There is no question that U.N. peacekeepers caused the deadly cholera epidemic that has killed 9,000 people in Haiti by leaking untreated sewage into Haiti’s largest river.
Even the United Nations no longer contests this, but argues that it cannot be held accountable.
This question reached new levels recently when a federal appeals court heard arguments on whether the U.N. can claim immunity from a lawsuit seeking remedies for the victims.
For Haitian Americans who have supported the victims’ rights for years, this was a milestone.
But it also raised troubling questions about why our government is taking the side of the U.N. and protecting it from having to fulfill its treaty obligations to resolve claims out of court, which is exactly what the U.N. originally agreed to do.
The U.N. refused to appear in court to defend itself. The U.S. government stepped in in its place to try to bar the lawsuit from even being heard.
In siding with the U.N. instead of protecting the due-process rights of Haitian and Haitian-American victims, our government, sadly, has chosen to honor impunity.
The cholera travesty will continue to pain our community until there is access to justice.
We will continue to bury loved ones and to carry the fear of contracting cholera while on visits to family in Haiti.
When cholera strikes, we mourn the deaths of our brothers and sisters and bear the burdens of funeral expenses and healthcare costs.
While in court, the U.S. attorney conceded that the real-world result of the U.S.’ immunity stance is an “unfortunate humanitarian tragedy.”
If President Obama wants to be remembered as a champion for justice, he should prevent this outcome by standing up for accountability and calling on the United Nations to remedy the harm it has caused.
Kertch J. Conze, former president, Haitian Lawyers Association, Miramar