PRESS ADVISORY: Appeals Hearing Set For UN Cholera Case
Second Circuit to hear oral arguments on UN claim to absolute immunity from justice
(New York, February 26, 2016)— In a last-minute decision, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has granted oral argument for Tuesday, March 1 in Georges v. United Nations, 15-455-cv, the ongoing case against the United Nations (UN), the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and former head of MINUSTAH Edmond Mulet, for recklessly introducing cholera to Haiti in 2010. Victims of the resulting epidemic filed the case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in October 2013. In January 2015, a district judge dismissed the case, and the cholera victims appealed. The panel of judges presiding over Tuesday’s Second Circuit hearing are Judges Jose Cabranes, Barrington Parker and Gerard Lynch. The Panel is set to review the District Court’s decision to grant the UN immunity from jurisdiction in this case, which has effectively denied the cholera claimants a remedy in US courts. The hearing is open to media and the public.
What: Second Circuit appeals hearing in Georges v. United Nations.
When: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 at 2pm
Where: Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse
17th Floor, Room 1703
40 Foley Square
New York, New York 10007
Attorneys for the Plaintiffs, as well as amici curiae who filed support briefs during the appeal, will be available for interviews immediately following the hearing. Interviews will be available in English, French, Haitian Creole, and Spanish.
The hearing follows several months of briefing on whether the Defendants have immunity from suit and service of process. Plaintiffs served summons on the Defendants in early 2014, but the Defendants have not responded or appeared in the lawsuit. In March 2014, the U.S. Government filed a Statement of Interest asserting that the case should be dismissed because the Defendants have immunity from service and suit in domestic courts. Plaintiffs responded with an opposition brief, and 25 prominent international law and human rights experts—several with current or former affiliations at the UN—signed amicus briefs in support of the Plaintiffs’ position. Plaintiffs argue that the UN does not enjoy immunity in this case because its failure to establish an alternative process for adjudicating victims’ claims violates its treaty obligations and denies victims their fundamental right to a remedy.
The District Court’s hearing on October 23, 2014 was the first court proceeding in the case. After that judge dismissed the case, plaintiffs filed an appeal to the Second Circuit. In support of the appeal, a multitude of leading scholars, human rights experts, Haitian-American leaders and former United Nations officials throughout the world submitted six amicus briefs opposing the UN’s attempt to expand its immunity in U.S. Courts. Recently, a letter from four UN human rights experts rejecting the UN’s legal defenses was made public. Tuesday’s hearing will be the second opportunity to present the case in court.
All prior court briefings, including the initial complaint, are available here. In the last five years, over 9,000 people have died and more than 753,000 have been infected by cholera.