Global Justice Clinic student testifies before Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Jean Adrien, Nina A Sheth, Astrid Caporali, Etienne Chenier-Lafleche

The Global Justice Clinic joined two Haitian civil society coalitions to testify on the right of access to information in Haiti before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, DC. on March 17, 2015.

Etienne Chenier-LaflecheTestifying for the law school’s clinic, Etienne Chenier-Lafleche LLM ’15 joined representatives from the Haitian Justice in Mining Collective and the Megaprojects Observatory, in urging the Haitian state to adopt legislation to implement the right to access information. The advocates also called on the government to provide affected communities with information concerning tourism and mining development projects, and urged the government not to enact proposed mining legislation that would undermine transparency.

Chenier-Lafleche reported that at the hearing the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression said he was concerned about a confidentiality clause in a mining law under consideration by the Haitian government. “This is a very positive outcome,” said Chenier-Lafleche. The confidentiality clause had been the focus of a significant part of Chenier-Lafleche’s testimony as well as the clinic’s accompanying brief.

Professor of Clinical Law Margaret Satterthwaite ’99, the clinic’s director, praised the LLM student’s spirit of solidarity and collegiality with the clinic’s Haitian partners. “What’s special is that the clinic’s effort has been completely student-led, with Etienne Chenier-Lafleche in particular playing a unique and inspiring role,”  she said.

Astrid Caporali LLM '15 and Jean-Luc Adrien '17 also traveled to Washington for the IACHR hearing. Caporali had worked on the brief with Chenier-Lafleche and helped the partner organizations prepare for the hearing, while Adrien, who is Haitian-American, translated from Kreyol to French and English, provided research support, and helped organize the organizations’ visit to Washington, DC.

Interest in an IACHR hearing initially grew in fall 2014 out of discussions between the Justice in Mining Collective and the clinic, notably Chenier-Lafleche, who had previously worked at the IACHR. Chenier-Lafleche designed and helped lead a training and strategy session on the Inter-American system of human rights for the clinic’s partner organizations in Port-au-Prince in November 2014. At this gathering, co-led by Chenier-Lafleche, Nina Sheth ’16, Nikki Reisch ’12, legal director for the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, and GJC’s Haitian partners, participants decided to raise the issue of right of access to information with the IACHR.

In January Chenier-Lafleche, working with partner organizations, drafted a request for an IACHR hearing and, once the hearing was granted, led the effort to write the brief with recommendations for the state of Haiti.

“It’s been impressive to watch the students create this relationship with our partner, author the request, write the brief, and prepare for the presentation. Etienne did the heavy lifting on this, but everyone came together on the team,” said Satterthwaite.

Posted April 3, 2015