Human Rights and the Aftermath of Disaster
We extend our heartfelt sympathies to those who lost family members and who otherwise suffered the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. All of us must take action to help in any way we can through the many disaster relief and non-governmental organizations and individuals working to sustain and support the survivors.
Disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Rita as well, raise important human rights issues and governmental responsibilities. Professor Hope Lewis and her colleague, Professor Jeanne Woods of Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans, prepared a statement for hearings of the UN Special Rapporteur, on extreme poverty, Dr. Arjun Sengupta, on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
In addition, we encourage those interested in this issue to explore the following resources and responses:
- Race, Class, and Katrina: Selected Northeastern University School of Law Resources on Katrina in Human Rights Perspective
- The US Human Rights Network Summary of Guidelines on Internal Displacement discusses the rights of "internally displaced persons" (IDPs, not "refugees") under international law.
- The US Human Rights Network, a coalition of human rights NGOs working to bring human rights home, has issued a statement condemning failures to address the basic needs of those affected by the Gulf Coast disaster as matters of human rights as well as humanitarian concern.
- Physicians for Human Rights has issued a statement: Social, Economic and Racial Inequities Exposed.
- The American Society of Internional Law devotes its Sept. 21 online issue of Insight to the displaced persons v. refugees discussion.
- The National Economic & Social Rights Initiative calls for holding the US accountable for the rights of the "internally displaced."
- Human Rights Watch brought to light yet another disaster as a result of Hurricane Katrina. HRW reproved prison officials for abandoning inmates. As one prisoner recounted, "They [prison officials] left us to die there." Even post-evacuation of the prisons, inmates claimed that they suffered abusive treatment at the hands of prison officials and have alleged widespread abuse that HRW believes warrants a federal investigation.
- Tsunami Response Human Rights Assessment. No natural disaster in living memory has wreaked such havoc across such a large area and affected so many people as the December 2004 tsunami. The immediate response by governments and charities was to provide emergency relief, housing and healthcare. Just over a year on, what successes have these agencies had, and crucially have they provided relief and rehabilitation in a fair and even-handed way? A major report by ActionAid, PDHRE and HIC-HLRN shows how tsunami survivors have been denied food, clean water and a secure home due to their gender, social caste or ethnicity. Research covering communities in Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and the Maldives reveals a culture of failure to protect and support some of the most needy, some of the poorest and people already on the margins of society. The report also gives examples of how tsunami-affected people have come together to demand accountability of governments and NGOs, and makes practical recommendations for all those involved in disaster response.
- NESRI Statement: FEMA Hotel Evictions Violate Human Rights
- The law school also awarded the 2006 Spirit of Valerie Gordon Award to Kaleema Nur '08 for her essay, "Reconceptualizing Katrina as a Human Rights Issue."