Category: Island Talk Created on Thursday, 17 November 2011 07:34
The Institute of Justice and Democracy in Haiti filed a lawsuit against the United Nations (UN) and its peacekeeping force, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). This is a bold and commendable move considering that peacekeeping missions have immunity from actions in national courts. This suit was filed on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims seeking damages in the amount of $250 million. In addition, victims demand individual compensation, adequate nationwide response by the UN in the form of medical treatment for current and future victims, clean water and sanitation infrastructure, and an apology. According to the institute, the cholera outbreak has killed in excess of 6,600 people and sickened 475,000 to date.
The suit was filed based on the following claims that the UN and MINUSTAH: (1) failed to adequately screen and treat peacekeeping soldiers arriving from countries experiencing cholera epidemics; (2) dumped untreated waste from a UN base directly into a tributary of Haiti’s longest and most important river, the Artibonite; and (3) failed to adequately respond to the epidemic. In essence, the suit claims that UN peacekeepers are responsible for the outbreak. According to ABC News, the Complaint specifically states that, “The sickness, death, and ongoing harm from cholera suffered by Haiti's citizens are a product of the UN's multiple failures. These failures constitute gross negligence, recklessness, and deliberate indifference for the lives of Haitians.”
As if sickness and disease aren’t enough to deal with, UN peacekeepers have also been accused of several incidents of rape, of both males and females. In 2007, Sri Lankan MINUSTAH troops were ordered to leave the country due to sexual misconduct surrounding under aged girls. In September, a video surfaced showing Uruguayan peacekeepers sexually assaulting an 18-year-old Haitian male. Uruguayan Lieutenant Nicholas Casariego authenticated the video, and medical reports filed with the court confirmed that the victim was beaten and had injuries consistent with a sexual assault.
In addition to these offenses, peacekeeping troops have also been accused of contributing to general unrest and other questionable activities, including the suspicious suicide of Gérard Jean-Gilles. The teenager’s body was found hanging inside a UN base, and MINUSTAH troops were again implicated in this incident. The state of affairs in Haiti forced Harvard University to undertake extensive research regarding human rights violations by peacekeeping troops. A white paper released by the university documents that Jean-Gilles’ post-mortem points to murder and witness reports suggest that he was attacked before his death.
MINUSTAH forces have been occupying Haiti since 2004. Some argue that the UN occupation of Haiti is actually a US occupation. The Grassroots Coalition Against MINUSTAH explained to Haïti Liberté that, “It's an occupation force that doesn't help the people,” a representative from the “Grassroots Coalition against MINUSTAH” told us. “They terrorize the people in the poor neighborhoods, they say they are here to help the people of Haiti who are in misery, and their sole objective is to support the multinationals and the bourgeoisie in Haiti.”
My heart goes out to Haiti. I grieve because the country has seen such dark times, and it appears to be a long journey to recovery. How much more can this country take? It appears that countries and individuals use any opportunity to prey on those less fortunate to execute their hidden agenda. I wonder if we’re at the point where human beings have ceased to set ethical standards for themselves regarding the treatment of others?
Photo Credit To Cake Poker
Editor-in-Chief's Note: EBONIE-MARCHÉ JONES is a freelance contributor With MNI Alive