This article gives a detailed overview of UN immunity in the case of the cholera epidemic in Haiti. It tracks the UN response to claims against it since they were first filed in 2011, all the way to the October 23, 2014 hearing on the question of UN immunity. There are many opinions mentioned on the effects of waiving UN immunity but regardless of those views, this hearing presents an opportunity for Haiti’s cholera victims to finally have justice.
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Haiti cholera victims get a hearing in U.S. court
Olivia Crellin, Al Jazeera America
October 22, 2014
Delama Georges lives one stop from the end of the No. 2 train line in Brooklyn, right next to Holy Cross Cemetery. His proximity to so much death did not bother him until Nov. 9, 2011, when he learned that both his parents had contracted cholera during a visit with his sister in Haiti. While Georges’ mother lay in a coma, brought on by violent vomiting and diarrhea, his father died, joining more than 8,500 Haitians who died in the epidemic, which began four years ago this month.
The tragedy took on a new dimension after a coalition of U.S. and Haitian lawyers from the Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti filed a class-action lawsuit against the United Nations for the alleged role of Nepalese peacekeepers in contaminating the country’s waterways.
This week, Delama Georges, one of five Haitian and Haitian-American plaintiffs named in the case, may be one step closer to being granted his day in court. IJDH lawyers will get their chance on Thursday to argue that the lawsuit should go forward. Since the suit was filed in a federal court in New York a year ago, the United Nations has declined to acknowledge it, on the grounds that the organization enjoys diplomatic immunity.
During a visit to Haiti in July, Ban said the U.N. has a “moral responsibility” to help Haiti eliminate cholera. But the U.N.’s only response to the litigation so far came in March, when the United States filed a response, stating that the body “enjoys absolute immunity.” No U.N. officials are expected to attend Thursday’s hearing.
Whatever the results of that hearing — which could take weeks, or months, to be determined — an appeal is likely. Said Lindstrom, “We’ve always understood the lawsuit to be a tool to keep public attention and pressure on the U.N. to change course and do the right thing.”
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