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On Cholera in Haiti, UN Water Rights Expert Wants Probe & Remedy

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 14 -- While the UN of Ban Ki-moon has sought to evade accountability for the introduction of cholera to Haiti by UN Peacekeeping, now another UN Special Rapporteur,  Catarina de Albuquerque on the Right to Water, has urged investigation and compensation. She wrote:

"The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti has come under scrutiny for its role in the cholera epidemic in Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. The epidemic killed over 8,500 people, sickened more than 700,000 and is still ongoing. It has been alleged that the cholera was brought in by peacekeepers and that it spread because of haphazardly constructed sanitation facilities that leaked sewage into a river that was an important source of drinking water. The United Nations has rejected the accusations and claimed immunity based on the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, but United Nations human rights representatives are increasingly calling on the United Nations to establish responsibility. The Independent Expert on Haiti has stressed the need “to assure the Haitian people that the epidemic will be halted as soon as possible and that full reparation for damages will be provided”. He called for clarification of the facts and for realization of the right to a remedy, arguing that the “United Nations should be the first to honor these principles”and that “silence is the worst response”. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an investigation by the United Nations and the country concerned, and called for “those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation”. The Special Rapporteur wishes to emphasize the obligation to investigate the allegations in order to establish responsibility for any violations and to ensure the alleged victims’ right to a remedy, including compensation, if warranted. She welcomes the commitment by the United Nations to eradicate the disease in Haiti and urges it to meet that commitment by providing adequate resources. She further calls on the United Nations to establish appropriate accountability mechanisms for ongoing and future missions as well as to review and reinforce measures for adequate sanitation and preventive measures."

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 putting 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.”

 Back on July 16, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan 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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