- By David BoscoDavid Bosco is a Foreign Policy contributing editor and assistant professor at American University's School of International Service. He is at work on a book about the International Criminal Court's first decade.
A year ago, a Boston based group called the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) filed a trail blazing class action against the UN on behalf of over 5,000 plaintiffs. The petition asks for compensation for the victims ($50,000 for injured and $100,000 for deceased), better water sanitation, and a public acknowledgement of responsibility. IJDH alleges that the cholera outbreak is a violation of Haitian law and certain international obligations, such as the right to life.
The central factual question is, of course, whether UN peacekeepers did indeed spread cholera to the population. (The evidence to this point appears strong, although not conclusive.) But, as Boon points out, the lawsuit also raises broader questions about when and how international organizations can be held accountable for negligence.