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Cholera-Stricken Haitians Need Stronger State Support for Re

Cholera-Stricken Haitians Need Stronger State Support for Remedies

A lax justice system is stymying efforts of cholera-infected Haitians to seek redress for their epidemic. But a new report from The John Marshall Law School International Human Rights Clinic and the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) says this human rights abuse can be addressed with better accountability for state and non-governmental violators.

The team submitted their report to the top U.N. official charged with overseeing people’s rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.

In October 2010, a cholera epidemic broke out in Haiti that has killed more than 8,500 people and infected more than 700,000. According to the report, extensive evidence shows U.N. peacekeepers introduced the deadly strain to the country from reckless waste management that leaked into Haiti’s principal river. The U.N. has been unwilling to accept responsibility for its role in the outbreak, and a growing number of human rights advocates are calling on the agency to compensate victims or invest resources to fight the problem.

The report, “Cholera as a Grave Violation of the Right to Water in Haiti,” discusses violations of water access, focusing specifically on efforts to seek redress for the damage caused by the cholera epidemic. The epidemic, the report notes, “presents a significant barrier to Haitians’ access to fundamental human rights including the rights to life, health, clean water and sanitation, and a healthy environment.”

The report discusses the Haitian government’s weakened infrastructure and its inability to protect the basic rights of its citizens, specifically within its most vulnerable populations. According to the report, the hurdles faced by Haitian cholera victims also illustrate a serious gap in accountability measures available when non-state actors, such as the U.N., are the human rights violators.

The IHRC and IJDH make a series of recommendations to the U.N. Special Rapporteur in anticipation of her forthcoming report on violations of human rights to water and sanitation. In order to ensure the protection of those rights and that Haitian victims receive the proper remedies for harm done to them, report authors recommend:

• Improving accountability frameworks for non-state actors;
• Creating a standing claims commission or other claims settlement mechanism in Haiti;
• That the U.N. actively support the Initiative for the Elimination of Cholera in the Island of Hispaniola.

The John Marshall Law School International Human Rights Clinic offers law students a background in human rights advocacy through the practical experience of working on international human rights cases and projects.


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