Haitians cry for justice against the UN
LAST WEEK’S announced findings by a group of international scientists that the 2010 outbreak of a cholera epidemic in Haiti was caused by then United Nations peacekeeping troops would further fuel strident compensation demands by families of the more than 8000 dead.
On March 19 last year, we had lamented the silence of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Haiti is a member state, to the communication by United Nations Secretary GeneralBan Ki-Moon to President Michel Martelly that the world body had opted to invoke “legal immunity” against compensation claims.
Human rights and other civil society organizations in Haiti and the United States have been quite critical of the UN’s response as well as the apparent failure by the Haitian administration to signal a positive response to the compensation demands on behalf of the victims plus hundreds struggling for survival.
While maintaining its stance, the UN, in an attempt to play for time and defuse the challenge it was then facing, announced the establishment of a task force of scientists to study the origin and impact of the epidemic.
The available evidence at the outbreak had clearly pointed to the peacekeepers from Nepal, with reports that they had been irresponsible in dumping human waste in an open pit that eventually leaked into and contaminated waterways used by Haitians.
This claim was strongly rejected, in the absence of evidence, by the Nepalese, fortified the UN’s rejection of compensation and reaffirmation of “legal immunity”.
Last week, as first reported by the BBC in its “Latin America and Caribbean” news service, the panel of international scientists disclosed their findings.
They concluded that the epidemic had its origin with the peacekeepers in a camp where human waste was dumped into an open pit with sewage leaking into a nearby river and spreading into Haiti’s towns and cities.
While families and organizations acting on behalf of the victims are making arrangements to involve the court system in the US in support of the compensation claims, it is quite relevant to know of CARICOM’s response to this burning issue. Its continued public silence is conveying a very disturbing message for citizens of our Community.
This silence against Haitians’ cry for justice from the UN must not be sustained.