Friday, July 28, 2006

United Nations and Human Rights Report on Katrina Abuses

GENEVA, TUESDAY, JULY 11, 2006 – The US Human Rights Network (USHRN) on Monday presented a report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee that details violations of an international covenant by the United States in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The U.N. committee is meeting in Geneva this week to review compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the U.S. ratified in 1992. Download ushrn_release_on_iccpr_hearings.doc

The horror of Katrina and Rita only grows. The bureaucratic "barriers" from achieving relief remain nothing short of despicable. FEMA recently began an eviction process that will swell to over 150,000 displaced residents from hotel rooms they were "allowed" to stay-in. It took court interventions to extend the planned stay. 1,800 homes were offered to survivors, but every effort was made to block access to them.

I'm a psychologist and volunteer in disaster mental health relief. In September of 2005, I worked with over 20,000 survivors of Katrina in a town 60-miles north of New Orleans. While there, I drove through Hurricane Rita to reach a colleague in Greenville, Mississippi. He wanted to convert a 225,000 square foot facility into residences for the survivors, and my help in developing a community-based recovery program. However, he's never been able to get a relief contract, although billions of dollars are available.

400,000 American citizens have no homes to return to; mud and oil saturate the remnants of all they once owned. They have no records, tax documents, bank statements, clothes, pictures, appliances, tools, etc. What's more, tens of thousands of survivors have roamed the northeastern area above New Orleans and southeastern region of Mississippi without housing since the disaster struck nearly one year ago. 60,000 thousand trailers sit without occupancy, as no one takes lead, eliminates barriers, and moves people into them. Hurricane season is here. What are hundreds of thousands of completely displaced people supposed to do when their country abandons them?

In 1964, 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was brutally stabbed while 38 New York City residents watched and did nothing to save her. Social psychologists have used this horrible scenario as a metaphor for passive crowd behavior, i.e., the amazing situation where people won't act when something awful is happening to fellow human beings nearby.

American citizens on America's soil are in desperate need, and the response is media/political avoidance and denial. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the man-made levee failures may become American society's version of Kitty Genovese. It is nothing short of bold-faced immorality.

Thousands of Americans volunteered and/or worked in NOLA and the gulf coast. While their voices have called out to America in innumberable blogs and Op-Ed articles, they are all but ignored by politicians, the media, the "stakeholders," the rich, and the government. A small sample of the matrix of available portals are noted here. We should not tolerate Katrina and Rita becoming America's holocaust by proxy.