Cholera Justice Project
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jean Ford Figaro, Cholera Justice Project; firstname.lastname@example.org; +1-508-250-7926 (English, French, Kreyol, Spanish)
Haitian-American Elected Officials Urge U.S. to Protect Cholera Victims’ Rights
Haitian diaspora groups join letter to Secretary of State on cholera justice
(BOSTON, March 4, 2014)—Members of the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON) are appealing to Secretary of State John Kerry to do everything in his power to ensure that victims of Haiti’s ongoing cholera epidemic have their day in court and can access justice. Twenty-six Haitian diaspora groups have also signed on to the letter, which was transmitted to the State Department today.
The appeal comes as the State Department deliberates whether to support the United Nations (UN) in a federal lawsuit seeking accountability for the organization’s reckless introduction of cholera to Haiti in 2010. The UN continues to deny responsibility despite overwhelming scientific evidence that it caused the epidemic, and has persistently disregarded repeated calls for justice from prominent UN human rights representatives, members of the U.S. Congress, and the media. Prior to the filing of the lawsuit in October 2013, the UN rejected victims’ efforts to seek justice through the organization’s internal claims process.
“We are concerned that the UN will now try to prevent the victims from having their day in a U.S. court by asking your Department to intervene in favor of its impunity,” the letter reads.
“The diaspora is rising up and calling on our government to stand with the victims of cholera. The government has a choice between supporting justice for its own people and the people of Haiti, and supporting bad policy and impunity,” said Jean Ford Figaro, a medical doctor and activist with the Cholera Justice Project, the diaspora group that organized the sign-on initiative.
The State Department has until March 7 to decide how to proceed in the case.
Meanwhile, cholera continues to present a public health emergency; it has killed over 8,500 people in Haiti, and has spread to the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico. The UN warns that another 2000 people could die in 2014. “We in the diaspora have lost family and friends to cholera, and we live in fear of losing more of our people,” the groups stressed in the letter.
The officials and groups wrote to Secretary Kerry: “We urge you, and your Department, to stand up for justice and international law by refusing to intervene [in the lawsuit], and letting the cholera victims take their case to court…. This insistence on impunity sets a dangerous example in Haiti, and profoundly undermines the organization’s credibility and ability to carry out any of its missions.”