Thousands of Haitian victims of a cholera epidemic widely believed to have been caused by United Nations peacekeepers vowed to continue their fight to hold the UN to account after it rejected their claims for compensation, citing diplomatic immunity.
More than 8,000 Haitians have died from the epidemic and 500,000 people, some 5 per cent of the population, have fallen sick since the disease entered the impoverished Caribbean nation’s water system in October 2010.
The claims were filed on behalf of 5,000 victims filed in 2011 by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a Boston-based human rights group. In its response to the claims, published this week, the UN said “the claims are not receivable, pursuant to Section 29 of the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations”.
The UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had telephoned the Haitian President Michel Martelly to inform him of the decision. “The Secretary-General again expressed his profound sympathy for the terrible suffering caused by the cholera epidemic,” Mr Nesirky said.
Ira Kurzban, one of the claimants’ lawyers, condemned the decision. “We believe that it’s quite immoral for the Secretary-General to deny all responsibility, not even to admit that they were the cause of the worst cholera epidemic in the world today,” Mr Kurzban said.