Recently in International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Category

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California State Association of Letter Carriers Resolution – Adopted April 12, 2008

Gulf Coast Reconstruction Program 

WHEREAS: During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina the world watched the United States government stand by and let thousands of African Americans and poor people in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast suffer and hundreds die a most tragic and unnecessary death; and 

WHEREAS: Robert “Tiger” Hammond, president of the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO recently said, “Parts of this town look like a nuclear bomb hit two days ago, not like it was two years ago.”; and  

WHEREAS: The AFL-CIO Housing Trust (HIT) is participating in the $1 billion Gulf Coast Revitalization Program for New Orleans and other communities ravaged by Hurricane Katrina; and  

WHEREAS: The AFL-CIO will be investing in the building of modular housing and will coordinate union sponsored worker training programs; and  

WHEREAS: The AFL-CIO community fund and affiliated unions have raised millions of dollars to assist Katrina Survivors; and 

WHEREAS: ILWU Locals 10, 19, 52 and the International in conjunction with the African American Longshore Coalition sent several 40 foot containers of humanitarian and construction supplies and vehicles along with financial support to the Gulf; and 

WHEREAS: Members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters volunteered to drive trucks filled with supplies to the Gulf for survivors; and 

WHEREAS: The American Federation of teachers has dispatched tutors and specialists to assist local workers in preparing for apprenticeship opportunities, investing its resources in the people of New Orleans despite the city’s attacks on public education and wholesale privatization of education; and  

WHEREAS: Almost immediately after Katrina, President George W. Bush issued an executive order suspending prevailing wage requirements on federally funded projects. Bush and the Republican controlled Congress suspended affirmative action requirements, relaxed environmental regulations, and started handing out privatized no-bid contracts like they were bottled water; and 

WHEREAS: In the weeks after Katrina and Rita, New Orleans witnessed an influx of more than 150,000 workers from outside the region, many recruited from Mexico and Central America by temporary agencies; and 

WHEREAS: Fifty percent of migrant day laborers were never paid for their work and the New Orleans Workers Center has countless stories of transient workers who showed up at a certain location to get paid, and instead were met by ICE agents and deported; and  

WHEREAS: Katrina brought about the largest displacement of African Americans in the U. S. South since the post-Reconstruction period at the end off the 19th century; and  

WHEREAS: Both Katrina survivors (witnesses) and prosecutors at the International Tribunal on Hurricane Katrina and Rita called for a reconstruction program to rebuild the Gulf; therefore be it  

RESOLVED: That the California State Association of Letter Carriers support the call for the implementation of a federally funded Gulf Coast Reconstruction Program which shall include prevailing wages for workers, and the right to organize; and therefore be it further  

RESOLVED: The Gulf Coast Reconstruction Program include the right to return to the Gulf, a Gulf Coast Public Works Program (similar to the WPA of the 1930s) and building solidarity committees nationally to continue the struggle for a just reconstruction; and therefore be it finally 

RESOLVED: That this Resolution be sent to our affiliates and forwarded to the Democratic leadership of the House, the Senate, and the Congressional Black Caucus. 

Resolution adopted by the California State Association of Letter Carriers, meeting in Los Angeles, California, April 11-12, 2008. The CSALC represents 43,000 Postal Service letter carriers in the state of California.

ushr_logo.jpgFebruary 29, 2008, Atlanta, Georgia – Reacting to yesterday’s report by a UN expert calling on the U.S. government to immediately stop evictions and demolitions of public housing in New Orleans, Ajamu Baraka, Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network said, "The Comments from the UN experts captured the reality of situation in New Orleans. What is happening to low-income families in New Orleans is a national disgrace — and must stop immediately. Human rights and civil rights organizations across the country welcome and support the United Nations’ intervention on this issue."

There has been criticism of the UN report from some who expressed surprise that the UN would intervene on such an issue. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) stated, "The United Nations, an organization that has been scrutinized for its exploitation of the poor… has deemed itself a high enough authority to look down its nose at us here in the United State over the public housing debate." Senator Vitter also characterized the United Nations as a "wasteful international organization" and encouraged the UN to focus on cleaning up its own act rather than commenting on U.S. efforts.

In response, Baraka stated, "Those who would say that the UN is a ‘foreign organization’ clearly have not done their homework. The U.S. is a major player within the United Nations – and the UN experts who commented on conditions in New Orleans did so as a result of appeals from U.S. citizens."

The USHRN urges the U.S. government to heed the call from UN experts, halt ongoing evictions and demolitions of public housing in New Orleans, and take immediate steps to protect the rights of those who continue to feel the effects of Hurricane Katrina, many of whom are African America. The statement was released by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Housing, Miloon Kohtari, and a UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Gay McDougall, just days after over 120 activists associated with the USHRN returned from Geneva to monitor the Bush Administration’s compliance under the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), an international treaty signed by the U.S., which carried the force of law in the United States.

