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Clinic Students in Haiti: Documenting Rape and Sexual Assaults, Meeting with UN Officials, Huffington Post Covers

October 12, 2010

The news reports don’t tell the full story about the trail of damage left by Haiti’s devastating earthquake. What’s missing from the headlines are the rampant human rights abuses, including the rape and sexual assault of women and girls trying to survive in the camps for internally displaced persons who find themselves without shelter.

3L Thyra Smith (right) interviewing a camp resident in Champ de Mars on 10/10/2010

3L Thyra Smith (right) interviewing a camp resident in Champ de Mars on 10/10/2010

To bring light to these facts and to help craft a legal strategy to address these abuses, students from CUNY Law’s International Women’s Human Rights Clinic are in Haiti on a 7-day fact-finding and documentation mission. 3L’s April Marcus, Thyra Smith, and Brenda Hasslinger are interviewing women living in the camps and camp leaders.

Information from the students’ interviews will serve as supporting evidence for a petition that will be filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The petition will urge that precautionary measures in the form of lighting and security patrols in the camps are adopted, since security forces often leave the camps at night. In the aftermath of the earthquake, more than one million people in Haiti are still homeless and living in the camps.

The students have visited several different sites, including camps in Martissant and Champ de Mars. Students also meet daily with local grassroots women’s groups, such as KOFAVIV (The Commission of Women Victims to Victims), to record information about life in the camps, specifically gender-based violence.

The students have also met with and participated in a daylong training with the Center for Constitutional Rights. They are also working with local Haitian attorneys and advocates and six grassroots women’s groups at the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI). This week the students will also meet with United Nation’s officials to discuss what they uncovered and to convey the grassroots women’s groups’ requests for lighting and security in the camps. The students are also drafting a memo on their findings that will be submitted to Mr. Walter K√§lin, Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons.

The students are being supervised by Lisa Davis, who recently joined CUNY Law as an Adjunct Professor in the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic. Davis also serves as the Coordinator for the Lawyers’ Earthquake Response Network (LERN) Gender Working Group and is a member of the National Lawyers’ Guild Working Group on Haiti.

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Related Categories: IWHR, Student News

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