A boy receives treatment for cholera symptoms at a centre in Mirebalais, Haiti

UN sued over Haiti cholera epidemic

Victims of the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti are filing a compensation claim against the United Nations in a New York court, demanding that billions of dollars in damages be paid to survivors and the relatives of those killed.

The outbreak has killed more than 8,000 people and made 650,000 ill, according to officials, and scientific studies have shown the cholera strain was likely introduced to the country by UN troops from Nepal, where the disease is endemic, when contaminated sewage was discharged from their barracks into a watercourse. Before that cholera cases had been rare in Haiti.

The UN maintains it has legal immunity from such compensation claims and has formally rejected claims from Haitians affected. The case is being pursued by the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and will be filed on Wednesday in the Manhattan federal district court, according to the New York Times.

On Tuesday, a UN official made a rare case for compensation for the thousands of Haitians involved. The high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay, did not say who she thought should pay but declared: “I still stand by the call that victims of of those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation.”

Pillay’s remarks, streamed live on the Internet, were a rare admission by a U.N. official about the need to provide compensation following a complaint filed by the Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti and the Haiti-based law firm run by Haitian attorney Mario Joseph, one of the finalists at the Geneva ceremony.

Asked about Pillay’s comments, UN associate spokesman Farhan Haq said it was not the “United Nations’ practice to discuss in public claims filed against the organisation.”

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