Innovative Haitian Legal Advocate Honored for Pioneering “Victim-Centered Approach”

Boston, MA – Mario Joseph, respected human rights lawyer, was honored on June 6, 2012, at the annual Social Justice Throwdown, hosted by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York City.

Social justice lawyers and advocates from across New York City celebrated Joseph and his team, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) from Haiti. The honorees’ innovative approach empowers impoverished and marginalized individuals and groups in Haiti to effectively enforce their own human rights.

Joseph’s colleague in Boston, Brian Concannon, Jr., Director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), explains, “It is particularly appropriate that the recognition of Mario and the BAI is coming from CCR, itself a leader in using the law to fight poverty and inequality.”

Advocating in this way is very dangerous. Bullets have flown into the BAI office and Joseph has received death threats. Yet, Joseph is not afraid, “We will fight for the rights of poor people. We will fight to change the unjust system in Haiti. ‘Viktwa se pou pepla.’ The victory is for the people. We believe in that.” Concannon elaborates, “Real, sustainable change requires innovative legal advocacy. Mario Joseph understands that a jus¬tice sys¬tem unac¬cus¬tomed to pro¬vid¬ing jus¬tice for poor vic¬tims, can be induced to change through the tools of demo¬c¬ra¬tic par¬tic¬i¬pa¬tion.”

Mario Joseph and the BAI have pioneered a “victim-centered approach” to human rights law. This extraordinary form of representation is designed to empow¬er¬ vic¬tims’ orga¬ni¬za¬tions and polit¬i¬cal advo-cacy. BAI lawyers argue in court, but they also help vic¬tims engage author¬i¬ties through media, letter writ-ing, meet¬ings, and even demon¬stra¬tions. The BAI office helps its clients advo¬cate on a global level as well. Joseph reaches beyond the con¬fines of his clients’ cases to adjudicate in international courts, solicit the participation of powerful human rights organizations, and raise public support world-wide.

The law has been, and will remain, a fundamental tool for solving critical human rights issues in Haiti and around the world. With minimal resources, Joseph, the BAI, and their Boston partner Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) teach the victims of human rights violations to become active participants in their own cases. They learn to influence key decision-makers in the public, private, and civil sectors, employing the law as a positive tool. Through these strategies, individuals and populations in Haiti are able to play a significant role in the struggle to lead secure, peaceful lives.

This is grassroots advocacy at its best.

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