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On Haiti Cholera Denial, O'Brien Tells ICP “Nothing More to Say,” Toxic Policy?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 9 -- The UN's terse dismissal of legal claims for killing thousands of people in Haiti by introducing cholera is a very low point for the Organization.

  As the decision is ascribed to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's outgoing lawyer Patricia O'Brien, Inner City Press has wanted to ask her about it for some time. Some UN sources say that O'Brien and others around Ban urged a “more just response” to the cholera victims' claims.

  Since this will be a significant part of O'Brien's legacy of five years as the UN's lawyer, it seemed only fair to ask her.

  Tuesday O'Brien spoke, not off the record, in Conference Room A in the UN's basement. Inner City Press was called the only media there; O'Brien acknowledge it was not "Chatham House" rules, that is, it was for attribution. Her opening remarks were about the rule of law; Inner City Press' Haiti cholera dismissal question was the last question she took.

Having seen the letter she sent on July 5 to the lawyers for the Haiti cholera victims, Inner City Press asked her if the defense that the claims involve UN “policy” and are therefore not receivable means that dumping disease-laden waste water in rivers is UN policy.

O'Brien, who also answered Inner City Press about the UN's Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, said on Haiti that “after a lengthy and detailed and difficult analysis of this situation” the UN's conclusion was two sentences, in her July 5 letter:

consideration of these claims would necessarily include a review of political and policy matters. Accordingly these claims are not receivable pursuant to Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, adopted by the General Assembly on 13 February 1946.”

  So IS it UN policy to dump toxic waste in rivers? O'Brien said “that is the answer, I have nothing further to say about the claims.” She said she could speak about Haiti for hours - but it was time for her to go, she said, up to the 38th floor where Ban Ki-moon works. A high floor, a low hour. Watch this site.


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