On October 23, 2014, Judge J. Paul Oetken heard oral arguments on the question of UN immunity and whether service of process was effective in the ongoing case against the UN on behalf of Haiti cholera victims.. The following article summarizes the oral arguments made by IJDH Staff Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen Blain, and one of the three amici who argued in support of Plaintiffs, Kertch Conze. Conze, representing the Haitian Women of Miami and the Haitian Lawyers Association, gave a passionate argument on behalf of the Haitian community, explaining that the UN could not assert immunity after breaching its legal obligations to provide victims access to a remedy.
Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.
Court Asked to Intervene in Haiti Cholera Suit
Adam Klasfeld, Courthouse News Service
October 23, 2014
MANHATTAN (CN) – Blaming the United Nations for the “worst cholera epidemic in modern times,” a lawyer for the Haitian victims told a federal judge Thursday that diplomatic immunity has prevented her clients from delivering a lawsuit some 4 miles uptown to the organization’s headquarters overlooking the East River.
While Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the UN’s “moral responsibility” earlier this year for the outbreak that killed 8,000 and infected 700,000 Haitians, he has insisted that the institution should not face legal liability.
The United Nations has dodged a class action lawsuit from the victims for more than a year.
Lawyers for Delama Georges, whose father died during the outbreak, and other Haitians have been unable to serve the federal complaint because UN premises is considered “inviolable.” They asked a federal judge to acknowledge service, or allow for the unprecedented step of mailing, faxing, or emailing their lawsuit to the United Nations.
Hoping to avoid a diplomatic headache, the United States dispatched attorneys from the Justice Department and State Department to prevent that fate.
This first hearing in the high-profile case Thursday drew dozens of spectators to the grand courtroom of New York’s Thurgood Marshall Courthouse, but arguments largely focused on arcane details of international law.
Beatrice Lindstrom, representing the plaintiffs for the Institute of Justice & Democracy in Haiti, said the fundamental facts of the case are “not disputed.”
Kertch Conze, of the Haitian Lawyers Association, became particularly passionate and indignant as he emphasized the thousands of innocent victims claimed by the UN’s alleged negligence.
“These people who have been infected, they did nothing wrong,” he said.
Conze echoed the plaintiffs’ arguments that the UN’s alleged violation of one section of the treaty waived whatever immunity the other portion provided.
“If you breach the contract and you come to court and tell the judge, ‘I have immunity,’ then you come to court with unclean hands,” Conze said.
Such a position also would be “patently unfair,” he added.
Click HERE for the full text.