Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Cholera Plaintiffs and US Attorney Debate UN Immunity

This article provides a great description of the October 2014 hearing on the question of UN immunity in the case of Georges et al. vs. United Nations et al. Staff Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom, arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs, contended that the UN cannot enjoy immunity when it has violated its obligations to provide alternate remedies to the victims. The US attorney, Ellen Blain, argued that the UN enjoys immunity regardless of any violations.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text and video.

US Court Hears Pleas for Justice over UN Role in Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic

Makini Brice, PanAm Post
October 24, 2014


Haitian cholera victims finally had their day in court on Thursday: a hearing at the US District Court in the Southern District of New York on a gray, rainy New York morning. About 50 official observers and other interested parties watched, as lawyers for theInstitute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the US Attorney’s Office, and other attorneys debated over whether the case would continue.

It centers on a cholera epidemic that seized Haiti in the aftermath of its staggering 2010 earthquake. Over the past four years, the epidemic has sickened about 700,000 and killed 8,500, in a country that had not had a cholera case in about 150 years.

A number of scientific studies have pointed to a UN peacekeepers’ camp about 35 miles from Port-au-Prince as the source of the outbreak. Further, they have stated that a sewage pipe from the facility leaked into a river used for drinking water in the community.

Beatrice Lindstrom argued on behalf of IJDH, while Jennifer Ellen Blain argued on the side of the United States, though Blain made sure to state that the United States was not a party inGeorges et al. vs. United Nations et al. Both spoke for 15 minutes, while friends of the court each spoke for 10 minutes. That included Kertch Conze from the Haitian Women of Miami and the Haitian Lawyers Association; Muneer Ahmad, a Yale Law School professor and supervisor for the Yale project behind a report on the epidemic last year; and Monica Iyer, a human-rights attorney.

The court adjourned with the judge announcing he would make his decision later.

The United Nations has refused legal responsibility for the cholera outbreak. Lindstrom said that, by November 2012, 5,000 families had filed claims with the institution, and for 15 months, their claims went unanswered. In July 2013, the United Nations said the claims were “not receivable.”

Pressure on the international organization has not subsided, however. Two other groups have also filed lawsuits against the United Nations.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti this summer and did say that the United Nations has a “moral responsibility” for the country. The United Nations has also called for a US$2.2 billion fund for cholera eradication, but most of it has gone unfunded. Since 2010, cholera incidences have declined by 75 percent throughout the country.


Click HERE for the full text and video.

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