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Editorial, Opinion Piece Address U.N.’s Denial Of Claims For Compensation For Haiti Cholera Victims

The U.N. in February denied claims for compensation from 5,000 victims of the Haiti cholera epidemic, stating the claims were “non-receivable” under article 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. The following is a summary of an editorial and an opinion piece on the decision.

  • Economist: Noting “[m]ost scientists who have studied the matter have concluded that U.N. peacekeepers unwittingly brought cholera to Haiti in 2010,” the editorial writes, “If a company dumped lethal waste into a river in the United States, it would be sued for negligence. But there is no legal mechanism for redress against the U.N. immunity protects it from most courts.” The editorial asks, “So is dumping feces in rivers U.N. policy?” and continues, “The answer seems to be, as one of the claimants’ lawyers put it: ‘We make the rules, we interpret them, we enforce them, and therefore, whatever we say is right’” (3/2).
  • Ian Birrell, Guardian’s “Comment Is Free”: “The U.N. purports to exist in order to guard human rights, to spread the rule of law, help the poor and defend them from conflict and disease,” Birrell, a former deputy editor of the Independent, writes, adding, “It has all too often fallen woefully short of these noble ideals, but rarely has it shown such willful contempt for them in its own actions.” He continues, “Few nations have suffered as much in their history as Haiti from the actions of outsiders,” concluding, “The cost of compensation would be less than one year’s peacekeeping in Haiti. Instead, there has been no apology, no admission of guilt and now no restitution for people who have surely suffered enough already” (3/3).