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US judge dismisses Haiti cholera lawsuit against United Nations

Published:Sunday | January 11, 2015 | 10:55 AM

NEW YORK, Jan 10, CMC – A United States judge has ruled that the United Nations is immune from a lawsuit seeking compensation for victims of the deadly cholera outbreak that left more than 8,000 people dead in Haiti.

The lawsuit had been filed by human rights groups and others, contending that the UN had not screened the peacekeepers from Nepal for the disease that also sickened more than 700,000 since the first case was detected in October 2010.

In addition, the groups had argued that the UN was responsible for poor sanitation and waste disposal practices that spread cholera in the French speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.

But US District Judge J. Paul Oetken ruled Friday that the UN’s charter provides broad legal immunity and that the international body has not waived it.

"Where such an express waiver is absent, the UN and (its operation in Haiti) are immune from suit," the judge ruled.

The groups were seeking unspecified damages from the UN, and attorney Beatrice Lindstrom said they plan to appeal the ruling.

"The court's decision implies that the UN can operate with impunity. We don't think that is the law,” Lindstrom said in a statement.

Washington had argued against the suit at a hearing last year, claiming that the UN needed immunity to complete its global mission, and letting the case continue would subject the international body to many more lawsuits from around the world.

The United States was not named in the suit, but federal prosecutors said they got involved because the US is the UN's host nation.

The UN has repeatedly declined to comment on the lawsuit but has said it is working with the government in Haiti to eradicate cholera.

In December 2012, the UN announced a US$2.27 billion initiative to help eradicate the disease in the country that was hit by an earthquake in 2010, which also killed an estimated 300,000 people.


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