While in Geneva, activists and experts affiliated with the USHRN testified before United Nations officials about the reality of racial discrimination in the U.S., including the race related effects of Hurricane Katrina. In their statement to the U.S. government, Kothari and MacDougall address the fact that more than 12,000 people remain homeless in the New Orleans metro area alone; demolition of public housing may lead to the displacement of more than 5,000 more families; federal and local authorities continue to ignore the disparate impacts of Hurricane Katrina, claiming that the discrimination is not intentional; and the government must meaningfully consult and engage with the communities and families affected by the demolitions and redevelopment in order to protect the rights of those people who have been affected, who are mostly African American.

NATIONAL ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RIGHTS INITIATIVE   

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On February 28, 2008 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari, and the UN Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall, issued a joint press statement expressing serious concern over the process leading to the demolition of thousands of units of public housing in New Orleans and calling for a halt to the ongoing demolitions. The statement expressed the UN Independent Experts’ dismay over reports of violations of international human rights law in connection with these demolitions, including the right to participation and the right to adequate housing, for former public housing residents. They further called on the U.S. government to halt ongoing demolitions to ensure that redevelopment plans include participation by former public housing tenants and respect their right to return. The joint statement follows a private communication on December 17, 2007 by the UN Independent Experts to the U.S. government.

In responding to the press statement, U.S. Senator David Vitter (LA-R) stated: "Sadly, the debate on public housing reform in New Orleans has taken a turn toward [sic] theater of the absurd … The current redevelopment plan promotes homeownership and independence and provides a fresh alternative to the decades-old, failed New Orleans public housing system …"

To characterize the United Nations, to which the U.S. is a major contributor, as a "theater of absurd" is disconcerting enough, but to describe the demolitions as a "fresh alternative" is morally reprehensible. Local and federal officials’ decision to allow minimally damaged public housing units to remain closed after the storms has directly contributed to the swelled numbers of homeless persons living in New Orleans. Moreover, the demolitions are not accompanied by plans for homeownership. On the contrary, Mr. Vitter has been a staunch opponent of the Gulf Coast Recovery Act, which guarantees one for one replacement and the right to return of former public housing residents. Mr. Vitter’s posturing on this matter is in direct opposition to international human rights law, specifically the human right to housing and the right to participation.

The South African Constitution Court recently ruled in Occupiers of 51 Olivia Road v. City of Johannesburg, that "before an order of eviction that would lead to homelessness is granted at the instance of a municipality, there [must be] meaningful engagement or, at least, … the municipality [must make] reasonable efforts towards meaningful engagement." This internationally recognized right to participation is likewise reflected in Section 28 of the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement: "Special efforts should be made to ensure the full participation of internally displaced persons in the planning and management of their return or resettlement and reintegration." With respect to the human rights to housing, Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states: "The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate … housing …" The current demolitions are in direct conflict with both the right to participation and the right to housing.

We applaud the statement made by the UN Independent Experts and encourage the U.S. government to heed this call from the international community and respect the human rights of hurricane survivors.

 

A full copy of the UN statement is available at:

http://www.unhchr.ch/huricane/huricane.nsf/view01/907604B6DAF5E2F1C12573FD007AD7DC?opendocument

GENEVA — United Nations experts weighed in Thursday on the debate over public housing in New Orleans, accusing the U.S. federal government and local authorities of forcing predominantly black residents into homelessness.

The experts said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and local governments will violate the human rights of thousands of New Orleans residents by demolishing public housing units.

They said the majority of those affected are black and many were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

The U.S. mission in Geneva declined to comment immediately.

The U.N. statement cited the start of demolition work on the St. Bernard public housing development in New Orleans, and said there were similar plans for the Lafitte, B.W. Cooper and C.J. Peete developments.

The experts said these demolitions, combined with the spiraling costs for private housing and rental units, puts African-American communities badly hurt by Hurricane Katrina "in further distress, increasing poverty and homelessness."

The U.N.-appointed experts called on the governments of the United States, Louisiana and New Orleans to halt demolitions of public housing and include current and former residents of the city in discussions to help them return to their homes.

The heated debate over public housing in New Orleans sparked several protests while the City Council finalized the demolitions, and caused a small riot at City Hall.

logo_sm.gifThe United Nations has weighed in on the public housing debate in New Orleans, coming down squarely on the side of displaced residents.

Two independent experts, working with the U.N. Humans Rights Commission report that the demolition of public housing in the city is effectively denying the right of return to minorities.

