Friday, February 28, 2014

Florida groups criticize UN over Haiti cholera lawsuit

MIAMI — Haitian community advocates in South Florida say the United Nations' lack of response to a lawsuit seeking compensation for cholera victims in Haiti is part of a pattern of evading responsibility for the outbreak.

The Haitian Lawyers Association and Haitian Women of Miami filed a friend-of-the-court brief Friday in federal court in Manhattan. The brief supports a motion asking the court to affirm that the U.N. had been properly served with the lawsuit filed in October.

"We've tried for four months to serve the papers on the U.N., sending process servers to the United Nations headquarters. When they get there, they're denied access," said Beatrice Lindstrom, an attorney for the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which filed the lawsuit along with immigration attorney Ira Kurzban's firm and the human rights group Bureau des Avocats Internationaux.

The U.N. has told the plaintiffs to mail or fax the legal documents, but it has not acknowledged receiving the paperwork, she said.

"The U.N. actually hasn't said anything," Lindstrom said Monday.

The lawsuit blames the U.N. for the cholera outbreak that has killed thousands in Haiti. It says the U.N. spread the disease when it contaminated Haiti's principal river with cholera-infected human waste beginning in October 2010. The five Haitians and Haitian-Americans listed as plaintiffs all had family members with cholera infections, some of whom died.

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