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On UN Expert on Cholera in Haiti, UN Won't Comment, MSF Quiet Too

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 24 -- Even to a UN expert's call for reparations for cholera in Haiti, the UN says it doesn't have to respond; usually outspoken group Medecins Sans Frontieres on July 24 had no comment either. Video here.

 A week after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon ended his trip to Haiti and Santo Domingo after taking a single question about the UN bringing cholera to the island, the UN's independent expert Gustavo Gallon had this to say, in his statement, which Inner City Press on July 23 put online here:

As for cholera, the independent expert noted that the Secretary General of the United Nations visited the country and traveled on 14 July to the Central Plateau, where cholera first appeared. He launched a sanitation campaign there. I hope that this visit will contribute to the implementation of the recommendation I made in my report of March 2014 on the necessity of creating a reparations commission for the victims of cholera, in order to allow the evaluation of damages, corresponding compensation or idemnification, the identification of those responsible, the stopping of the epidemic and other measures. As Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, I take this opportunity to reiterate this recommendation.”

   On July 24, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq what the UN's response is. "We don't have to make any comment on this."

  Later on July 24, Inner City Press asked a panel from MSF, active in Haiti, about the UN's role in cholera. There was a looooong silence, video here; MSF treats the victims but, it is said, doesn't address how cholera got there. And thus the UN continues UNaccountable.

  Back on July 16, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Haq about Ban dodging questions on cholera, and about the court ruling that the state of Netherlands is liable for the deaths of 300 Bosniaks in Srebrenica. Video here and embedded below.

 Inner City Press asked Haq to comment, in the context of the more than 8000 deaths in Haiti, on this sentence: "there is a growing acceptance that an individual state can be held liable for deaths in a UN-mandated operation."

  Haq said, we are still studying it. But he has said nothing in the week since. And on July 23, based on Inner City Press' style of questioning or legal focus in questions, Haq said "You are not entitled to be at the noon briefing," video here.

  Later on July 16, Ban's office sent out what he said to the Dominican Congress: mentions of Junot Diaz and Robinson Cano, but nothing about the UN bringing cholera to Hispaniola.

   On July 15 after Ban's spokesperson's office said it had closed, it released the promised transcript of Ban's "question and answer" press conference in Haiti. To the lone cholera question, Ban said

I and the United Nations feel very sad for the tragic death of more than 8,000 people and more than 700,000 people who have been affected by cholera. One of the main purposes of my coming to Haiti this time is to demonstrate our strong solidarity with the Government and people, particularly those affected people, the United Nations’ continuing commitment to eliminate this cholera. I will do my best as the Secretary-General to work with the partners and donors and with the World Bank to mobilize all the necessary resources to provide assistance to those affected people and to improve water and sanitation systems. This is exactly what I did yesterday with Prime Minister Lamothe in Los Palmas. Thank you.”

   That's it. At the July 15 UN noon briefing Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson to respond to protest signs in Haiti: "Dead: 8563, Sick 704,000; Justice 0."

  Haq said Ban assures Haitians of his personal commitment, wants to be the advocate of the Haitian people.

  Inner City Press asked, will the UN apologize? (Video here and embedded below.  Here's an Inner City Press song on topic.)

   Haq replied that Ban is "anguished" about the situation.

   But is that an apology?

  Haq said he had nothing to add. Where he gave the next question, he got back a softball which invited him to talk about money Ban's UN gave, or raied, or merely tried to raise.

  Each time Ban mentioned cholera, without once addressing who brought it to Hispanola. While an Inner City Press reader points out the troop contributing country, Nepal, the question is: wasn't the UN in charge of sanitation?

  Doesn't UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous still refuse to screen peacekeepers before deployment from cholera hot-spots? Didn't the UN dissemble about the failure to take this safeguard?

 Ban ended his first speech saying "you can count on me and the UN to do our part." Really?

  After meeting a family impacted by (the UN's) cholera, Ban said "the whole international community, including the United Nations, has a moral duty to help those people to stem the further spread of cholera." Just "including" the UN. Just because.

  In what the UN called a "press encounter," without providing any Q&A, Ban said "Lastly, in addressing all socio-economic issues as well as cholera issues, let me also underline that this is not a time for donor fatigue."

  Is that it?

  A question is whether Ban while there be served with legal papers about the UN bringing cholera to Hispanola, another topic on which Ban's spokespeople dodged and worse.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access will have more on this.


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