FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Seeking Justice From the UN for Haiti’s 700,000 Cholera Victims

The announcement by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti was only a slight exaggeration: “Everyone Tells UN to Fulfill Its Legal Obligations to Haiti Cholera Victims.”

The statement referred to those who signed on to amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs asking the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals to allow a class action claim by Haiti cholera victims to go forward. And the list does seem to encompass nearly “everyone” that has an interest in justice and the rule of law, in Haiti and beyond: human rights experts, Haitian-American leaders, constitutional law scholars, and even a line-up of former UN officials.

All are calling for justice for victims of the 2010 epidemic triggered by human waste recklessly discharged from a UN base in rural Haiti. The death toll stands at a shocking 9,000; over 700,000 more have been sickened.

I should note that I am happy to be included as part of “everyone” in this case. On behalf of our law school Health and Human Rights Clinic, I helped draft and signed on to the brief submitted by international law scholars and attorneys.

In another brief, Haitian-Americans pointed out the tragic irony of this case, where the world’s foremost promoter of the rule of law is ducking responsibility like a 1960’s tobacco company. “Haitians are determined to keep fighting to hold the UN to its principles,” says Marleine Bastien of Haitian Women of Miami. “We will stop fighting for justice when the UN cholera stops killing Haitians unjustly.”

Perhaps the support from Haitian-Americans or even advocates like me does not come as a surprise. But in a move that should make UN leadership sit up and take notice, our ranks were joined by six former senior UN officials. They are concerned not only about the Haitian victims, but about the UN’s legitimacy in the face of a denial of justice for those who are so grievously harmed.

“The UN calls the Haiti cholera victims’ fight for justice a threat”, said Stephen Lewis, a former Deputy Director of UNICEF and current Co-Director of AIDS Free World, who signed one of the briefs. “But the real threat to the UN here is its misguided refusal to comply with its own principles.”

These briefs represented the latest in several years’ worth of demands for the UN to be accountable for its actions. Beginning with street-level protests in Haiti shortly after the outbreak, the campaign has included an online petition, multiple award-winning documentary films, editorials in major newspapers, and letters to the U.N. from over 100 members of the U.S. Congress. Yet the U.N. has continued to avoid responsibility, forcing the cholera victims to pursue justice in court.

One of their lawyers, Beatrice Lindstrom of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, said the latest collection of arguments boils down to a fundamental truth. “No person is so disempowered as to fall below the law’s protections; no organization is so prestigious as to rise above the law’s obligations.”

It is a message that “everyone” should embrace, including the courts and the leadership of the United Nations.

More articles by:

Fran Quigley is a professor at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, where he directs the Health and Human Rights Clinic. He is the author of How Human Rights Can Build Haiti (Vanderbilt University Press).

January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
Paul Cochrane
Europe’s Strategic Humanitarian Aid: Yemen vs. Syria
Tom Clifford
China: An Ancient Country, Getting Older
Greg Grandin
How Not to Build a “Great, Great Wall”
Ted Rall
Our Pointless, Very American Culture of Shame
John G. Russell
Just Another Brick in the Wall of Lies
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers Strike: Black Smoke Pouring Out of LAUSD Headquarters
Patrick Walker
Referendum 2020: A Green New Deal vs. Racist, Classist Climate Genocide
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Uniting for a Green New Deal
Matt Johnson
The Wall Already Exists — In Our Hearts and Minds
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Flailing will get More Desperate and More Dangerous
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Three
January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail