04 december 2012

Canadian law students help bring justice in 'Guayubin Massacre'


(vid grab- vimeo)
courtroom of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights during proceedings against the Dominican Republic for rights violations against Haitian migrant workers

In June 2000, some 30 Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic were in a vehicle which was followed, shot at, and rammed by the truck carrying members of the DR military.  The result was 7 migrant dead, many injured and survivors summarily deported in a case that became known as the Guayabin Massacre.

Following legal cases that eventually saw all military members acquitted of wrongdoing, a Canadian volunteer legal group became involved.

Professor Bernard Duhaime is with the Faculty of Political Science and Law at the University of Quebec in Montreal. He founded the UQAM International Clinic for the Defence of Human Rights.  Along with other volunteer lawyers and some 50 law students over the years of this case, their legal input and aid of the Haitian defendants, survivors, and families of the deceased, helped push the case to Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

More than 12 years after the original attack, the judgement in favour of the defendants was made public last week.
The Dominican Republic initially referred their investigation to military courts in which all personnel involved in the massacre were eventually acquitted.
Seeing they could get no justice in the DR, various DR and Haitian rights groups contacted the UQAM’s International Clinic for the Defence of Human Rights.

With the help of Professor Duhaime, UQAM law students, and volunteer lawyers, the arguments were deemed to have a strong basis and were eventually heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a body set up under the auspices of the Organization of American States.

(vid grab- vimeo) UQAM law professor Bernard Duhaime presenting evidence on behalf of Haitian migrant workers at the Inter American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica

The judgement, made public last week, finds the Dominican Republic at fault in  several areas, including illegal use of lethal force, and discrimination, and it ordered the government to develop clear policies on use of lethal force, and ordered monetary compensation to the survivors and families of deceased.

Professor Duhaime says, "The victims and their families have been waiting for justice for twelve years. This trial has finally established the responsibility of the Dominican State in this tragedy and, hopefully, it will help prevent such massacres from recurring in the future. I am proud that our students were able to work in defence of human rights and the struggle against impunity."

RCI's Marc Montgomery spoke with Professor Bernard Duhaime about the legal clinic group, and their help in this international rights case
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