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For Impunity on Haiti Cholera, UN Wants It Both Ways, Public and Private

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 22 – The day after the UN dismissed the Haiti cholera claim it had left pending for 15 months, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky more questions about the basis of the dismissal. Video here, from Minute 11:40.

   While the UN's argument is that the claim is not a dispute of a private law character, Nesirky again told Inner City Press that “it’s not the UN’s practice to discuss in public the details of and the response to claims filed against the Organization.”

  So is it public or private? The UN wants it both ways, to escape all liability for its negligence.

  Additionally, UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous when asked by Inner City Press what safeguards if any he has implemented to avoid spreading cholera or other diseases first refused to answer at all.

  Then after protest by the Free UN Coalition for Access, Ladsous on February 6 and since evaded the question.

  Here's from the UN's February 22 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: yesterday, you said that the Haiti cholera claim was not receivable under Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities. So, I went and looked it up, and it seems to say the UN shall make provisions for appropriate modes of settlement of disputes arising out of contracts or disputes involving officials of the UN who enjoy immunity if immunity is not waived by the [Secretary-General]. So, it wasn’t clear to me how this Section 29 actually applies to not receiving a complaint. And separately, one of the lawyers of the complainants, Beatrice Lindstrom, told me that they have received no communications or inquiries of any kind since December 2011. So, they have some doubt about what took so long to end up just saying we are dismissing your claim. Can you explain those two things?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, maybe just to deal with the second question first, if I may. I did answer that yesterday. Simply put, this was something that needed to be looked at very carefully, and it was. The second question, from me, the first one from you, when a private claim is filed against the United Nations, the Organization determines as a threshold matter whether the claim in question falls properly within the scope of Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. Claims found to be outside the scope of Section 29 of the Convention are not receivable. And the consequence of a finding that a claim is not receivable is that the claim will not receive further consideration by the Organization.

Inner City Press: Just one follow-up, I really appreciate it, I’d rather ask this now than in a future briefing. It seems to say that Section 29 applies to disputes arising out of contract or other disputes of a private law character, and the allegation is that the UN introduced cholera inadvertently and caused this harm, that seems to to be of a private law character. So is it possible to get from [Office of Legal Affairs], because it’s a matter of worldwide concern, the UN invoking immunity in this matter. Why is this not a dispute of a private law character?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, I would refer you back to what I just said, firstly. And secondly, simply to reiterate what I said yesterday that I am not in a position to provide you with any further details. It’s not the UN’s practice to discuss in public the details of and the response to claims filed against the Organization.

So is it public or private? What it is, is shameful. Watch this site.

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