Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Cholera Complaint Against the UN

IJDH represents plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed against the UN on October 9, 2013.  The Introduction of the legal Complaint is below.  Click HERE for the full version.

1. This class action arises out of an epidemic of cholera that broke out in
Haiti in October 2010. At the time of this filing, the epidemic has killed at least 8,300
people and sickened at least 679,000 others in Haiti, and has resulted in additional
cholera cases in at least the United States, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba.

2. The outbreak resulted from the negligent, reckless, and tortious conduct of
the Defendants: the United Nations (“UN”); its subsidiary, the United Nations
Stabilization Mission in Haiti (“MINUSTAH”); and at least two of their officers.

3. Prior to Defendants’ introduction of the cholera bacterium to Haiti in
October 2010, Haiti had no reported cases of cholera.

4. Defendants have long known that Haiti’s weak water and sanitation
infrastructure created a heightened vulnerability to waterborne disease but failed to
exercise due care to prevent the devastating outbreak of such disease.

5. In or around October 2010, Defendants knowingly disregarded the high
risk of transmitting cholera to Haiti when, in the ordinary course of business, they
deployed personnel from Nepal to Haiti, knowing that Nepal was a country in which
cholera is endemic and where a surge in infections had just been reported. Defendants
failed to exercise reasonable care to test or screen the personnel prior to deployment,
allowing them to carry into Haiti a strain of cholera that a UN-appointed panel of experts
and other independent scientific experts have since determined is the source of Haiti’s
present cholera epidemic.

6. Defendants stationed their personnel on a base on the banks of the Meille
Tributary, which flows into the Artibonite River, Haiti’s longest river and primary watersource for tens of thousands. There, Defendants discharged raw sewage from poor pipe connections, haphazard piping, and releases of water contaminated with human waste.
They also regularly disposed of untreated human waste in unprotected, open-air pits
outside the base where it flowed into the Meille Tributary. Defendants’ sanitation
facilities and disposal pits overflowed in heavy rain, emitted noxious odors, and exposed
the local community to raw sewage.

7. Defendants knew or should have known that their release of raw sewage
into Haiti’s primary water source created a high risk of contamination, but they did not
take any steps prior to the outbreak to mitigate the dangers or to prevent highly
foreseeable harm to the local population, environment and any visitors to the area.

8. In or around October 2010, human waste from the base seeped into and
contaminated the Meille Tributary with cholera. From the Meille Tributary, the
contaminated waters flowed into the Artibonite River, resulting in explosive and massive
outbreaks of cholera along the river and eventually throughout the entire country.

9. Defendants recklessly failed to take remedial steps necessary to contain
the outbreak of cholera, willfully delayed investigation into the outbreak, and obscured
discovery of the outbreak’s source. As a result of Defendants’ tortious acts and
omissions, cholera continues to present an ongoing grave threat to water quality, public
health and safety in Haiti, resulting in additional injuries and deaths.

10. The Named Plaintiffs and the members of the proposed Class they seek to
represent have been proximately harmed through Defendants’ acts and omissions. These
plaintiffs, who are residents in Haiti and the United States, have been or will be sickened,
or have family members who have died or will die, as a direct result of the cholera
introduced to Haiti by Defendants.

11. Defendants UN and MINUSTAH have well-established legal obligations
to provide redress to victims of harm caused by acts or omissions attributable to the
Defendants, which includes the members of the proposed Class. The Convention on the
Privileges and Immunities of the UN of 1946 (“CPIUN”) expressly requires Defendant
UN to provide appropriate modes of settlement for third-party private law claims. The
Status of Forces Agreement (“SOFA”) signed between Defendant UN and the
Government of Haiti expressly requires the UN to establish a standing claims
commission to address claims for harm.

12. In November 2011, pursuant to and relying on the obligations mandated
by the CPIUN and SOFA, members of the proposed Class filed claims with Defendants
UN and Ban, formally requesting that the UN comply with their obligations by
establishing a standing claims commission and/or providing settlement for the victims’
injuries. In February 2013, the UN refused to receive those claims and, to date, has failed
to establish any such commission or otherwise provide members of the proposed Class
with any form of redress.

13. For the foregoing reasons, under the common law of torts, Plaintiffs are
entitled to compensation and other remedies as requested herein.

Click HERE for the full version.

Contact IJDH

Institute for Justice & Democracy In Haiti
15 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116

Telephone: (617) 652-0876
General Inquiries: info@ijdh.org
Media Inquiries: media@ijdh.org