And what about Haiti?
If the United Nations brings a deadly disease to a country should it be held accountable? Should someone?
This Thursday a court proceeding will get underway with that question at its heart. Courts are nice and we hope this one shows some actual justice and dispenses it as well, but...
As Haiti Libre points out:
After the rejection in February 2013 by the United Nations, of a first complaint against the UN in 2011, which accused the peacekeepers of being responsible for the cholera outbreak in Haiti in 2010 and demanded compensation for victim the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), on behalf of plaintiffs Haitian and Haitian-American, who contracted cholera, as well as families of deceased, filed Wednesday, October 9, 2013 in federal court in Manhattan a new complaint against the UN in an attempt to lift the diplomatic immunity that the United Nations has since 1946 [under section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and immunities of the United Nations]. This complaint relates directly to the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for careless and dangerous behavior.
That's what they'll be talking about in a New York courtroom later this week.
Maybe you remember, its only been four years, that while cholera hadn't been heard of in Haiti in 110 years, suddenly in October of 2010, that all changed. Twelve months later, cholera had sickened more than 450,000 Haitians, nearly 5 percent of the population. More than 6,000 were dead. Today the numbers are higher: more than 8,500 people have died and over 700,000 have been infected.
The pathogen spread into Dominican Republic, Cuba, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. The world has failed to tame this epidemic. It continues to plague Haiti to this day, some 300 people are diagnosed with the disease each week, one of which, on average, will die.
Foreign Affairs, yes that Foreign Affairs, admits:
The right to health comes with a cover charge, and much of the world -- especially those in struggling states such as Haiti, Liberia, and Sierra Leone -- can’t pay it. In Haiti, cholera found its ideal host. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti lacks any system of modern water treatment. In the fall of 2010, United Nations peacekeeping troops from Nepal imported cholera to Haiti. They were stationed at a military base in rural Haiti, where their sewage was dumped, untreated, into Haiti’s waterways. As Paul S. Keim, a geneticist who studied the Haitian and Nepalese cholera strains, told The New York Times, in 2012, “It was like throwing a lighted match into a gasoline-filled room.”
Multiple studies, including one from Yale University, affirm that the epidemic spread from peacekeepers in a UN camp about 35 miles from Port-au-Prince. UN officials, however, have refused to accept responsibility.
The UN argues that it has immunity from prosecution in this case. In March this year, the US Justice Department sided with the UN, granting it immunity and recommending that the case be dropped.
One of those facing scrutiny in the coming court case is Edmond Mulet, who led the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) at the time of the outbreak. Mulet has stringently disregarded the claims against him. In an interview with FRANCE 24, he dismissed all evidence incriminating the UN. He claimed that it has not been proven that the cholera was brought in by Nepalese peacekeepers. He than asked France 24 not to air the interview.
UN Secretary general, Ban-Ki Moon has asserted the organization’s immunity – and Haiti’s lack of sovereignty – by coldly asserting that the charges against it were, in legal parlance, “non-receivable” – and hence, inactionable. In essence, the assertion of non-receivable becomes a curt denial of Haitian humanity. Lately, he simply refuses to comment.
France 24 points out however,
Not everybody at the UN got the silence memo. Gustavo Gallon, a senior human rights expert who was appointed by the UN to report on the situation in Haiti, publicly disagreed with the body over its refusal to address the claims against it. “Silence is the worst of responses to a catastrophe caused by human action,” he said in March.
One of the lawyers representing Haitian victims is Mario Joseph, who is handling some 5,000 cases says the UN has worked overtime to cover its culpability. He adds,
The UN, not intentionally but with the greatest level of negligence, gross reckless negligence, inflicted a disease on the people of Haiti when they were already suffering so much.
Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) , who is also representing cholera victims in their case against the UN says:
The UN has a binding international law obligation to install the water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to control the cholera epidemic, as well as compensate those injured. MINUSTAH (the United Nations force that has militarily occupied the republic since 2004) has spent far more than $2 billion since cholera broke out on other things. It is a question of priorities.