As a guest of the University of Connecticut School of Law, Miami Law Professor Irwin P. Stotzky delivered the inaugural Richard D. Tulisano '69 Human Rights Lecture and presented the keynote address at the twenty-fifth anniversary of the school's Connecticut Journal of International Law. Professor Stotzky spoke primarily about Haiti's history and culture, the international effort to help Haiti following last year's devastating earthquake, and a variety of different theories – economic, social, political, and legal – on transitioning Haiti to democracy. The article – "The Truth About Haiti" – is the result of that lecture.
Professor Stotzky has been involved in Haiti-related matters since 1974, in a number of capacities. He has represented Haitian refugees in constitutional and human rights cases before the United States Supreme Court, and has served as an attorney and advisor to Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and as an advisor to President René Préval.
Currently, Professor Stotzky is working as an advisor to the Haitian government in the prosecution of embattled former president Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. Returning to Haiti after twenty-five years in self-imposed exile, Duvalier faces charges of corruption, theft, and misappropriation of funds while president. Claims have also been filed against Duvalier for murder, persecution, and other crimes against humanity. Stotzky has been actively assisting the Haitian government in the claims against Duvalier, working on some of the more complex issues relating to statute of limitations, retroactivity, and locating witnesses to testify against the former leader.
Beyond Duvalier's return, Haiti has dealt with problems in recent years that have been both numerous and severe. Political instability, military coups, and high levels of corruption have collectively made the island-nation's transition to democracy tumultuous. An unimaginable string of natural disasters and health epidemics have battered the tiny Caribbean nation in recent years. Last year's magnitude 7.3 earthquake, the cholera epidemic which followed, and widespread flooding caused by Hurricane Tomas in November have taken a huge toll on the nation's population and infrastructure.
Despite billions of dollars in aid pledged to Haiti after the earthquake, recovery efforts have been largely futile, as Haiti has made almost no progress since the earthquake. "The picture is grim," writes Stotzky in "The Truth about Haiti." "Millions are displaced from their homes, and rubble and collapsed buildings dominate the landscape."
Much of the aid that has been pledged to Haiti cannot be effectively dispersed. "At a recent United Nations-led meeting, one international organization reported that it had forty-five vehicles waiting at Haiti's border with the Dominican Republic." The reason for the hold up, writes Stotzky, is that the Haitian government has imposed stringent controls on the clean up process, effectively paralyzing the efforts. "The Haitian government has lapsed into its classic pattern of corruption, inefficiency and delay that holds the country hostage."
Despite all this political uncertainty and the failed efforts thus far at rebuilding the nation, Professor Stotzky remains hopeful about Haiti's future. Should some of the economic and social plans he writes about in "The Truth About Haiti" be implemented, he believes that "they will lead to a movement from 'misery to poverty with dignity' and beyond for the present and future generations of Haitians."
Until then, Stotzky believes the Haitian people will continue to confront the incredible challenges they are facing as they always have: "with courage and hope."