The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

New York: Yifat Susskind, Policy and Communications Director, MADRE (available through Diana Duarte, Media Coordinator, MADRE)
(212) 627-0444; email:

Geneva: Malya Villard-Appolon (available through Lisa Davis, Human Rights Attorney, MADRE)
078 / 7991892; email:

Geneva: Blaine Bookey, Attorney, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
(415) 515-8956 (US number in Geneva); email:

Haitian Women's Rights Activist Leaves Camp for Displaced People to Testify Before the UN Human Rights Council

Additional information will be presented at a press meeting on Tuesday, June 8 at 9:45 am, in the Library of Press Room 2, Palais des Nations (Main UN Building in Geneva, Avenue de la Paix)


Today, as the United Nations Human Rights Council gathers
in Geneva, its representatives will hear testimony from Malya
Villard-Appolon, a Haitian women's rights activist and MADRE partner who
has lived in the camps for displaced people since the earthquake
destroyed her home in January. Ms. Appolon, a leader of KOFAVIV, a
Haitian grassroots women's organization, has witnessed the skyrocketing
incidence of rape in the camps and the lack of a coordinated or
effective response to these persistent threats.

Also testifying will be lawyers from MADRE, the Institute for Justice
& Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), and the law firm of Morrison &
Foerster LLP, who recently returned from a delegation to Haiti and will
be accompanying Ms. Appolon in Geneva.

Today, Malya Villard-Appolon of KOFAVIV said, "We want to tell the Human
Rights Council that the systems for protecting women in the camps are
broken. We get no protection from the police, or the peacekeepers. We
feel we do not have access to the rooms where decisions about our safety
are made. We need the support and commitment of the international

In her testimony, Ms. Appolon will call for increased security measures
to prevent rape within the camps in repeated attacks against women
sleeping in their tents, walking to the latrines, or otherwise left
vulnerable. She will also demand that grassroots women's groups - often
the only source of support for rape survivors and other women subsisting
in the camps - be included in decision-making related to the United
Nation's work in Haiti. Furthermore, she will insist that funding from
UN member states for the response efforts be conditioned on meeting
these basic requirements to uphold women's rights.

Lisa Davis, a human rights attorney with MADRE, said, "During our time
in Haiti, we observed a troubling failure by Haitian and UN officials
and large non-governmental organizations to adequately address the
rampant levels of rape in the camps. Malya's testimony will force this
issue into the spotlight, and the UN member states will face the
necessary reminder of their responsibility to protect the human rights
of women living in the camps."

"It is totally unacceptable for these rapes to continue to go unpunished
and undeterred," asserted Blaine Bookey, an attorney with IJDH, and
coordinator of the delegation. "Women in the camps have suffered
enough. The organizations running the camps and the United Nations have
raised enough money to provide basic protections to vulnerable women."

Erica J. Richards, an attorney with the law firm Morrison & Foerster
added that "Not only do our findings from Haiti show that women face a
grave lack of security necessary to prevent and respond to the sexual
violence crisis, but medical services are overwhelmed and unable to meet
women's healthcare needs stemming from the assaults."

Yifat Susskind, MADRE Policy and Communications Director, said today,
"Malya's testimony has few precedents. Rarely are the voices of
displaced women heard by those in the halls of power. The Human Rights
Council must seize the opportunity to benefit from her expertise."

For more information about MADRE's work in Haiti, visit our website at

MADRE is an international women's human rights organization that partners with community-based women's groups to advance women's human rights, challenge injustice and create social change in contexts of war, conflict, disaster and their aftermath. MADRE advocates for a world in which all people enjoy individual and collective human rights; natural resources are shared equitably and sustainably; women participate effectively in all aspects of society; and all people have a meaningful say in policies that affect their lives. For more information about MADRE, visit