Haiti Sues UN Billions For Thousands Of Cholera Deaths “Like Chemical Warfare”

Oct. 10, 2013

Lawyers representing victims of a cholera epidemic in Haiti have filed a multi-billion dollar compensation claim against the United Nations.

The lawsuit, which was filed on Wednesday in a New York federal court, blames UN peacekeepers for inadvertently introducing the disease into Haiti in late 2010, Reuters reported.

The disease killed more than 8,300 people and sickened more than 650,000 since October 2010. That’s almost seven percent of the population.

“Haiti today has the worst cholera epidemic in the world,” said Miami attorney Ira Kurzban, who announced the lawsuit at a joint news conference with the human rights groups Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).

“Before these events, Haiti did not know of cholera for 100 years. Cholera was brought to Haiti by UN troops [from Nepal],” Kurzban said.

The troops were stationed near a tributary of the Artibonite River and discharged raw sewage (excrement) that carried a strain of cholera into Haiti, sparking the epidemic, the lawsuit said.

“The UN knew or should have known that its reckless sanitation and waste disposal practices posed a high risk of harm to the population, and that it consciously disregarded that risk, triggering an explosive epidemic,” the civil rights groups said in the joint press release.

The lawyers are demanding $2.2 billion for the Haitian government to eradicate cholera along with unspecified damages for as many as 679,000 victims for personal injury, wrongful death, emotional distress, and loss of use of property and natural resources.

In February, the United Nations said it would not pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation claimed by cholera victims in Haiti, claiming that it is immune from lawsuits arising out of damage done in the course of its activities.

The UN peacekeeping troops were deployed to Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake there, which resulted in more than 220,000 deaths. Read more from Press