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On Haiti Cholera, Opposition to US "Suggestion of Immunity" for UN

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 15, with a song -- On the UN having brought cholera to Haiti, the US government on March 7 filed a briefing supporting the UN's immunity -- or in this case, impunity.

   Now today, May 15, opposition to the US position has been filed, with amicus support from a bevy of law professors, an ex judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and former UN human rights rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak.

  Nowak said, "the UN needs to understand that immunity cannot mean impunity. If it refuses to provide people alleging harm with a path to justice, courts will refuse to uphold its immunity.”

   But for now, the UN under Secretary General Ban Ki-moon won't even bring its envoy on cholera Pedro Medrano forward for questioning. Inner City Press has asked, for example on April 21:

Inner City Press: … seemed to quote Mr. Medrano as predicting in advance that this panel he would be on with the Government may provide assistance, but he said, like, the word “compensation” won’t be used. So I wanted to know, is that a UN position? Is it his prediction of that the Government doesn’t want the word “compensation” used? And is there some way that we can have by video or otherwise, a kind of, some kind of presentation by Mr. Medrano?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: Sure, on Haiti, over the weekend, the terms of reference on this high level committee on cholera, which would be a UN and Government of Haiti committee, have been officially agreed on. And the aim is really for the joint effort of to fight cholera between the UN and the Government of Haiti. The Committee aims at further improving the coordination response to the epidemic and obviously we expect to have an official announcement in the next couple of days. But this is a very important… the establishment of this committee is a very important one in terms of our efforts, and most importantly the Government of Haiti’s efforts, to address not only cholera but also the associated water and sanitation issues....

Inner City Press: Just on Medrano, I will like to say again if you could do a briefing in this room it would help.

Spokesman Dujarric: I hear you.

  But did he? There has been no briefing. Then again on May 8, from the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about Haiti and cholera.  It was said here on 21 April that there was this new committee that would be the Government of Haiti and of the UN, and Stéphane said that we expect a more official announcement shortly.  Some people are wondering, what are the terms of reference of the committee?  Who’s on it?  Has there been any development in the two weeks since on setting up, on this committee?

Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq:  I believe there has been, but I don’t think there’s anything to announce just yet.  I’ll check if and when there’s something to announce and we’ll try to get some details at that point, but right now we’re just going through the work of trying to get it formed.

From the US State Department's May 7 briefing transcript:

 Today is the deadline, apparently, for the State Department to decide whether it wants to file a brief in this lawsuit that’s being brought by some Haitians against the United Nations. Has the Department decided whether it will file a brief in this case, and if it has, is it in support of the UN or is it in – which wants the case dismissed – or is it in support of the people bringing the case? Or is it just neutral?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, my understanding is DOJ, of course, would file the brief, right, not the State Department. But we did – the U.S. Government filed a statement of interest and suggestion of immunity yesterday, asserting that the United Nations, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and Assistant Secretary General for UN Peacekeeping Operations are immune from suit in the case of – in this case.

The cholera outbreak resulted, as we all know, in a tragic loss of life just when Haiti was struggling to recover from the devastating earthquake from 2010. We, of course, first and foremost, express our sympathy for the victims of the epidemic. But in cases like this, we don’t file a brief out of a lack of empathy. We – the United States has legally binding treaty obligations that require it to afford the UN immunity from suit and also provide immunity for UN officials. That’s why it was important to file the brief and why we filed the brief.

Q: So you believe, along with the UN, that this case should be dismissed because they enjoy immunity?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we believe that they should enjoy immunity, and this brief was submitted based on the legal analysis of that issue.

    To many, this is shocking. Members of Congress have written to State Department diplomats about this case.

   As this US answer was released, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was partying with in-house scribes, most of whom never pursued this most outrageous case of UN impunity, or even asked if Ban Ki-moon like a scoff law was hiding from the process server.

  Inner City Press, having twice asked asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokespeople to confirm Ban has been served with legal papers, on February 28 asked about Gallon's report:

Inner City Press: on Haiti, there is a recent report just out by Gustavo Gallón, who is the UN independent expert on human rights in Haiti, and he says, as a direct quote, that full compensation for the damage suffered by the Haitian people by the introduction of cholera to the island should be paid as quickly as possible. So, I understand that he is an independent expert and doesn’t work for the Secretariat; at the same time, it’s a respected position and a mandate formed by the Human Rights Council, so I wanted to know what in the face of this sort of either intra-UN or intra-UN system critique, what is the response of the United Nations?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Well, simply, that you answered the question yourself. The Human Rights Council-appointed special rapporteurs and other special advisers of various kinds are independent and they are not appointed by the Secretary-General and I don’t have anything further to say on that.

Inner City Press: But does the UN system expect, for example, countries when when they are subject to these type recommendations or criticism by an independent experts of the Human Rights Council to respond in some way to them to say: we agree or disagree, or that is why we disagree?

Spokesperson Nesirky: That’s for each individual Member State to decide.

Ah, leadership. Meanwhile, while the UN has refused to answer if Ban was served the court papers, beyond this song, Inner City Press will now publish the sad litany of attempts to serve what could be described as a scoff law:

On December 19, 2013, at approximately 3:11 PM, a paralegal for Plaintiffs’ counsel contacted OLA by telephone and spoke to a woman who identified herself as “Mae” (who, upon information and belief, is Mae Arkoncel, Assistant to the UN Legal Counsel). Mae confirmed that OLA had received the faxed documents from Plaintiffs’ counsel and stated that the UN was currently 'reviewing the documents'...

Service of process by delivery to Defendant Ban personally through the use of a private process server... was attempted again on January 20, 2014, at approximately 10:05 AM, at Defendant Ban’s residence located at [redacted by ICP]. A security guard informed the server that Defendant Ban was not present, and refused to open the door or accept service.

8. Service of process by delivery to Defendant Ban personally through the use of a private process server... was perfected on January 20, 2014, at approximately 2:00 PM, at Defendant’s Ban residence located at [redacted by ICP]. A male who identified himself as 'security' answered the door and informed the server that he would not accept service and that Defendant Ban was not present. The server affixed the process to the front door with masking tape and informed the security guard that he was doing so with the intention that the documents would be forwarded to Defendant Ban. The server then mailed another copy of the process to Defendant Ban at the same address.

That's called "nail-and-mail," and it's what's used with a fugitive or scoff law. Is that what this UN has become? It's the basis of this lyric, can't serve the papers up in the townhouse, song here. Watch this site.


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