UN Criticized for Failure to Admit Legal Role in Haiti Cholera Outbreak

An independent United Nations expert is bitterly condemning the world body for refusing to accept legal responsibility for a cholera outbreak in Haiti that has killed more than 9,300 and sickened 800,000.

A U.N. expert on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, calls the U.N. stance a disgrace and a debacle.

«If the United Nations bluntly refuses to hold itself accountable for human rights violations, it makes a mockery of its efforts to hold governments and others to account,» Alston wrote in a report to the General Assembly.


Haiti’s severe cholera epidemic is traced to U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal dumping raw sewage into a river after the 2010 earthquake. There are still about 500 new cases of cholera reported every week in Haiti.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the U.N. is morally responsible for the outbreak and announced a $200 million aid package to help affected families. Another $200 million from money raised in a trust fund would help pay for cholera eradication and improved sanitation in Haiti.

But on the advice of U.N. lawyers, Ban and other top officials have not admitted legal responsibility and offered a settlement, which Alston says is required under international law.

Some victims have tried to sue the U.N. in U.S. courts, but lawyers claimed diplomatic immunity.