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UN Calls Haiti Cholera Claim “Not Receivable,” O'Brien & Ban Leaving Town

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 21 – More than a year after a complaint about introducing cholera into Haiti was filed with the UN (video here), on Thursday afternoon Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky announced that the claim was “not receivable.”

  Inner City Press asked him to explain what the phrase meant, immunity or impunity, and why it had taken the UN so long. February 21 video here, from Minute 10.

  Nesirky first declined to explain, saying it is not the UN's practice to discuss in public the details of claims filed. Then he cited the “privileges and immunities” resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on February 13, 1946.

  He said that since considering the claims would involve reviewing “political and policy matters,” the claim was not receivable.

   Why take more than a year then, Inner City Press asked. Nesirky explained that the UN had engaged in “serious consideration” for the time necessary of the claims in all their aspects.

   Repeatedly since the claim was filed, Inner City Press asked for the status or for Ban Ki-moon's top lawyer Patricia O'Brien to answer questions. The new Free UN Coalition for Access also made this request, that O'Brien as an Under Secretary General hold a press conference. It never happened.

  Now Patricia O'Brien is about to leave the UN, to go represent Ireland at the UN in Geneva. To skeptics it appears that the UN waited until now, to get the disturbing decision out of the way before a new UN top lawyer comes in. They note that Ban Ki-moon is about to leave New York on a trip.

  But how can the UN preach “rule of law” while holding itself exempt? How can it even try to avoid explaining how it exonerated itself? Who will hold this UN to account? Watch this site.

Footnote: Inner City Press has also asked the head of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous what safeguards if any he's implemented to avoid spreading cholera elsewhere.

  Ladsous refused to answer, then after FUNCA protested, on February 6 purported to answer Inner City Press on cholera - with no reference to safeguards. This continued, this week, in the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping. UNlawful...

From the February 21, 2013 UN noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: I want to ask you a question about the Haiti announcement you made, when you say it is not receivable, what is the legal argument? Was a Standing Claims Commission, as required by the status-of-forces agreement, established? It makes it sound like it is a legal determination, but is there going to be some kind of a memo? What’s the basis? What took so long, and “not receivable” in what way? It was received. Is it basically a claim of immunity by the UN? Can you say more about what this “not receivable” means?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Well, I am not in a position to provide you with any details. It’s not the United Nations practice to discuss in public the details of and the response to claims filed against the Organization. Let me also say I can confirm that we have informed counsel for the claimants that the claims are not receivable. Consideration of the claims would necessarily involve a review of political and policy matters. Accordingly, the claims are not receivable, pursuant to Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, which was adopted by the General Assembly on 13 February 1946. Just to answer your question about the time taken: we gave serious consideration to the matter, and took the time necessary to properly review the various claims raised in all their aspects.

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