receive daily
mailings, will have
alternative access to these materials and posts, in an archived format.
Fundraise for the work
of HLLN. Donate to our projects. Or, earn money, save lives
and spread meaning and value by becoming an HLLN Marketing
Associate trained to train other HLLN Associates and licensed to use
our logo and HLLN materials to sponsor a "To Tell The Truth about
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will go to pay the Associate and to continue the work of HLLN projects,
such as, our partnership with AUMOHD, the young human rights lawyers
in Haiti who are defending the defenseless poor whose only crime is
that they voted for Lavalas, supported Constitutional rule or are resisting
a return of the bloody U.S.-trained Haitian army and US-sponsored dictatorship.
For information on AUMOHD, go to: http://www.april6vt.org/
The Haiti Resolution:
1. Support the return of constitutional rule to Haiti by restoring all
elected officials of all parties to their offices throughout the country
until the end of their mandates and another election is held, as mandated
by Haiti's Constitution;
2. Condemn the killings, illegal imprisonment and confiscation of the
property of supporters of Haiti's constitutional government and insist
that Haiti's illegitimate "interim government" immediately
cease its own persecution and put a stop to persecution by the thugs
and murderers from sectors in their police force,
from the paramilitaries, gangs and former soldiers;
3. Insist on the immediate release of all political prisoners in Haitian
jails, including Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, other constitutional government
officials and folksinger-activist Sò Ann;
4. Insist on the disarmament of the thugs, death squad leaders and convicted
human rights violators and their prosecution for all crimes committed
during the attack on Haiti's elected government and help rebuild Haiti's
police force, ensuring that it excludes anyone who helped to overthrow
the democratically elected
government or who participated in other human rights violations;
5. Stop the indefinite detention and automatic repatriation of Haitian
refugees and immediately grant Temporary Protected Status to all Haitian
refugees presently in the United States until democracy is restored
to Haiti; and
6. Support the calls by the OAS, CARICOM and the African Union for an
investigation into the circumstances of President Aristide's removal.
Support the enactment of Congresswoman Barbara Lee's T.R.U.T.H Act (HR
3919) which calls for a U.S. Congressional investigation of the forcible
removal of the democratically elected President and government of Haiti.