New York: Nearly 1,500 Haitians filed a lawsuit seeking compensation from the United Nations for victims of a cholera outbreak that health officials say has killed more than 8,000 people and sickened over 600,000 in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
Scientific studies have shown that cholera was likely introduced in Haiti by UN peacekeepers from Nepal, where the disease is endemic.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rejected a previous claim for compensation for cholera victims, citing diplomatic immunity, but announced a USD 2.27 billion initiative to help eradicate cholera in Haiti in December 2012.
The lawsuit filed yesterday in Brooklyn federal court seeks compensations for deaths and illnesses and funding for clean water in Haiti, which was devastated by a 2010 earthquake.
The suit includes documents which the plaintiffs say clearly show that the UN waived its immunity. It asks the court to declare that the UN has no immunity.
The documents include the UN`s 2004 agreement on the status of UN forces in Haiti which is quoted as saying that third-party claims for personal injury, illness or death "arising from or directly attributed to" the agreement "shall be settled by the United Nations ... And the United Nations shall pay compensation..."
The suit also cites a document stating that the U.N. General Assembly assumes "liability for damage caused by members of its forces in the performance of their duties." It says this document was adopted several times by the 193-member world body, and by the UN Security Council, as the official policy of the organisation.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric refused to comment on the lawsuit or the issue of immunity saying: "We`re not going to comment on any ongoing litigation concerning Haiti. The legal issues are the legal issues, and in parallel we continue to work with the government of Haiti on the issue of cholera eradication."