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New York City Bar Association Urges Settling of Haiti Cholera Claims by United Nations


Eric Friedman
(212) 382-6754

Kathryn Inman
(212) 382-6656

New York City Bar Association Urges Settling of Haiti Cholera Claims by United Nations

New York, April 22, 2014 – In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, the New York City Bar Association urges the U.S. government to call upon the United Nations to “perform its obligations” under the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN and provide an appropriate mode for settling claims that UN personnel are responsible for the cholera epidemic in Haiti.

“There is evidence pointing to United Nations peacekeepers or personnel being the most likely source of the cholera epidemic in Haiti,” states the letter. It has been alleged that more than 8,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands more have been infected as a result of the epidemic.

The letter, signed by City Bar President Carey R. Dunne, disputes the UN’s contention that the claims would necessarily include a “review of political and policy matters” and that accordingly the claims are “not receivable” pursuant to section 29 of the 1946 Convention.

The United States has been a party to the 1946 Convention since 1970, and while technically the UN cannot be a party to that Convention, it sets out UN rights and obligations and was approved by the General Assembly in 1946. The UN stated to the International Court of Justice in 1949 that it considers itself to be a party to the 1946 Convention and the Court’s advisory opinion in 1949 on “Reparation for injuries suffered in the service of the United Nations” confirmed that the 1946 Convention “creates rights and duties between each of the signatories and the Organization.”

While section 2 of the 1946 Convention provides that the UN shall be immune from interference by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action, “section 29 provides that the UN ‘shall make provisions for appropriate modes of settlement of disputes arising out of contracts and other disputes of a private law character’ to which the UN is a party,” the letter states. “Thus, for claims of a private law character, section 2 does not provide an absolute shield against claims. “The alleged tortious behavior described in the claims,” according to the letter, is not related to “the official functions of the peacekeeping mission nor to how those functions are being performed.” The position taken by the UN “runs the risk of encouraging governments or courts around the world to lift the UN’s immunity, which is not in the interest of either the UN or the United States.”

The letter can be read here:

About the Association
The New York City Bar Association, since its founding in 1870, has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the legal profession, promoting reform of the law and access to justice, and providing service to the profession and the public. The Association, through its 24,000 members, continues to work for political, legal and social reform, while implementing innovative means to help the disadvantaged. Protecting the public’s welfare remains one of the Association’s highest priorities.