We are writing to urge the United Nations (UN) to demonstrate its leadership in human rights by responding to claims by victims of Haiti’s ongoing cholera epidemic. Despite extensive evidence that UN troops brought cholera to Haiti, the UN has not responded to the claims of victims seeking reparations beyond acknowledging receipt, nor articulated a process for reviewing these claims.
As a global leader in the promotion of human rights for all, it is imperative that the UN lives up to its obligations under international law to respond to the outbreak and provide victims with access to justice and reparations.
Cholera presents a major barrier to Haitians’ enjoyment of fundamental human rights, including the rights to life, health, clean water and sanitation. The epidemic has killed over 7,600 Haitians and sickened more than 600,000 since cholera broke out in October 2010. As Your Excellency has stressed, the situation is “particularly worrying since non-governmental organizations that responded at the beginning of the epidemic are phasing out due to lack of funding.”
It is well documented that cholera was introduced to Haiti as a result of reckless sanitation management on a UN peacekeeping base, where untreated human waste from soldiers deployed from a cholera-endemic country leaked into Haiti’s central river system. Genetic testing of the strain in Haiti has determined it to be a “perfect match” to the strain active in the troop-contributing country from which the peacekeepers were deployed without being tested or treated for cholera.
In March 2012, the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, former U.S. president Bill Clinton, confirmed that UN peacekeepers were the “proximate cause” of the cholera outbreak. Dr. Danielle Lantagne, one of the UN’s own independent experts appointed to investigate the source, has publicly concluded that the UN base was the “most likely source."
Despite this, the UN has not acted in accordance with its commitment to human rights by accepting responsibility and providing the victims with reparations.