Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

IADL-CETIM Statement on Cholera at Human Rights Council

On June 23, Micòl Savia of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers delivered a statement on cholera before the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). As the HRC is a political organ, NGOs often use it for advocacy but this is the first time a statement on cholera has been delivered there.

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Human Rights Council
26th Session
Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention – General Debate

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the Europe – Third World Centre (CETIM) call the attention of the Human Rights Council to the ongoing cholera epidemic in Haiti and the United Nations’ continuing refusal to accept responsibility for the catastrophic health crisis it caused.

In October 2010, as Haiti was recovering from a devastating earthquake, one of the largest cholera epidemics in modern history broke out in Haiti. To date it has killed over 8,500 people and sickened more than 700,000. The epidemic continues to this very day; UN experts warn that another 2,000 people may die during 2014. Haiti has 0.14% of the world’s population, but now has 55% of the world’s cholera cases.

Prior to October 2010, Haiti had not experienced a cholera outbreak in over two centuries.

Extensive studies, including one conducted by the UN’s own panel of experts, show that the epidemic was caused by the UN’s reckless disposal of untreated human waste from Nepalese soldiers serving in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Through leaking pipes and overflowing disposal pits, the UN poisoned Haiti’s principal river system with cholera-laden bacteria.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on the UN to compensate victims, and the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights in Haiti has urged the UN to provide reparations to victims. Yet the Organization refuses to take responsibility or establish the legally mandated alternative settlement mechanism to hear cholera victims’ claims.

The challenges faced by Haitian cholera victims in their efforts to enforce their rights and obtain remedies highlight a serious gap in the accountability of international organizations, like the UN, for violations of human rights. Improving accountability mechanisms for international organizations is essential to strengthening protections of human rights and ensuring that victims have access to remedies when violations occur.

UN accountability for cholera in Haiti is imperative. The rights to life, health, clean water and sanitation, a healthy environment, and an adequate standard of living of hundreds of thousands of Haitians have been violated by the UN’s wrongful actions. By denying justice to victims, the UN not only fails to comply with its legal obligations, but also jeopardizes its moral credibility and ability to fulfill its mandate, both in Haiti and everywhere else in the world.

We call on the Human Rights Council to urge the UN to take responsibility and

  •  guarantee victims’ fundamental right to an effective remedy, as recognized by all major human rights instruments, by providing access to a fair hearing on their claims;
  •  guarantee victims’ an adequate, effective and prompt reparations for injuries, death and losses arising from the organization’s wrongful actions;
  •  take immediate action to end cholera’s killing by providing clean water and sanitation

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