The secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has been chastised by five of the U.N.’s own human rights experts who accuse him of undermining the world body’s credibility and reputation by denying responsibility for the devastating outbreak of cholera in Haiti.
In a withering letter to the U.N. chief, the five special rapporteurs say that his refusal to allow cholera victims any effective remedy for their suffering has stripped thousands of Haitians of their fundamental right to justice. The letter is believed to be the first time that the U.N.’s guardians of human rights have turned their spotlight onto the U.N. hierarchy itself, as opposed to individual nation states that are the usual target of their criticism.
The five experts tear apart the secretary-general’s insistence that the U.N. is immune from any obligation to compensate victims despite overwhelming evidence that U.N. troops brought cholera to Haiti five years ago from an infected area of Nepal. Such an approach, the rapporteurs write, “undermines the reputation of the United Nations, calls into question the ethical framework within which its peace-keeping forces operate, and challenges the credibility of the organization as an entity that respects human rights.”
Haiti’s cholera epidemic erupted in October 2010, nine months after the earthquake that ravaged the capital Port-au-Prince, killing about 220,000 people and leaving more than 2 million homeless. It was the first known appearance of the disease in the country for at least 150 years.
Latest figures suggest that some 9,202 people have died from the disease, with a further 769,080 treated in the hospital since the outbreak began.
A panel of independent experts commissioned by Ban himself traced the source of the outbreak to the Meille river, which it found to have been contaminated with the Asian strain of cholera as a result of human waste being dumped straight into the tributary. In 2013, the same panel concluded by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the carriers were U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal housed in the Mirebalais barracks close to the river.
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