”Whether or not the demolitions were intentionally discriminatory, ‘the lack of consultation with those affected and the disproportionate impact on poorer and predominantly African-American residents and former residents would result in the denial of internationally recognized human rights,”’ their report said.

Read the release from the United Nations and a report from the Associated Press.

A five-day International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita opened last night in New Orleans. The tribunal is bringing together hurricane survivors, international delegations, expert witnesses, a team of human rights and civil rights prosecutors, and a panel of US-based and international judges.

One survivor of the hurricane, Viola Washington said, "We are calling for an International Tribunal to bring charges of racial discrimination, forced eviction of pubic housing residents, violations of the right to life and health, and the denial of the right to return."

We speak with two activists from the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund

http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/08/30/145217 

Hello my friend,

Yesterday, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats toured New Orleans, including the Lower Ninth Ward.  They "signaled that the federal largesse would have limits."  One Louisiana Democratic Representative indicated that they were "here to differentiate the needs from the wants."

However, the Democratic Congress has failed to differentiate Bush Administration needs from its wants and has granted the Administration legalized spying on the American people; funding for the surge and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and maneuvering room to do all this and more by taking impeachment "off the table."

Katrina survivors, through their People’s Hurricane Relief Fund, are no longer willing to wait for justice; they have formed the Hurricanes Katrina and Rita International Tribunal to hold all levels of the  government accountable for massive failures.  I have joined their call for justice and have agreed to serve as a Convener of the Tribunal.  The Tribunal takes place in New Orleans from August 29, 2007 to September 2, 2007.  If you can make it, please come.  If you are a member of an organization, please have your organization endorse the Tribunal at .

As you can imagine, this is a huge undertaking with significant implications for an unresponsive government. Perhaps it will be the Katrina and Rita survivors who will finally put brakes on a government that is out of control in its utter disregard of the American people.

I remember that it was one brave judge in Spain who agreed to hold Pinochet responsible for crimes committed against the Chilean people. The world’s generosity toward Katrina and Rita survivors was shunned even as today’s needs go unfilled and underfunded. It is to that same international community that survivors now turn. I believe their cries for justice will be heard.

However, please know that efforts to subvert or dilute this effort will surely be made because of the tremendous implications of this action. I do not want the Tribunal to be COINTELPRO’d. Therefore, I am asking that you make a tax-deductible donation to the Tribunal to keep it a true, uncompromised voice of the people.

With your important support, we will see a new generation of authentic leadership rise from the cries of the people for justice—not only in the Gulf States, but all across our country.

Give generously to the Tribunal at: https://www.vanguardsf.org/index.php?s=40.  (*Please be sure to scroll down on the PURPOSE pulldown menu to designate People’s Hurricane Relief Fund as the recipient of your donation).

Checks can be mailed to
People’s Hurricane Relief Fund
c/o Vanguard Public Foundation
383 Rhode Island Street, #301
San Francisco, CA 94103
*please earmark checks - "International Tribunal"

Here’s a letter from the Executive Director of the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund explaining all the background information you might want. For more information, please feel free to contact me at this e-mail address or call the absolutely brilliant Leon Waters in New Orleans at (504) 301-0215. Please give what you can at http://www.vanguardsf.org/index.php?s=40

Here’s the letter:

The People’s Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition (PHRF/OC) is a national coalition of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Survivors and their supporters (see www.peopleshurricane.org for more details). PHRF/OC is working to ensure that the people most affected by the Hurricanes – poor Black communities who were marginalized and disenfranchised long before the storms – have a voice in the reconstruction process, and that those responsible for the needless destruction of their homes, communities and lives are held accountable for the actions.

PHRF/OC is seeking your financial support for a critical human rights initiative to hold the US government, on all levels, accountable for the policies and decisions that resulted in the death of over 2,000 people in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast and the displacement of over 1 million in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.  This initiative is the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita which will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana August 29th – September 2nd, 2007 (see www.internationaltribunal.org for more details). 

The goals of the International Tribunal are as follows:

   1. Hold the US government accountable for its crimes against humanity;
   2. Demand financial restitution and justice for the Survivors of Katrina and Rita; Advance the Katrina reconstruction movement;
   3. Build a national and international campaign against the US government’s program of displacement and ethnic cleansing;
   4. Demand that the US government adhere to UN guidelines on Internally Displaced Persons (IDP).

These goals are the long-term vision we desire from the Tribunal. We seek to permanently and positively change the systems, policies, and structures that failed the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast who were victims of the government’s systematic neglect and depraved indifference.

