Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Cholera: From the Origin to Legal Developments

This article details both the theory that cholera in Haiti was triggered by environmental factors, as well as the evidence showing that United Nations peacekeepers triggered the epidemic through negligent sanitary practices. The author then describes the actions BAI and IJDH took to seek justice for cholera victims, from the 2011 petition demanding UN accountability through the 2013 complaint filed in the Southern District of New York. He also outlines some of the legal arguments against the UN’s response, as well as outside reactions to the case (including former UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay’s).

The introductory paragraph is below. Click HERE for a pdf of the full article.

Cholera in Haiti: A Perfect Storm of Scientific and Legal Uncertainty

Guy R. Knudsen, Natural Resources & Environment
Summer 2014

To date, the Haitian cholera epidemic that broke out
in 2010 has killed more than 8,500 people, and sickened
another 600,000. Although United Nations
(UN) peacekeeping forces have been widely blamed
for introducing the bacterial pathogen into Haiti, the UN
continues to deny responsibility and rejects demands for victim
compensation. Recently, two human rights groups filed a
class action lawsuit against the UN in federal court, seeking
compensation for cholera victims. The suit, which ventures
into largely uncharted waters of international law, takes place
against a backdrop of intense and sometimes rancorous scientific
debate about the human and environmental determinants
of the epidemic. The UN is relying on a two-pronged defensive
strategy: first, a defense based on immunity derived from
its traditional diplomatic privileges and immunities, which
dates back to the organization’s founding in 1946. Second, a
defense based on a lack of proximate cause, which is bolstered
by several prominent scientists’ theory that the pathogen
may have been endemic to Haiti and only was unleashed by
the combined effects of climate change, a devastating earthquake,
and unusually violent weather episodes. In this article,
I will discuss this evolving dimension of international law,
particularly as it is intertwined with ongoing scientific and
environmental controversy.

Click HERE for the full article.

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