On the same day that those who care about Haiti were celebrating the United Nations’ admission of responsibility in Haiti’s cholera epidemic, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decided to uphold UN immunity in the same epidemic. The panel of three judges who decided the case argued that even though the UN provided cholera victims no chance to seek justice, it is still entitled to immunity. A UN spokesman has promised that the UN will “do much more” for cholera victims, and that new actions will be presented in two months. The plaintiffs in this case have 90 days to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court. If those actions really are taken, Beatrice Lindstrom, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, says another appeal will be unnecessary.
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U.S. Court Upholds United Nations’ Immunity in Cholera Suit
Jonathan M. Katz, The New York Times
August 18, 2016
A United States federal appeals panel has upheld that the United Nations cannot be sued in American courts, dealing a setback in a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of thousands of cholera victims in Haiti.
The ruling by the three-judge panel in New York was released on Thursday, a day after a spokesman for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged for the first time that the United Nations played a role in the outbreak, which killed thousands of people.
In the decision for the panel, Judge José A. Cabranes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit wrote that the United Nations did not lose its legal immunity even if it failed to give the plaintiffs a chance to seek a settlement, as required by an international convention.
The decision slammed the door on a day of muted celebration by the plaintiffs and many people in Haiti who had greeted a statement by Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for Mr. Ban, that the United Nations had “become convinced that it needs to do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak” of cholera and that officials were considering a “significant new set of U.N. actions” to be presented publicly within two months.
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