The U.S. government should press the United Nations to take responsibility for a cholera epidemic that broke out after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Professor Anil Kalhan and a co-author argue in an essay appearing in Foreign Affairs online on July 13.
Despite evidence that U.N. peacekeepers are the most likely source of an epidemic that has killed more than 9,200 Haitians, the U.N. has resisted efforts to hold the organization accountable, Kalhan and his co-author, attorney Debra L. Raskin, wrote.
The U.N. has claimed immunity from a lawsuit filed in federal court, putting the organization at odds with the 1946 convention that established the framework for peacekeeping operations in countries such as Haiti, Kalhan and Raskin observed.
“By invoking legal immunity, the United Nations is arguably placing that very immunity in jeopardy,” the authors wrote. “The principle that treaty promises must be fulfilled is a fundamental precept of international law. When a party fails to fulfill its treaty obligations, other parties to that treaty need no longer fulfill their own obligations.”
Noting that a bipartisan group of 158 members of Congress recently urged U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to push the U.N. to provide a mechanism that victims can use to settle their claims, the authors said the U.S. government should do more.
“Haiti and its cholera victims deserve better,” Kalhan and Raskin wrote. “The United States should use its influence within the international community to urge the United Nations to meet its obligations.”
Kalhan, an authority on immigration law and human rights law, chairs the New York City Bar Association’s International Human Rights Committee.