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Human Rights Lawyers File Class-Action Lawsuit Against U.N. On Behalf Of Haitian Cholera Victims

“Human rights lawyers representing Haitian victims of a cholera epidemic they blame on U.N. peacekeepers announced on Wednesday they were filing a lawsuit against the United Nations, with a New York court seeking compensation from the world body,” Reuters reports. “‘The plaintiffs include Haitians and Haitian Americans who contracted cholera themselves as well as family members of those who died of the disease,’ the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti [IJDH] said in a statement,” which also “said lawyers were filing the suit in the U.S. District Court in New York’s Southern District,” the news agency notes (Charbonneau, 10/9). “The lawsuit … will be the strongest action they have taken in pressing the United Nations to acknowledge at least some culpability for the outbreak of cholera,” the New York Times reports (Gladstone, 10/8). “The U.N. [previously] has cited its immunity, and has not accepted responsibility for the epidemic, even though medical experts — including members of an independent panel appointed by the U.N. — agree that the disease was probably introduced by U.N. peacekeepers,” NBC News notes. “Though the U.N. has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to fight the disease [in Haiti], it has not indicated a willingness to settle individual claims from victims,” NBC writes.

“The IJDH suit … goes beyond placing blame on the U.N., accusing the international body of covering up its role in introducing the disease,” NBC states. According to NBC, “the IJDH is asking for an unspecified amount for victims, and for the U.N. to make improvements to Haiti’s water and sanitation infrastructure that are projected to cost $2.4 billion” (Schecter, 10/8). Making “a rare case for compensation,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday said, “I have used my voice both inside the United Nations and outside to call for the right — for an investigation by the United Nations, by the country concerned, and I still stand by the call that victims of — of those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation,” according to the Associated Press/Miami Herald. Asked about the comments, “U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said it is not the ‘United Nations’ practice to discuss in public claims filed against the organization,'” the AP writes (Daniel/Lederer, 10/8). NBC’s Nancy Snyderman reports from Haiti on the cholera epidemic and the class-action lawsuit (10/8).