Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Stand up for Justice for Haitian Cholera Victims

Alok Pokharel, Boston Haitian Reporter
Mar 14, 2013

On March 23, 2013, the Boston Haiti community will have an opportunity to join and amplify the fight for justice for Haiti’s cholera victims by participating in an event organized by the Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) from 5-7 p.m. at Mildred Avenue Middle School, 5 Mildred Avenue in Mattapan.

The event will screen the award-winning film ‘Baseball in the Time of Cholera,’ followed by a panel discussion moderated by Charlot Lucien, a Haitian journalist, professor and artist. The panel will feature a diverse range of community leaders: Marie St. Fleur, Esq., Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s Chief of Advocacy and Strategic Investments; State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry; Jean Ford Figaro, M.D., Health Education Coordinator at Boston Medical Center; and Brian Concannon, Jr. Esq., Director of IJDH.

‘Baseball in the Time of Cholera’ portrays the personal impact of cholera on a young boy’s life and Haitians’ struggle for justice at the United Nations (UN). The UN-introduced cholera has gravely harmed life of many Haitians, already killing more than 8,000 and sickening over 646,000 — more than 6 percent of the nation’s population. The event brings Haitian stakeholders and community members together with a platform to discuss the ongoing cholera epidemic and the route to justice for the cholera victims, who have been left unheeded and denied access to justice.

The need to stand up and join the growing mobilization for cholera victims is particularly urgent as the victims’ right to justice was recently shattered when the UN tersely dismissed claims for reparations. In November 2011, IJDH and its Haitian affiliate, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) filed claims on behalf of 5,000 Haitian cholera victims seeking life-saving water and sanitation to avert the ongoing cholera crisis, compensation for victims, and a public apology from the UN.

After 15 months of delay with an additional 3000 deaths and illness to hundred thousands, the UN simply replied that the claims are “not receivable” because they require a review of UN policy and political matters. Overwhelming evidence and extensive studies have supported that cholera outbreak is directly attributable to the UN’s negligent to adequately screen troops for cholera prior to their deployment to Haiti and to it’s recklessness dumping human feces into central river.

Section 29 of the UN’s privileges and immunities convention, cited by the UN in its dismissal, compels it to settle claims of the cholera victims. The UN’s agreement with the government of the Haiti also furthers this obligation to hear victim’s claims for injury, illness or death from cholera. By dismissing these claims, the UN is completely denying justice to those who have suffered at its hands. The UN has compensated victims for its wrongdoing in Kosovo and in Congo in the past. The UN’s charter, binding law to the UN, mandates the UN to respect equal rights of all; but the UN’s current decision implies its double standard.

Providing justice for some while evading responsibility in Haiti is not justifiable on legal or moral grounds. Not only is the UN is rejecting the victims’ voice, but it is also ignoring voices around the world that have stood in solidarity with Haitians. Over 28,000 individuals representing different nations have signed a petition to the UN “…to help Haitians stamp out killer cholera for good’. Former President of the United States and the UN’s Special Envoy for Haiti, Bill Clinton, publicly acknowledged the UN’s role in causing cholera.

In July, 2012, 104 U.S. Congress members, including Representatives Stephen Lynch, Michael E. Capuano and Ed Markey from Massachusetts, urged the UN to “take immediate action” on cholera, stating that “A failure to act will not only lead to countless more deaths: it will undermine the crucial effort to reconstruct Haiti…” As they expressed, the UN’s failure to act has jeopardized its entire mission in Haiti and cholera is still killing Haitians year-by-year.

Cholera remains as a threat to the life of most Haitians and a key challenge to the government of Haiti. Victims need immediate attention from the government of Haiti and the international community, including Haitian community in the U.S., to speak out against the UN’s injustice. Standing up against the UN has emerged to be an outmost necessity to guarantee victims justice and to protect Haitian from future death and sickness. It is only possible if every stakeholder decides to join the fight against the UN. We urge every Haitian in Boston and stakeholders to create momentum in pushing the UN to accept its liabilities and the film event on March 23 promises to be an entry.

Alok Pokharel is legal fellow at Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), an organization based on Dorchester Avenue in South Boston.

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