By Peter James Spielmann, Associated Press
May 10, 2013
UNITED NATIONS – A Boston-based human rights group said Wednesday it will sue the United Nations in 60 days if the world body does not agree to compensate Haitian cholera victims, apologize for introducing the disease through its peacekeeping force and launch a major effort to improve sanitation.
Lawyers for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti said they hoped to be able to settle with the United Nations but are ready to go to court in New York if that fails.
The announcement was the group’s response to a U.N. letter in February saying it is legally immune and was not responsible for the cholera outbreak, which has sickened nearly 500,000 people and killed more than 7,750 since October 2010.
The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti cites independent studies suggesting that the disease was inadvertently brought to Haiti by a U.N. battalion from Nepal. A local contractor failed to properly sanitize the waste of a U.N. base, and the bacteria leaked into a tributary of one of Haiti’s biggest rivers.
Haiti’s cholera epidemic followed a Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that killed 316,000 people and displaced more a million.
Brian Concannon, the institute’s director, said that if there is no settlement, the institute will take the U.N. to court in 60 days. The institute will probably sue in New York state court initially.
The institute is seeking a minimum of $100,000 for each bereaved family and $50,000 for each cholera survivor. It has at least 8,000 people ready to join the lawsuit, Concannon said.
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