Haiti: UN force faces lawsuit, new accusations

On Oct. 9 several advocacy groups filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in the Southern District of New York against the United Nations  on behalf of victims of a deadly cholera epidemic in Haiti. The outbreak started in October 2010 because of poor sanitary conditions at a military base used by Nepalese troops in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), an 8,690-member UN “peacekeeping” force that has been in Haiti since June 2004. The 67-page complaint, filed by groups including the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and its Haitian affiliate, the Bureau of International Lawyers (BAI), charges the UN military force with gross negligence. The epidemic has killed more than 8,300 people and sickened more than 650,000; about 1,000 people continue to die each year. 

The same groups filed for compensation on behalf of 5,000 victims of the epidemic in November 2011. The UN finally responded in February of this year, claiming it had no legal liability, based on section 29 of the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN. (IJDH press release, Oct. 9; New York Times, Oct. 10)

Also on Oct. 9, Transparency International UK, a London-based group that monitors corruption, released a report identifying “28 types of corruption that threaten peacekeeping” in the countries where UN troops are stationed. The alleged corruption includes bribery, theft, unauthorized sale of equipment, accounting fraud and sexual exploitation. The next day, on Oct. 10, the UN Security Council voted to extend MINUSTAH’s mandate to Oct. 15, 2014. (NYT, Oct. 10, Oct. 11AlterPresse, Haiti, Oct. 11)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, October 13.