Brian Concannon, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, explains why the UN says it is legally immune to such claims.
The United Nations has formally rejected compensation claims by victims of a cholera outbreak in Haiti that has killed almost 8,000 people.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Haitian President Michel Martelly to inform him of the decision.
The UN says it is immune from such claims under the UN’s Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN.
Evidence suggests cholera was introduced to Haiti through a UN base’s leaking sewage pipes.
UN spokesman, Martin Nesirky: “The claims are not receivable”
The UN has never acknowledged responsibility for the outbreak – which has infected more than 600,000 people – saying it is impossible to pinpoint the exact source of the disease, despite the mounting evidence the epidemic was caused by poor sanitation at a camp housing infected Nepalese peacekeepers.
In a terse statement, Mr Ban’s spokesman said damages claims for millions of dollars filed by lawyers for cholera victims was “not receivable” under the 1947 convention that grants the UN immunity for its actions.
But a lawyer for the cholera victims told the BBC’s Barbara Plett at the UN that UN immunity could not mean impunity, and said the case would now be pursued in a national court.
The lawyer, Brian Concannon, said the victims’ legal team would challenge the UN’s right to immunity from Haitian courts, on the grounds that it had not established an alternative mechanism for dealing with accountability issues, as stipulated in its agreement with the government.
Lawyer Ira Kurzban: ”The secretary-general has to be held accountable”
He also said lifting immunity would not challenge UN policy, which is protected by the convention, but its practice, such as how to test troops for disease and properly dispose of sewage.
In December the UN launched a $2bn (£1.3bn) appeal to fight the cholera epidemic, which is currently the worst outbreak in the world, and Mr Ban reiterated to Mr Martelly the UN’s commitment to the elimination of cholera in Haiti.
Cholera is a disease of poverty, analysts say. It is spread through infected faeces and, once it enters the water supply, it is difficult to stop – especially in a country like Haiti which has almost no effective sewage disposal systems.
This was predictable.
Sadly, the UN could have done the honorable thing and admitted that it was at fault by sending Nepalese troops from and area where a break-out of cholera was current. In other words, it was completely and totally irresponsible for the UN to accept troops from an area where a dangerous disease was present, without screening the troops involved.
The UN guilt was then multiplied when the Nepalese troops, in Haiti, dumped their raw shit into the river system… and event, followed 5 days later, by a murderous outbreak of cholera.
An then the UN compounded the situation, in their denial of the truth. The UN insisted that cases of cholera be reported as “severe diarrhea” to avoid bad publicity. This criminal action allowed the further spread of cholera without proper care.
And another level of guilt can be seen in the death totals, reported. Somehow the total has become stuck at 7,000 when many more have died as a result of cholera, not “severe diarrhea.” Google the percentages of death expected from an infection under good conditions… not those found in Haiti. We have probably lost 20,000 or more, many more.
With this state of denial, the UN remains an enemy of the Haitian people. And, to complete the insult, the UN offers a few millions towards a $1,000,000,000 problem. A situation resembling someone who walks into you home, with a can of gasoline….spreads it arounds, tosses a match into the liquid and then offers $20.00 to cover the damages.
MINUSTAH has been an unwelcome guest in Haiti, molesting young children, trafficking in cocaine, taking bribes for contracts, raping young boys and girls…interfering in politics.
Remember Johny Jean, the boy from Port Salut who was raped by 5 Uruguayan sailors. This crime was only discovered when a video showed up. The UN had already “investigated” and found there was no crime. With the video, there was public outrage and the Uruguayan president sent the head of his army to negotiate with a team of American attornies.
The Uruguayan president sent a letter of apology to Martelly and promised to do something for Johny Jean.
And what happened?
The Uruguayan courts found nothings and Johny Jean was abandoned.
The UN’s word is worth nothing.
The president of Uruguay’s word is worth nothing.
And now we have Nigel Fisher, MINUSTAH’s chef, making stupid remarks that damage Haiti’s efforts to survive. If we expect to attain Fisher’s level of efficiency/security before we are “Open for Business” we will never be open. Things are as good as we can expect.
It is time for the Government of Haiti to stand up and demand a new set of rules. The UN and their representative body, MINUSTAH, have become a dictatorial power in their won right.
It is time to change the game.