New York, USA — As calls for the United Nations to admit liability and compensate the victims of the Haitian cholera epidemic continue, attorneys for the victims in a proposed class action lawsuit filed in Brooklyn, New York, announced on Tuesday that more than 1,100 additional plaintiffs have joined their case, bringing the total number of plaintiffs to more than 2,600.
In an amended complaint filed on Tuesday morning in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, 1,161 plaintiffs were added to the case, which seeks to hold the United Nations accountable for the cholera contagion that has killed more than 9,000 Haitians and sickened approximately 700,000 more. The plaintiffs include several New Yorkers and US citizens who lost family members to the disease, as well as estate representative for deceased parties.
It is universally acknowledged that the UN introduced cholera into Haiti in 2010 when it sent Nepalese peacekeepers to the country without constructing adequate sanitation facilities. The UN has never admitted this, however, and continues to hide behind the notion of immunity to deny responsibility – despite the fact that, according the lawsuit, the UN has curtailed that immunity on numerous occasions.
The Brooklyn lawsuit made news in May, when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was personally served with the complaint in Midtown Manhattan. Moon was entering an event at the Asia Society when he was handed the court papers by a process server. As a result, the United Nations must answer the allegations of the amended complaint or risk a default judgment.
Brooklyn is home to one of the largest Haitian-born populations in the world outside of Haiti.
“There is great momentum building for those affected by the cholera contagion to receive justice. The UN must finally address its negligent actions,” said Dr Tim Howard, lead attorney representing the plaintiffs.
“We hope that the increase in the number of plaintiffs will strengthen our case and bring about more awareness to the plight of hundreds of thousands who have been impacted due to the negligence of the United Nations,” said Stanley Alpert, another attorney representing the plaintiffs.
The amended complaint in the Brooklyn lawsuit comes just days before the October 23 oral argument in a separate lawsuit over the same issues filed in the US District Court for the Southern District, located in Manhattan where the United Nations makes its home. It is believed to be the first time issues of United Nations’ immunity from lawsuits will be argued in open court.
Originally filed in US District Court in Brooklyn in March 2014, the lawsuit seeks to force the UN to admit responsibility, compensate victims, and bring critical sanitation to the devastated Haitian communities the UN was sworn to protect. The lawsuit included evidence that clearly shows the UN has expressly and repeatedly waived its sovereign immunity, in General Assembly resolutions adopted by the United Nations as a whole, as well as in the agreement the UN made with Haiti.
In its 2004 agreement concerning the status of forces in Haiti, the UN agreed that “[t]hird-party claims for … personal injury, illness or death arising from or directly attributed to [the Stabilization Agreement] shall be settled by the United Nations … and the United Nations shall pay compensation…” In another document referenced in the lawsuit, the UN General Assembly also admits that international law requires the UN to pay compensation for damages resulting from its operations.
United Nations Caused Haitian Cholera Contagion Outbreak
According to the lawsuit, the United National hired a private contractor to ensure proper sanitation in Haiti, where nearly all get their water directly from wells. But the UN engineer-in-charge failed to properly manage the sanitation contractor, and in the end the contractor did nothing to provide an adequate sanitation system. This resulted in the dumping of cholera-infested feces from Nepalese peacekeepers into Haiti’s main river.
Investigations by The New England Journal of Medicine and the US Centers for Disease Control point to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti based in Mirebalis as the source of the cholera outbreak. Epidemiological and genome studies have conclusively established the peacekeeping force’s role, and United Nations special envoy, former president Bill Clinton, described the stabilization force as “the proximate cause of cholera.”
The United Nations’ independent expert on human rights, Gustavo Gallon, a respected Columbian jurist, in his 2014 human rights in Haiti annual assessment, admitted that the UN must take responsibility and compensate victims. Gallon called for “diplomatic difficulties” to be resolved to “stop the epidemic” and to “compensate victims fully.”
“Silence is the very worst response,” Gallon added.
The UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay, also stated that “someone need[s] to pay up for the suffering and havoc wreaked by cholera.”
Retired officials, including Canada’s ambassador to the UN, Stephen Lewis, have publicly agreed.