Posts Tagged ‘UN Immunity’

Callous UN claims immunity to escape compensation for introducing cholera to Haiti

February 22, 2013

The UN has claimed immunity to avoid any compensation for introducing cholera to Haiti.

Sometime in October / November 2010, cholera was introduced into Haiti by Nepali UN troops. These troops were not sufficiently screened by the UN before being deployed and many were carriers of a Nepali strain of cholera. Even though they were being introduced into a region recovering from an earthquake the troops received no information or training regarding good practices regarding sewage handling or preventing the spread of infection.  The outbreak of cholera that was caused by broken sewage pipes from their camp developed into a virulent and catastrophic epidemic  in the infrastructural chaos that prevailed in Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake.  There is little doubt that this was the cause of the outbreak though this has never been acknowledged by the UN. The subsequent efforts made by the UN and the WHO  to fight the epidemic were not also free of criticism. Cheap but untested vaccines were deployed to contain costs. Till UN cholera arrived, Haiti had been free of cholera for over 100 years. Some 600,000 were infected in currently the largest outbreak in the world and almost 8,000 people have died. This virulent South Asian strain of cholera is now established in the Americas.

UN Cholera: image Reuters - Allison Shelley

UN Cholera: image Reuters – Allison Shelley

And now the UN has claimed immunity to avoid having to pay any compensation. The immunity is claimed under its own “UN’s Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN”. Of course the moral compass of the UN is only as good as that of its worst member but considering the overwhelming poverty in Haiti, invoking this convention seems a particularly callous and cowardly path to follow. It would seem that the UN (read the “world community”) does not put a very high value on a Haitian life. Cheap troops, cheap vaccines, cheap practices and no compensation! Perhaps the “world community” represented by the UN believes that Haiti has already received more than its fair share of economic support?

BBC: 

The United Nations has formally rejected compensation claims by victims of a cholera outbreak in Haiti that has killed almost 8,000 people. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Haitian President Michel Martelly to inform him of the decision.

The UN says it is immune from such claims under the UN’s Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN. Evidence suggests cholera was introduced to Haiti through a UN base’s leaking sewage pipes. The UN has never acknowledged responsibility for the outbreak – which has infected more than 600,000 people – saying it is impossible to pinpoint the exact source of the disease, despite the mounting evidence the epidemic was caused by poor sanitation at a camp housing infected Nepalese peacekeepers. 

In a terse statement, Mr Ban’s spokesman said damages claims for millions of dollars filed by lawyers for cholera victims was “not receivable” under the 1947 convention that grants the UN immunity for its actions. …… 

……. The lawyer, Brian Concannon, said the victims’ legal team would challenge the UN’s right to immunity from Haitian courts, on the grounds that it had not established an alternative mechanism for dealing with accountability issues, as stipulated in its agreement with the government.

He also said lifting immunity would not challenge UN policy, which is protected by the convention, but its practice, such as how to test troops for disease and properly dispose of sewage.


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