After acknowledging that UN troops were responsible for the worse cholera epidemic in the world today, the March 1 Other Views column, UN’s cold, but correct, call on cholera epidemic, misstates numerous facts regarding the secretary general’s assertion of immunity. That assertion, which was neither legal nor moral, relied upon Section 29 of the UN Immunities Convention that requires the UN to “make provisions for appropriate modes of settlement” of claims against it, requiring justice through internal mechanisms. In rejecting the cholera claims, the UN didn’t invoke diplomatic immunity, but rather refused to uphold its commitment to provide alternative justice.
The secretary’s assertion that this case is an exception to that commitment because it involves UN policy is farcical and an insult to the 8,000 who have died and the over 700,000 who have contracted cholera.
How can pumping untreated sewage into Haiti’s largest river system for days, probably weeks, be a matter of UN policy?
Defining this as policy creates an exception so broad that Section 29 becomes meaningless. In doing so, the UN is putting itself above its own laws and the principles it was created to promote.
Ira J. Kurzban, board member, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti