Judge Oetken will hold Federal Hearing for Haitian Victims Cholera Class Action Lawsuit

Nearly four years ago after Haiti's devastating earthquake in January 2010, a cholera epidemic broke out ten months later, which has since taken more than 8,500 Haitians' lives, and afflicted another 700,000-plus. It was determined that Nepal troops sent by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti were to blame for spreading the water-borne virus through feces-contaminated water, which filtered into communities' drinking water supplies.


The UN has denied responsibility, forcing the victims to file a class action lawsuit in New York's Southern District federal court, insisting on remuneration for the deaths, suffering, and cost of treatment. The UN's response has been to invoke diplomatic immunity. The U.S. has buttressed the UN's position with a filing, saying the UN "enjoys absolute immunity", presented to U.S. District Judge Oetken last March. The class action suit alleges the epidemic "resulted from the negligent, reckless, and tortious conduct of the Defendants . . . (who) have a legal obligation to provide redress"

But Judge Oetken is not so easily won over. He has issued a decision to hold a hearing to exam the UN's own international law's responsibility to let the victims have their day in court, where an in-depth discussion can be held. According to Brian Concannon, Executive Director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the opportunity for oral arguments will demonstrate the need for ". . . the UN's compliance with its obligations, both in court and without."

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