The International Law Committee (ILC) of UNA-NCA recommended to the Board of Directors the adoption of the proposed Resolution set forth below (the “Resolution”) to the effect that the UN should promptly seek to establish a standing claims commission in accordance with its Status of Forces Agreement with Haiti or otherwise promptly provide an appropriate modality to address the claims of the Haitian victims of cholera.
On February 26, 2014, ILC sponsored, in cooperation with ASIL, a compelling symposium, “Remedies for Harm Caused by UN Peacekeepers”, that examined the remedies available to victims and others injured as a result of UN Peacekeeping activities, particularly in the context of the cholera epidemic in Haiti. (Presenters were Jose Alvarez, NYU Law School, Ira Kurzban, a lead attorney in the Haitian Cholera case filed in the SDNY, and Bruce Rashkow, former highest ranking American in the UN Office of Legal Affairs. Moderated by David Birenbaum.) A summary of the program can be found on UNA-NCA’s website
Cholera in Haiti, introduced by UN Peacekeepers from Nepal, has resulted in more than 8,500 deaths, 700,000 illnesses and more than 5,000 complainants who have alleged negligence bordering on recklessness by the UN Peacekeepers. Distinguished experts, including the UN’s own Panel of Independent Experts, have determined that the cholera virus was unquestionably introduced into Haiti by the Peacekeepers from Nepal. The UN has stated that the claims “are not receivable” because they involve “political and policy matters”, without further explanation.
Other organizations have taken similar positions recently. On April 11, 2014, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, representing 24,000 local and international lawyers, urged Secretary of State John Kerry
to implore the UN to take responsibility for its actions in Haiti. Last October, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for the cholera victims to be compensated
An additional article that resulted from the symposium can be found on ASIL’s website
Robert H. Craft,Jr.
Chair, International Law Committee
A RESOLUTION on remedies available to victims and others injured as a result of UN Peacekeeping activities in Haiti.
Reaffirming that the grant of immunity to the UN in Section 2 of the UN Convention on Privileges and Immunities was not intended to shield the UN from justifiable claims,
Reaffirming that Section 29 of the UN Convention requires the UN to provide appropriate modes of settlement of disputes of “a private law” character,
Recognizing that it has been the consistent policy and practice of the UN to provide individuals with such claims an appropriate modality for addressing the claims,
Recognizing that claims against UN Peacekeepers generally have been settled administratively or in some other appropriate manner, but in the case of the Haitian Cholera epidemic, the UN has refused to entertain claims,
Recognizing that studies by distinguished institutions, including the UN’s own Panel of Independent Experts, have determined that the cholera virus was introduced into Haiti by the UN Peacekeepers from Nepal, who were not pre-screened and failed to establish adequate sanitation facilities,
Recognizing that the Haitian Cholera case is a private law matter involving more than 8,500 deaths, 700,000 illnesses and in excess of 5,000 complainants who have alleged negligence bordering on recklessness by the UN Peacekeepers,
Recognizing that, notwithstanding Section 29 of the UN Convention, the UN responded that the claims were “not receivable” because consideration of the claims would “necessarily include a review of political and policy matters” and that the UN has declined to explain what those “political” or “policy” matters are and how they relieve the UN of its obligation under Section 29 to provide appropriate modes of settlement for claims of a private law character,
Recognizing that complainants have filed complaints against the UN in US federal courts, Georges et. al. v. United Nations (SDNY), Jean-Robert et. al. v. United Nations (SDNY) and Laventure et. al. v. United Nations (EDNY),
Be it resolved that the UN, notwithstanding its immunity, should promptly seek to establish a standing claims commission in accordance with its Status of Forces Agreement with Haiti or otherwise promptly provide an appropriate modality to address the claims of the Haitian victims of cholera,
And be it resolved that the UN, which was founded to reaffirm faith in the dignity and worth of the human person and to foster respect for international law, is not above the law, but is subject to accountability and is expected to provide effective remedies to those whom it harms.