Five Haitian victims of the cholera outbreak that started in 2010 (and killed 8,300 people, and still kills about 1,000 Haitians a year) are suing the United Nations claiming that the organization’s peacekeeping force in Haiti was responsible for introducing the disease through sewage contamination from its barracks. (Prior to 2010, Cholera had been largely absent from Haiti for 100 years.) The United Nations maintains about 8,700 soldiers and police officers in Haiti, drawn from more than 36 member states.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, recently informed Haitian leaders that it would not accept claims for compensation made by victims of the outbreak, citing a provision of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations (one of the first in the United Nations Treaty Series, 1946). Of course the word immunities here is just unfortunate. But not only does the Convention provide immunity from lawsuits, (and exemption from all direct taxes) it also “provides for the inviolability of United Nations premises and property which basically means that they are exempted from any search, requisition, confiscation, or other forms of executive, administrative, judicial or legislative interference.” So even if a New York court accepts the suit (New York was chosen because in part because of its massive Haitian expat population), the UN may not be legally bound to provide evidence like forensic studies, which would be mission critical evidence.