FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Haitian Cholera Victims Deliver 2,000 Personal Letters to United States Embassy
Appeal for US action on UN cholera
PORT-AU-PRINCE, May 10 2016— Victims of the ongoing cholera epidemic brought to Haiti by UN peacekeepers will hold a demonstration and hand deliver over 2000 personal letters appealing for justice to the United States Embassy in Port-au-Prince this Thursday 12 May. Victims are calling on the U.S. government to stop defending the UN’s immunity and instead use its power and influence to press the world body to provide reparations in accordance with its legal obligations.
“The U.S is one of the most powerful countries in the world, a permanent member of the Security Council and the host state for the United Nations. It has the power to ensure that the UN responds justly to cholera victims and has not only failed to do so, but actively opposed victims’ claims” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), who has been seeking justice on behalf of cholera victims since 2011.
The U.S. government has consistently sided with the United Nations and protected the organization from having to fulfill its legal obligations to cholera victims, even as pressure on the organization to take action mounts inside and outside the UN system. Since 2013, the U.S. Government has defended the UN’s immunity against a lawsuit filed by victims in U.S. federal court, after the UN itself refused to appear. This position has drawn pointed criticisms, with Haitian-American leaders condemning the Government’s decision to ‘honor impunity’ rather than access to justice and a US appeals court earlier this year questioning what other possible recourse to justice the Government’s position allowed.
Victims in Haiti are calling on the United States to shift position and support accountability and their right to a remedy. “It is with great sadness that I am writing this letter. It is an opportunity to remind you that human rights should be respected no matter which country one is from” wrote cholera survivor Gerald St Fleur, in one of the many letters that will be delivered Thursday.
Thousands of cholera victims mobilized to write the letters, which are addressed to all Member States of the Security Council, in late 2015, to mark International Human Rights Day. The letters were delivered to Member State missions in New York, along with an appeal for a response. Six months later, victims are yet to hear anything from the U.S. Government and several other Security Council member states, and are renewing their appeals.
“We know that the fate of cholera victims ultimately depends on the willingness of member states of the UN Security Council, who have the power to ensure that the UN lives up to its own principles… We ask you to feel the injustice we have suffered” the community groups leading the letter writing campaign said in their cover letter to member states.
The U.S. has a particularly critical role to play in ensuring UN accountability, due to its power within the Security Council, role as a major funder of UN peacekeeping and position in opposing the lawsuit filed by victims. Victims are also calling on Haitian interim President Jocelerme Privert to take a “public position in support of cholera victims”.
These appeals come at a critical juncture in the international movement for cholera justice, with momentum building within the UN system to move forward in resolving victims’ claims. In the past months several UN mandate holders, member states, and candidates for the position of next UN Secretary-General have publicly backed victims’ calls for remedies.
“I am depending on your collaboration …to really commit yourselves to give us all the respect and give us back our dignity with this disease that has made so many of us suffer here in Haiti. To all I am begging you to give us justice and compensation as is our right” appealed Decenat Fontilia, who fell ill with cholera in 2011.
Victims will hold a press conference at the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux tomorrow Wednesday 11 May at 11am and will gather outside the U.S. embassy for a public demonstration at 11am on Thursday 12 May, before delivering the letters. Victims have also sought a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Peter Mulrean to present their appeals in person.
The letters, along with a selection of translations in English, can be viewed at http://www.ijdh.org/cholera/