Today, the American Bar Association unanimously passed a resolution urging the U.S. government to step up its efforts to help 1.5 million Haitians still living in temporary camps, nearly seven months after the catastrophic January 12th earthquake devastated their country.
The resolution was authored by Jayne E. Fleming, pro bono counsel and Human Rights Team leader at the law firm of Reed Smith LLP, who is leading ongoing efforts to identify candidates for emergency Humanitarian Parole to the US among the neediest of Haitian earthquake survivors, and to assess the worsening humanitarian crisis among women and children there.
The ABA resolution urges the U.S. federal government to intensify its effort to provide adequate food, water, shelter and physical security to displaced women and children in Haiti, and to fund and support regional, sub-regional and international programs which prioritize the protection of these vulnerable groups, in conformity with international human rights principles.
The resolution also urges federal, state, territorial and local agencies involved in aid and rebuilding efforts in Haiti to adopt programs and policies that specifically address situations that place women and children in marginalized and at-risk situations.
The resolution goes further in urging the federal government to fund and support national, regional, sub-regional and international policies and programs that: (1) prevent sexual violence against Haitian women and children; (2) combat sexual exploitation and trafficking of Haitian women and children; (3) bring to justice perpetrators of such crimes; and, (4) provide effective assistance and rehabilitation to victims.
The resolution was endorsed by several high level ABA leaders and House of Delegate members, including in-coming ABA president Stephen Zack, ABA president Elect Wm. T. Robinson, III, Neal Sonnett, past chair of the ABA Individual Rights & Responsibilities Section, Steven Saltzburg, professor of law at George Washington University Law School, and Pro Bono Institute leader Esther Lardent.
Fleming authored the resolution on Sunday after returning from 8 days in Haiti, where she led a fact-finding mission related to the lack of security and predominance of rape, sexual exploitation and other gender-based violence in the camps. The delegation met with representatives of the United Nations, the Haitian National Police, and Haitian women's NGOS, such as KOFAVIV and FAVILEK, to better assess the dire security situation. Fleming's latest delegation to Haiti included Karen Musalo, clinical professor of law and director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at UC Hastings, and Robert Rubin, litigation director for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Fleming presented her recommended resolution for Haiti today during the Bar's semiannual ABA meeting-which is only one of two occasions at which the Bar votes on such resolutions. After her presentation, Fleming received a standing ovation from the House of Delegates.
Since March, Fleming has been leading delegations of attorneys and doctors to Haiti in an effort to identify Haitians who might be eligible for Humanitarian Parole-which is an under-utilized method of gaining permission to reside in the US for a temporary period of time due to compelling circumstances. Working with local NGOs and interpreters, the medical-legal delegations have interviewed hundreds of Haitian families, and identified more than 100 applicants seeking humanitarian parole.
Additionally Fleming's delegations have sent sub-teams on fact-finding missions into tent camps and clinics and developed expert declarations on gender-based violence and medical care. They have taken more than 30 rape survivors to medical clinics, brought infants and children in for pediatric care, found safe shelter for 8 high-risk families, and lined up emergency care for elders in critical condition.