This document compiles statements from 10 US-based and 6 Haitian organizations commemorating the four-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. HAWG is the Haiti Advocacy Working Group, a group of international development, faith-based, human rights and social justice organizations advocating on issues related to US-Haiti policy.
IJDH’s statement is below. Click HERE for the full document.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Beatrice Lindstrom, Esq., Staff Attorney, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), email@example.com, +1 404-217-1302.
Nicole Phillips, Esq., Staff Attorney, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Nicole@ijdh.org, +509 4730-3359.
Advocates for Cholera Victims Urge UN to Take Responsibility for Outbreak, U.S. Government to Promote Accountability
(PORT-AU-PRINCE, January 6, 2014) – As Haiti prepares to mark the fourth anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck in January 2010, attorneys at the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and its sister organization in Boston, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), are mindful of another tragic anniversary. Nine months after the earthquake, cholera broke out in Mirebalais when raw sewage was discharged from a UN peacekeeping base into a tributary of the Artibonite River. The outbreak has now killed 8,500 people and infected another 700,000. At least one person in Haiti dies of cholera every day. The UN estimated that it will cost $2.2 billion to eliminate cholera from the island of Hispaniola. To date, only 10% of the necessary funding has been secured.
In October 2013, after repeated attempts to seek redress from the UN, cholera victims filed a class action suit against the UN in federal court in New York. The victims have been seeking 1) water and sanitation infrastructure to eliminate cholera; 2) just compensation; and 3) a public admission of responsibility, as required by the UN’s international law and treaty obligations.
As the lawsuit proceeds, momentum for a just outcome is building. Speaking at the Martin Ennals Awards Ceremony in Geneva last October, where lead attorney Mario Joseph of the BAI was being honored, Navanethem Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she “stand[s] by the call that…those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation.” Members of the U.S. Congress have repeatedly spoken up in favor of a just response. Most recently, sixty-five members signed a letter from Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) urging Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, to assure that the U.S. Mission to the UN “intensif[ies] efforts to find a just solution” to the outbreak in light of the UN’s “moral and legal obligation to redress the harm resulting from the actions of its peacekeeping operations.”
In September 2013, Haiti’s Prime Minister announced that his government believes the UN has “a moral responsibility” for the cholera epidemic. Civil society organizations throughout Haiti have expressed their outrage at the UN’s refusal to respond justly to its responsibility for cholera and are exerting increasing pressure on their government to take stronger action. In the United States, members of the Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG) have played a leading role in advocating for a more just UN response. They have been joined by scores of organizations and thousands of individuals from the Haitian-American, medical solidarity, and human rights communities.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a major donor of aid to Haiti, the United States must be a strong voice for justice. The BAI and IJDH call on the U.S. Government to demonstrate its leadership by urging the UN to provide a just response to victims. The UN has deprived cholera victims of access to any remedy and supporting the principle of immunity would require ignoring the equally important principle of access to a remedy. If the United States decides to take a position in the pending litigation, it must thus affirm the UN’s obligation to provide a mechanism for justice for people injured during its operations.
Click HERE for the full document.