Soon Appoliner found herself sitting across from Mario Joseph in her office, in an unmarked building along one of the capital’s narrow, winding streets. By then, Joseph, with the American Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, had become accustomed to fighting the UN: they had filed a class action lawsuit in US federal court on behalf of victims of the cholera outbreak, a case they lost when the court upheld the UN’s immunity from harm.
Joseph, 58, has worked on some of the country’s most iconic human rights cases, representing victims of the Raboteau Massacre and the former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. He grew up in a home without electricity or running water and believes that many of the injustices committed in Haiti are the result of racism and imperialism, endemic not only among foreigners who interfere in the country, but also within the Haitian government. .
He took Appoliner’s case and began building a case for Cortez. In August 2016, Joseph’s law firm sent legal notices to MINUSTAH informing them that they planned to pursue child support lawsuits and requesting information about the alleged fathers, including any investigation related to paternity cases by the UN Conduct and Discipline Unit and DNA results. tests, some of which had been submitted to the organization as early as 2014. The response, Joseph said, was opaque and incomplete. They did not provide details of internal investigations into the plaintiffs’ cases or certification that peacekeeper immunity did not prevent these cases from advancing in Haitian courts.
In December 2017, Joseph filed claims on behalf of 10 women in the courts of Haiti.
“They say they promote human rights, but they violate ours,” Joseph said of the UN.
A UN spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the organization has provided “materials and information to mothers as well as national authorities in Haiti,” and that 31 Haitian women and 36 children are receiving assistance that “varies according to their individual needs”. and includes funds for the upcoming school year.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is the entity that corresponds directly with the UN, kept Joseph away, he said, in particular by organizing meetings with the women without the presence of their lawyers. Claude Joseph, who originally took over as prime minister after Moïse’s assassination and is now foreign minister, declined an interview request from BuzzFeed News.
The women’s cases have largely stalled in their respective courts. Mario Joseph thinks part of the problem is that judges are reluctant to rule against the UN or its member countries because many of them have received training from the UN or hope to find employment there one day.
During an interview, Bernard Saint-Vil, Dean of the Court of First Instance in Port-au-Prince, first declared that the fear of reprisals from the UN “may also be a factor” in the delay of these cases but then backtracked, saying judges must enforce the law. Sitting in his office a few blocks from the National Palace, which was partially destroyed in the 2010 earthquake and never rebuilt, Saint-Vil made it clear that the pressure for business to move forward must come from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
After nearly four years, only one judge – in Jui’s case – has ruled in favor of a woman filing an alimony claim against a UN peacekeeper. But because it is nearly impossible to enforce the decision in Uruguay, Joseph said all he can do now is inform other UN member countries of the decision in the hope that they increase diplomatic pressure.
Some women try to find the fathers of their children themselves. On February 8, 2020, Appoliner wrote to Cortez’s son, Jorge, on Facebook Messenger: “I’m an 8 year old kid. I want to meet Marcelo Antonio Cortez, my father.
The next day, Jorge replied, “What have I got to do with this? Find it and write [to] him.”
A few weeks later, Appoliner messaged her again. “Your father had a child with me, look at the photo”, and attached a photo of Dominic. The following month, Jorge replied, “I spoke to him and he says you’re lying.”