France24 describes the scene outside the Manhattan Federal Courthouse on Thursday, October 23, 2014, when Haitians and Haitian-Americans gathered in driving rain to continue discussing the ongoing case against the United Nations. Oral arguments had just taken place on the issue of UN immunity between the Plaintiffs and the US Government, which has intervened in the case and argued for dismissal on immunity grounds. Judge J. Paul Oetken has deferred a decision on whether that immunity will be granted in this case, where the UN has refused to provide cholera victims any access to a remedy despite their many attempts to engage the organization. Mario Joseph, a lead attorney for Plaintiffs, pointed out the UN’s double standards in addressing this crisis, noting how different things would have been had the outbreak occurred in the US.
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US judge wavers on UN immunity in Haiti cholera case
Jessica Le Masurier, France24
October 23, 2014
A US judge on Thursday deferred a decision on whether the United Nations can be sued by thousands of Haitian families over a deadly cholera outbreak that is widely believed to have been caused by negligence at the hands of the world body.
Dozens of Haitians braved driving rain outside the Manhattan courtroom to call for the UN to be stripped of its immunity so that thousands of plaintiffs who lost family members to the devastating cholera outbreakcan proceed in their suit against the organisation.
More than 8,500 people were killed and 700,000 sickened after human waste, allegedly from a UN peacekeeping base, leaked into a central Haitian river.
Federal Judge Paul Oetken presided over the hearing, which reviewed the technical interpretations of a 1946 convention which has so far been understood to offer the UN immunity in the case.
Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom argued that the UN had forfeited its right to immunity by refusing the right to out-of-court settlements under section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.
The United Nations has stringently declined to comment on the cases. When questioned on the UN’s role in the cholera epidemic by FRANCE 24 in July, former head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Edmond Mulet, denied that there was any proof linking the Nepalese UN peacekeepers to the outbreak, despite several epidemiological reports proving otherwise.
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