FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Congress demands US leadership in addressing UN cholera fiasco
Advocates Welcome Unprecedented Demands For Victim Remedies
BOSTON, June 29, 2016 — Today, 158 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the United States to use its leverage with the United Nations to ensure prompt accountability to Haitian victims of cholera.
“This letter is a remarkable showing of bipartisanship and consensus that the UN’s stonewalling on cholera accountability—and the U.S. Government’s acquiescence to it—are unacceptable,” said Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).
The letter, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Mia Love (R-UT), is unprecedented in the breadth and bipartisanship of the Congresspersons who signed on. It calls on Kerry to use his diplomatic powers to ensure that the UN takes immediate steps to eliminate the cholera epidemic it introduced to Haiti through leaking waste from a UN peacekeeper camp in 2010, and to comply with its legal and moral obligations to provide cholera victims with access to an effective remedy.
To date, the UN has rejected claims filed by victims, a move widely viewed as inconsistent with its treaty obligations to settle claims by individuals harmed by its operations. The UN has also claimed immunity from a lawsuit filed in U.S. court, effectively blocking an independent review of its responsibility. The U.S. Government has come to the UN’s defense in the litigation, which is currently pending decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The U.S. Government has made the unfortunate choice to stand up for UN impunity by supporting the UN’s immunity in court without doing anything to ensure that the Organization upholds its legal obligations to provide remedies for victims out of court,” Concannon explained.
The 158 endorsers on the Congressional letter include 12 Republicans; half of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (HCFA) i.e. 22 of its 44 members, including six Republicans; ten of the 14 members of HCFA’s Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, four Republicans and six Democrats; and four of the eight members of HCFA’s Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations (“Global Health”) Subcommittee, two from each party. Republican HCFA signatories include former HCFA chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, current Global Health Subcommittee Chair Christopher Smith, and Representatives Daniel Donovan, Michael McCaul, Steve Chabot, and Lee Zeldin. The 16 HCFA Democrats include the respective ranking members of the HCFA itself, Rep. Eliot Engel, and of its Western Hemisphere and Global Health Subcommittees respectively, Representatives Albio Sires, and Karen Bass.
Signatories from states with large Haitian-American populations include 20 members from the New York delegation, 15 from Florida, all 9 from Massachusetts, 9 from Illinois, and 7 from New Jersey. Twenty-three members of California’s delegation signed. For a listing, please see this page. Virtually every member of the Congressional Black Caucusendorsed as well.
The letter, though not binding, adds a critical voice to a groundswell of UN insiders calling for the UN to respond justly. As the UN gears up to select a new Secretary-General, a majority of the candidates who have been asked their position on cholera have publicly promised a more just response to the victims. A number of governments speaking at UN meetings have also called for remedies, including an apology, compensation, and funding for cholera elimination projects. The UN’s own human rights experts have advised the Secretary-General that “it is essential that the victims of cholera have access to a transparent, independent and impartial mechanism that can review their claims and decide on the merits of those claims in order to ensure adequate reparation….” At the opening of the UN Human Rights Council in late May, the UN’s Human Rights Chief also spoke out,calling on governments to “consider what can or should be done to deal with the tragic consequences of the cholera epidemic for Haitians.”
The letter, with a full list of signatures, is available at: http://www.ijdh.org/wp-