The International Tribunal is an initiative of PHRF/OC, Mississippi Disaster Relief Coalition (MDRC), and the US Human Rights Network (USHRN). The International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is a programmatic outgrowth of the demand for justice and restitution called for by the more than two hundred Survivors gathered at the first Survivors Assembly held December 8th – 9th, 2005 in Jackson, Mississippi. The Survivors consisted of those living in the impacted Gulf Coast areas and from more than 15 cities throughout the country where Survivors have been dispersed.

To advance and promote the ongoing work of the International Tribunal, we are seeking your generous financial contribution. We are seeking to raise $300,000 to support the ongoing work of the Tribunal, including providing support for adequate staffing and legal counsel, national and international networking and campaigning, and domestic and international legal action. Anything you can contribute to help us attain this goal will be invaluable in helping us accomplish our mission.
 
To make a contribution to this initiative please make your checks out to: People’s Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF). Please earmark your checks "International Tribunal". Mail your checks to: Vanguard Public Foundation 383 Rhode Island Street, Suite 301 San Francisco, CA 94103. All contributions are tax deductible.

Respectfully,
Kali Akuno
Executive Director, People’s Hurricane Relief Fund
Monday, August 13th, 200

 

 

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007 will mark the second commemoration of Hurricane Katrina and the Great Flood that devastated New Orleans and revealed to the world the ongoing depth of racism and national oppression that exists within the United States. The People’s Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition, a U.S.-based coalition of survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and their supporters, is holding its Second Annual Commemorative March on August 29th and the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita from August 29th – September 2nd, 2007 (see www.internationaltribunal.org for more details).  

PHRF/OC is calling on justice seeking people throughout the world to stand in solidarity with us on Wednesday, August 29th in support of these actions and demand that the US government be made accountable for the crimes it perpetrated against the marginalized and oppressed peoples of the Gulf Coast – people African descent, Indigenous Peoples, migrants, and the poor - during and after Hurricane Katrina.
We are demanding the following:

  1. The US government declare the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Internally Displace Persons (IDP’s) and that they be provided with the basic rights and securities that come with this designation.
  2. The US government provide immediate restitution to all Gulf Coast IDP’s, regardless of race, income, or property holding status.
  3. Government officers, institutions, and agencies responsible for the death of over 2,000 individuals and the numerous human rights violations and crimes committed during and after Hurricane Katrina be held legally accountable for their actions.
To support this initiative PHRF/OC is asking all of our international supporters and allies to take one or all of the following actions:
  1. Hold a demonstration on August 29th at the US Embassy or Consulate in your country and raise the aforementioned demands in support the Gulf Coast IDP’s and the International Tribunal.
  2. Deliver a statement addressed to US President George Bush demanding that the US government comply with the just demands of the Gulf Coast IDP’s, including the demands for recognition and restitution.
  3. Issue a statement of solidarity to the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, alerting the body of your actions and support.
  4. Join the International Tribunal network and support our ongoing campaign work for justice by registering at the www.internationaltribunal.org website

If you plan on conducting any of the above actions or to receive more information please contact us at tribunal@peopleshurricane.org.

Uphold the Right of Return and hold the US government accountable for its crimes against humanity in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Act Now!  

In Unity and Struggle, 
Kali Akuno

Sessions to open on storm anniversary

A panel of judges from the United States and abroad will gather in New Orleans later this month to hear from survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita who claim that local state and federal governments began violating their rights during the storm, continue doing so and should be held accountable for those actions.

"The American government carried out numerous crimes against humanity, human rights violations," Leon Waters of the Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund said Thursday at a news conference outside U.S. District Court with other conference supporters, among them former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia.

According to survivor advocates, 300,000 New Orleanians, most of them black, have been unable to return to the city largely because of discriminatory rebuilding and public assistance efforts.

Waters’ organization and others, including the Louisiana ACLU, Safe Streets Strong Communities and the U.S. Human Rights Network, have arranged for the survivors to air their complaints and demand reparations during hearings beginning Aug. 29, Katrina’s second anniversary, and ending Sept. 2.

The sessions, to be held daily in the 11th floor conference center of the Pan American Life Insurance Building, 601 Poydras St., will bring together hurricane survivors, delegations from 12 countries and a team of civil and human rights prosecutors.

Judges for the international tribunal will include Louisa Hanoune, a member of the Algerian Parliament, international law scholar Ward Churchill and human rights expert Jill Soffiyah Elijah of Harvard Law School.

The hearings will be based on international law, a practice made standard by the Permanent People’s Tribunal, founded by an Italian law professor in 1979 as an independent international platform for dealing with complaints of human rights violations.

Waters said his organization wants to publish the tribunal’s findings and recommendations around the world and use them to haul government agencies alleged to have mistreated Katrina and Rita survivors into American and international courts to answer charges of crimes against humanity.

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