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Haiti victims file cholera lawsuit against UN

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Lawyers acting for victims of a Haiti cholera epidemic on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the United Nations over the outbreak, which killed more than 8,300 people.

"We feel in this lawsuit we're going to win," lawyer Ira Kurzban told a news conference in New York.

"Haiti today has the worst cholera epidemic in the world... Cholera was brought to Haiti by United Nations troops," Kurzban added.

The US-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) is representing 8,000 victims and families of those who died since the epidemic began in October 2010.

In May, the victims had given the United Nations a 60-day deadline to clinch a compensation deal or face a lawsuit in New York in connection with the deaths.

The United Nations said in February it was legally immune from action over the epidemic, which has sickened more than 650,000 people.

The epidemic's source has been traced to a river that runs next to a UN peacekeepers' camp in the central town of Mirebalais, where Nepalese troops had been based.

The strain of cholera is the same as one endemic in Nepal.

The IJDH says the cholera epidemic continues to kill about 1,000 Haitians a year.

"We feel in this lawsuit we're going to win," lawyer Ira Kurzban told a news conference.

"This is a unique set of circumstances for which the United Nations cannot behind the shield of immunity."

Lawyers had sought $100,000 compensation for the family of each victim who died and $50,000 for each survivor. That could take the potential claim into several billion dollars.

The cholera epidemic dealt a new blow to Haiti as it struggled to overcome the strife caused by a January 2010 earthquake that killed 250,000 people.

The UN said in February that the complaint from the victims' lawyers was "non-receivable" under a 1946 convention setting out the UN's immunities for its actions.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a $2.2 billion appeal in December, however, to raise money to provide clean water and health facilities in the deeply impoverished Caribbean nation.

jm/dc

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131009/haiti-victims-file-cholera-lawsuit-against-un