Human rights groups welcome UN initiative on Haiti cholera, call for immediate action to provide justice to victims
December 12, 2012, Port-au-Prince, Boston — The Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) welcome the Secretary-General’s Initiative to eliminate cholera from Haiti launched at the United Nations (UN) yesterday as an important first step toward justice for victims of the ongoing epidemic. The Initiative supports a joint plan to be announced next month aimed at eliminating cholera on the island of Hispaniola over a ten-year period through healthcare, public education and clean water and sanitation infrastructure.
The plan to eliminate cholera reflects one of the key remedies sought in claims filed against the UN by the organizations on behalf of 5,000 victims of cholera in Haiti in November 2011. Extensive evidence has established that the outbreak was caused by poor UN sanitation practices that allowed untreated human waste from soldiers deployed from a cholera-endemic country to leak into Haiti’s central river system.
“As our complaint explained, the UN has an obligation to control the cholera outbreak caused by its malfeasance. We are pleased that the UN is finally taking steps consistent with its legal obligations, but more resources are needed and there needs to be more urgency. In the two years it took to launch this initiative—which partially funds a plan to be announced later—over 7700 Haitians have died. Haitians will continue to die from UN cholera until clean water and sanitation is actually installed,” said Mario Joseph, lead counsel for the petitioners and Managing Attorney of the BAI.
According to Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, bilateral and multilateral donors have made available $215 million in existing funds to support the elimination efforts and the UN is committing $23.5 million in support, which is 10.8% of the total needed. The Haitian government is expected to announce the details of the full plan in January 2013.
“We welcome the Secretary-General’s Initiative as a positive step towards preventing future cholera deaths,” said Brian Concannon, Director of IJDH and co-counsel for the petitioners. “But a just response requires allowing past victims of the UN cholera and their survivors their day in court, to seek justice for their loss of loved ones, income, property and educational opportunities.”
In the past week, over 6,600 people from around the world have signed a petition sponsored by Filmmaker Oliver Stone and the organization Just Foreign Policy that stresses the organization's refusal to accept responsibility and calls on the Secretary-General to act quickly.
"Continued UN denial and silence on the issue of responsibility only harms the organization's long-term moral credibility. Everyone is waiting on the UN to do the right thing and accept responsibility for the epidemic," said Beatrice Lindstrom, Staff Attorney at IJDH.
Press release available online: http://ijdh.org/archives/30090.