Cholera invaded Haiti 10 years ago: The people cry out for justice and reparation to the UN
Countless crimes against humanity and sexual abuse were committed by UN peacekeepers in Haiti between 2004 and 2017
countless crimes against humanity and sexual abuse were committed by UN peacekeepers in Haiti between 2004 and 2017This October 21 marked a decade since the start of the cholera outbreak caused by the United Nations (UN) in Haiti. The tragedy came with the entry of a contingent of soldiers infected with the bacterial disease to the Caribbean island.
The contingent was from the UN Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti (MINUSTAH, for its acronym in French). It entered the Caribbean country for the first time on June 1, 2004, supposedly as a peacekeeping mission. However, it still stands but changed its name to the UN Mission to Support Justice in Haiti (MINUJUSTH).
MINUSTAH was the work of the United Nations Security Council, after the military intervention and coup in February 2004. This interventionist action replaced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide with Boniface Alexandre.
After the de facto regime prevailed, Alexandre asked the UN for a “provisional peacekeeping force”, which months later was succeeded by MINUSTAH. In 2017, the “Mission” ended, its name was changed to MINUJUSTH and it currently has 4,900 uniformed personnel, including blue helmets and police officers.
Since then, countless crimes against humanity and sexual abuse were committed by UN peacekeepers in Haiti between 2004 and 2017. However, this time the issue specifically points to the agency’s responsibility in bringing the worst cholera outbreak to the island.
This week, various organizations, including the Haitian Defense Platform for Alternative Development (Papda), met in Port-au-Prince. There, they organized a popular court whose objective is to hold a trial because of the MINUSTAH crimes.
The People’s Court seeks justice
In this People’s Court, there are representatives of civil society organizations and social movements. It is also intended to demand justice and reparation for the victims of cholera.
This ‘entity’ is made up of lawyers and human rights experts, and works so that victims of cholera find justice. They are pursuing this objective 10 years after the appearance of cholera in the town of Artibonite, due to the MINUSTAH contingent that arrived from Nepal.
The event, held on Tuesday, October 20, brought together the councils of lawyers representing the UN and the victims. Everyone is there to testify, as well as witnesses and scientific experts, explained Camille Chalmers, executive director of Papda, at a press conference.
The purpose of the Court is to become a new mobilization tool to intensify the struggle and provide more opportunities. In this way they want the victims to find reparation.
“The People’s Court in Port-au-Prince should pave the way for other international people’s courts to try UN crimes in Haiti. In particular that of cholera”, quotes a document.
Reparations to cholera victims
According to official data, cholera officially killed about 10,000 people and infected 800,000 in Haiti. The organizers of the Court count around 30,000 dead, not to mention the considerable damage to the country’s economy. All this led to a reduction in rice production in the department of Artibonite.
“There must be individual reparations for all the relatives of the deceased, for the communities and for the country for the economic damage suffered. Conditions must be created to prevent this scandal, such as ensuring access to drinking water for the entire population”, said Patrice Florvilus, who is the director of the law firm specialized in strategic human rights litigation (Calsdh), one of the organizations that initiated the People’s Court.
“This People’s Court will replace the formal court. As formal justice, in this current system, has not produced results, we knock on the door of popular justice. Everything is of great importance to us, because the case of cholera goes beyond the framework of formal justice”, he added.
Haiti demands reparation from the UN
“When formal justice fails in its mission, the people have the floor”, stressed Florvilus, who considers it disrespectful that the UN has not yet repaired the damage it caused.
In that sense, he announced that they will take action at the international level. He also announced that the law firm specializing in strategic human rights litigation also deplores the attitude of the UN. To date, the agency has not yet accepted its civil responsibilities in the case of cholera in Haiti.
“Under the pretext of collective compensation, on bogus projects, the UN spent, through the United Nations Office of Project Support Services (Unops), about $ 150,000 for municipal tranches. Four are included in Mirebalais to build small markets, in the context of cholera”, denounced Vilner Benjamin, coordinator of Asosyasyon viktim kolera kafou (Asovik).
That money was used for pilot projects seeking to establish small public contracts. However, it should be directed to plans that really consider helping victims, as part of compensation operations, Benjamin suggests.
In that sense, he stressed that the People’s Court is the propitious initiative that encompasses the struggle of several organizations. Among them, the Haitian Advocacy Platform for Alternative Development (Papda), the Platform of Haitian Organizations for the Defense of Human Rights (Pohdh), the Law Firm and lawyers specialized in strategic human rights litigation (Calsdh), the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (Rnddh), the Episcopal Commission (Roman Catholic), Justice and Peace (Ce-Jilap) and the organization Konbit fanm Saj.
On Monday, October 19, in memory of the cholera victims, a remembrance mass was held, followed by a peaceful march, in Mirebalais, central Plateau department. It was there that the first cases of cholera infection were identified in October 2010.
In principle, the UN denied responsibility for the introduction of cholera into Haiti. However, later the former secretary general of the organization, the South Korean Ban Ki-Moon, recognized that the international organization had “a moral responsibility”.
For its part, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) issued a statement to support the struggle of the Haitian community.
The text released with the statement “Justice and reparation for Haiti. 10 Years of Cholera ”, indicates that they join the People’s Court against the crimes of MINUSTAH in Haiti.
“The peoples of the world cannot do anything other than strongly condemn the UN and all the countries that made up the international military coalition in Haiti. MINUSTAH only brought misery to the Haitian people, it was a tool to legitimize the most recent stage of looting against the people”.
“MINUSTAH also meant the maintenance of puppet governments that followed the overthrow of Jean Bertrand Aristide. Today we make a call to condemn from all corners of the continent the crimes committed by this infamous coalition, which among others brought cholera to Haiti”, the statement added.
It also indicates that from the ALBA “we join forces with the Haitian people to judge all the crimes of this military force (…) and its true architect, who has only known how to plague our continent with misery: the infamous United States Government”.
“Finally, we call for a definitive cessation of all forms of interference in Haiti. Today MINUJUST is the continuation of MINUSTAH and the peoples of the world say enough is enough. We do not tolerate it as we will not tolerate more abuses against the heroic people of Toussaint and Dessalines. We demand the beginning of People’s Courts (popular courts) in all countries as the starting point of an agenda of relations with the people of Haiti. Long live the people of Haiti. Down with MINUSTAH. Out the MINUJUST. Reparations for the people of Haiti”.
Uruguay with Haiti
A message was also sent from Uruguay through the Coordinator for the Retreat of the Troops from Haiti and in Defense of Sovereignty. This movement expressed its interest in being part of the People’s Court to try the crimes of the 13 years of occupation of MINUSTAH.
“We support the right and need for Justice of each one of the victims, and of the nation, of the entire society looted, humiliated, devastated, massacred”, they said.
“The violation of your right to sovereignty, in the land of your ancestors, of the bodies of your women and children, is an unforgivable crime that can only be charged with the solidarity, love and faith of an entire people who fight , as you do, for an Ayiti Liv, (Free Haiti) definitely happy”, they add.
Then, they point out that Haitians “deserve the best, and they will get it, because they never give up, they never lower their arms. No weapon can kill your dreams of justice and freedom”.
“Ayiti always in the vanguard, ahead of us, the other peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean. We are with you. Coordinator for the Retreat of the Troops of Haiti — Uruguay”.
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