Press Release Latin America and the Caribbean World

UN Response to Haiti Cholera Complaint “Represents a Failure of the UN System,” CEPR Co-Director Says

February 21, 2013

Contact: Karen Conner, (202) 293-5380 x117Mail_Outline

February 21, 2013

“No Rush to Right the Wrongs that They Have Done.”

For Immediate Release: February 21, 2013
Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460

Washington, D.C.– The U.N.’s claim of immunity in the face of a complaint from thousands of cholera victims is “another unfortunate abdication of responsibility,” Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. The office of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement today that said that “the claims are not receivable pursuant to Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations,” and that “[t]he Secretary-General telephoned Haitian President Michel Martelly to inform him of the decision.”

“The scientific and forensic evidence that U.N. troops brought cholera to Haiti is far beyond the standard of ‘reasonable doubt’ required in the U.S. criminal justice system, let alone the less-exacting standard of ‘preponderance of the evidence’ in a civil suit,” Weisbrot noted. “It included studies by independent scientists, articles published by the New England Journal of Medicine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and even the U.N.’s own research.” 

Weisbrot noted that “If this were a private corporation that could be sued in a U.S. court, there is little doubt that it would end up paying hundreds of millions if not billions in damages.  The U.N.’s denial represents a failure not only of the U.N. system, which is abused by the rich countries, but a moral failure by the U.S. and its allies, who sent those troops to Haiti without proper safeguards and against the will of the Haitian people.

“They have the resources to put an end to cholera in Haiti for less money than they are going to spend in the next year or two on keeping U.N. troops there. But they’re in no rush to right the wrongs that they have done.”

While the statement refers to “an initiative for the Elimination of Cholera in Haiti” launched in December, a letter addressed to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice this week from Rep. Conyers (D – MI) and several other members of Congress notes that “nearly two months after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced his initiative to support the plan, only 10 percent of the funding has been secured and only one percent of this funding has been pledged from the United Nations itself.”

“…there is still no sign that implementation of the plan has begun,” the letter reminds Rice, urging her to “to ensure that the United Nations continues to take a leading role in addressing the crisis,” since “The United Nations has a special responsibility to ensure this plan is funded.”


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