Bureau Des Avocats Internationaux - The Institute for Justice & Democracy in HaitiRecipient 2009 Judith Stronach Human Rights Award
CJA was pleased to award the 2009 Judith Lee Stronach Human Rights Award to CJA partner Bureau Des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) [International Lawyers Office] and its sister organization in the U.S., The Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.
Based in Port-au-Prince, the BAI was founded in 1995 to assist the Haitian judiciary with human rights cases arising from that country’s 1991-94 military dictatorship during which thousands of Haitians were murdered, tortured, and illegally incarcerated. Its mission is to work with victims of human rights violations to open the doors of Haiti's justice system for the poor Haitian majority. The BAI helps victims in the prosecution of human rights cases, trains Haitian lawyers, combats Haiti's miserable prison conditions and speaks out on justice issues within Haiti and internationally. It has also provided legal representation to some of Haiti's leading political prisoners, including Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, Ronald Dauphin, Amanus Maette, Annette Auguste, and Bob Moliere.
The BAI's most prominent human rights case is the prosecution of those responsible for the Raboteau Massacre. On April 22, 1994, military and paramilitary forces invaded the impoverished seaside neighborhood of Raboteau on the outskirts of the city of Gonaïves, killing at least two dozen and possibly as many as one hundred unarmed civilians. Many of those killed were shot in boats and fell or were later thrown into the ocean, thus making it impossible to know the total death toll. More than fifty homes were destroyed. The raid occurred as part of a nationwide policy to clamp down on pro-democracy activities.
In 2000, BAI successfully brought the perpetrators of the Raboteau Massacre to trial before the Criminal Tribunal of Gonaïves. The outcome of the Raboteau Massacre Case marked one of the most significant human rights victories in the Americas; the trial resulted in the conviction of fifty-seven defendants, including the top military and paramilitary leaders of Haiti's 1991-1994 military dictatorship.
BAI’s work was a crucial springboard for CJA's U.S. judgment against Haitian human rights abuser Colonel Carl Dorélien - one of the key defendants in the Raboteau Massacre Case who fled to Florida after democracy was restored to Haiti. The judgment led to the distribution of over $580,000 of Dorélien's assets to Haitian survivors of human rights abuses - one of the largest recoveries in the history of U.S. human rights litigation. In May 2008, BAI helped facilitate the distribution of the recovery to 91 survivors of the Raboteau Massacre in Gonaïves.
BAI director Mario Joseph and IJDH director Brian Concannon, Jr. accepted the award on BAI’s behalf at CJA's 10th Anniversary Event.