On December 1 before the General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apologized for the cholera epidemic and detailed a $400 million plan to fight the disease. While the apology is a necessary first step towards justice and something that cholera victims have been demanding for years, the UN was very careful not to imply legal responsibility in the apology. Even the description of the plan was “solidarity” rather than accountability or responsibility. This may be contributing to the trouble the UN is having with getting member states to contribute to the plan. The UN must also make sure to fully consider compensating victims and find strategies to do so.
Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.
The UN’s Apology Won’t Heal Disease, But It’s A First Step to Justice
Beatrice Lindstrom, Opinio Juris
January 2, 2017
When the outgoing Secretary-General issued his long-overdue apology for the UN’s role in Haiti’s cholera epidemic, he turned a corner on six years of silence and stonewalling. At the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux – the Haitian public interest law office that has led the charge against the UN for introducing the disease to Haiti – about 100 victims and activists were gathered to watch a live-stream of the statement in Port-au-Prince. They broke into spontaneous cheers and applause when the apology was delivered.
“This was a victory for us today. It wasn’t easy. We sent thousands of letters and took to the streets to get this victory, for them to say today that they were responsible. They said that, and we thank them”, said Desir Jean-Clair, a cholera survivor who has been organizing for justice, in a statement following the apology.
A public apology has been a central demand of the victims, along with cholera eradication and compensation for families who have suffered. While the disease has caused thousands of deaths and massive suffering since UN peacekeepers contaminated Haiti’s largest river with cholera-laden sewage in 2010, the UN’s failure to own up to its actions has itself been an affront to victims’ dignity. By continuously denying responsibility in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, and by hiding behind immunity to avoid an independent hearing on the merits of victims’ claims, the UN turned its back on Haitians and on its own human rights principles. Against this background, an apology from the Organization’s top leadership is a fundamental component of a just UN response.
Click HERE for the full text.