FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Kermshlise Picard, Communications Coordinator, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, email@example.com; +1-617-652-0876 (Interviews available in English, French & Kreyòl).)
Senators demand US lead on UN accountability and immediate action for Haiti cholera
Foreign Relations Committee Members Join Rising Chorus of Voices Supporting Cholera Victims’ Rights
BOSTON, July 25 2016 – U.S. Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are calling on the United States to “utilize its leadership position to stress the importance of UN accountability and action to remediate the ongoing impact of cholera in Haiti.”
The two Senators, both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and representing states with substantial Haitian-American constituencies, conveyed their concerns in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on July 21. The letter is the first statement from the Senate regarding accountability for the cholera epidemic introduced to Haiti through reckless disposal of waste at a UN peacekeeper base in 2010, and a rare example of bipartisan advocacy in the U.S. Congress (see also Senator Markey’s press release).
“The calls for accountability are now too pervasive and too loud for the UN to ignore,” said Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). “Especially coming from a U.S. Congress that provides over one fourth of the funding for the UN Peacekeeping and regular budgets.”
The letter notes that while “Haitians are denied remuneration or a transparent mechanism to resolve claims for compensation, cholera continues to cause significant morbidity and mortality across the country,” including over 36,000 sickened and 309 deaths in 2015. It warns of “a sustained presence of the disease without immediate action by global partners, and perhaps more importantly, UN accountability.”
The Senate letter endorses the call made in a June 25 letter signed by 158 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives calling on Secretary Kerry “to ensure that claims related to the cholera outbreak are appropriately and transparently adjudicated, and that the UN institutes proactive measures to reduce risks for the host nations in which it operates.”
Senators Rubio and Markey are adding their voices to others calling for a better UN response, including a majority of the candidates top succeed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, the UN’s own human rights experts, editorial boards at the New York Times, The Lancet, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post and newspapers around the world, thousands of cholera victims, Haitian-American organizations, public health specialists, former UN Ambassadors and many others. Many actors have particularly stressed the need for Secretary-General Ban to act on cholera before he leaves office in December in order to prevent the cholera crisis from becoming a permanent scar on his legacy.
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.