FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Kermshlise Picard, Communications Coordinator, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, firstname.lastname@example.org; +1-617-652-0876 (English, Kreyòl).
Haitian Cholera Victims Send 2,000 Letters to UN Security Council
Make Personalized Appeal for Justice on Human Rights Day
PORT-AU-PRINCE, NEW YORK December 10, 2015—In connection with Human Rights Day, December 10, victims of the ongoing cholera epidemic brought to Haiti by UN peacekeepers have written over 2,000 personal letters to the UN Security Council to ask governments to respond to their suffering and provide reparations in accordance with the UN’s legal obligations.
“It is with great sadness that I am writing this letter…to remind you that human rights should be respected no matter which country one is from. If the peacekeepers from MINUSTAH did not contaminate our water supply with fecal matter, I never would have been infected with this disease,” wrote cholera survivor Gerard St. Fleur.
Victims will be gathering at the UN logistics base in Port-au-Prince at 10 am on December 10 to hand deliver the letters to the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Haiti. Copies will also be sent to all Member States of the Security Council.
“We are making this appeal to the Security Council because they are in a uniquely powerful position to make justice a reality. As the body in charge of MINUSTAH, the Security Council is responsible for ensuring that MINUSTAH complies with international law and human rights,” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), who has been seeking justice on behalf of cholera victims since 2011.
The letter writing campaign was organized through the BAI’s Civic Engagement Project, which brings together about 15,000 people in rural Haiti, many of whom have lost family members to cholera or are survivors themselves. They meet weekly in small groups to receive training on human rights advocacy, including their rights in regard to the cholera epidemic introduced by the UN.
“Human Rights Day is the UN’s celebration of human rights and dignity of all the world’s people. How does the UN have the moral standing to promote respect for human rights and dignity in Haiti when it is violating cholera victims’ rights?” Mr. Joseph added.
Cholera cases continue to surge in Haiti five years since the disease was introduced. In the first half of 2015, the infection rate tripled over the same period last year. 9,000 people have died, and over 754,000 people have sought hospital care in the last five years. Clean water and sanitation is needed to end the deadly epidemic, but funding remains inadequate.
“Behind these numbers are hundreds of thousands of stories of suffering and injustice: mothers having to bury their children, families crippled by debts taken on during the weeks when members were too sick to work, communities living in fear of catching cholera again, but with no choice but to bathe in and drink from the river that has killed so many of our neighbors,” the community groups leading the letter writing campaign said in their cover letter to the Security Council.
Victims have been seeking justice from the UN for many years. In 2011, 5,000 victims filed claims through the UN’s claims process, which promises to compensate victims of personal injury or death caused by peacekeepers. The UN summarily rejected the claims as “not receivable” in 2013, without providing justification. The UN has also claimed immunity from suit in several lawsuits filed in federal court in the United States. An appeal is currently pending before the Second Circuit in New York.
“For five years, the UN has ignored victims’ calls for a just response. This is an affront to our dignity as a people,” the communities wrote.
The letters, along with a selection of translations in English, can be viewed on www.ijdh.org starting on December 10.