Today, Human Rights Day should be when the United Nations starts righting the wrongs done to hundreds of thousands of Haitian cholera victims who have been deprived of justice by the international organization. That’s according to the International Human Rights Clinic at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
The IHRC leads a group of nearly 60 supporters from around the world in calling on the U.N. to stop refusing remedies to the victims of Haiti’s destructive cholera epidemic. Denying proper redress, IHRC leaders assert, is a violation of the human rights of Haitian victims.
In a letter to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the IHRC urges the U.N. to seek immediate redress for the victims of the massive cholera epidemic that hit Haiti four years ago. As of October 2014, the official death toll from cholera has risen to 8,647 and the number of those infected has risen to 711,442, according to the group.
“The epidemic is a serious threat to life and a fundamental barrier to the realization of human rights in Haiti, including the rights to life, health, clean water, sanitation, and a healthy environment,” the IHRC and its supporting organizations write to High Commissioner Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein.
According to a previous IHRC report, extensive evidence shows U.N. peacekeepers introduced the deadly strain to the country from reckless waste management that leaked into Haiti’s principal river. The U.N. has been unwilling to accept responsibility for its role in the outbreak, and a growing number of human rights advocates are calling on the agency to compensate victims and invest in sustainable clean water and sanitation infrastructure to fight the problem.
The report discusses the Haitian government’s weakened water and sanitation infrastructure and its inability to protect the basic rights of its citizens, specifically within its most vulnerable populations. According to the report, the hurdles faced by Haitian cholera victims also illustrate a serious gap in accountability measures available when non-state actors, such as the U.N., are the human rights violators.
The IHRC continues in its plea to the U.N. Commissioner, “The U.N.’s refusal to provide redress to victims has become a growing concern among several of your colleagues.” The IHRC cited recent remarks from advocates concerned about the cholera epidemic, including former U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis. Lewis said, according to the letter: “I would want to plead with the senior leadership of the U.N. to reverse their policy on cholera … to apologize, abandon the insistence on immunity, settle the claims.”
The John Marshall Law School International Human Rights Clinic offers law students a background in human rights advocacy through the practical experience of working on international human rights cases and projects.
Click here to read the IHRC letter to Commissioner Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein.