tv Inside Story Al Jazeera October 11, 2013 5:00pm-5:31pm EDT
>> this is al jazeera america live from new york city. i'm tony harris with a look at the top stories. senate republicans met with the president earlier today. g.o.p. republicans called the meeting productive but no deal has been reached and talks will continue. just a week after a deadly boat accident over the italian island of lampedusa it has happened again. a boat carrying hundreds of my grants went down in the same approximate area. dozens are dead but 206 people have been rescued. bracing for tropical storm phailen.
the winds are swirling at about 160 mph. there is concern this could have a similar impact as hurricane katrina. the air force has fired the general in charge of all of its nuclear missiles. major general michael kerry was removed as what was scribed as a loss of trust and confidence in his behavior regarding personal misbehavior. the specifics were not exposed. those are the headlines. i'm tony harris. "inside story" is next. >> a troubled nation, a horrible disease and the legal questions surrounding the united nations mission in haiti. you're watching inside story from washington.
[♪ music ] >> hello, haiti has been gripped by a cholera epidemic for three years now. thousands have died. hundreds of thousands are sick, and there is no knowing when the disease will come under control there. it's striking because cholera is easily managed and treated, but in a nation of poor infrastructure, limited healthcare resources and widespread poverty, a disease like cholera is devastating. a law enforcement brought by haigs said the united nations is responsible for bringing it to haiti after the earthquake of 2010. we'll talk about this in a moment, but first this background.
>> reporter: lawyers from three human rights groups assert that the personnel of united nations stabilization in haiti triggered the country's on going epidemic. by engaging in waste disposal practices, they contaminated haiti's river with human feces. al jazeera'al jazeera explains. >> reporter: the united nations has never acknowledged responsibility for the cholera epidemic. the secretary general's response after his law department reviewed the case for more than a year was that the claims weren't receivable. now the u.n. does enjoy sweeping immunity under creteys that establish the organization signed by all member states but victim's attorneys point out that the u.n. does have a responsibility to provide a
mechanism for settling disputes and they claim that has not been done in this case. the u.n. is not responding to this lawsuit that has been filed in u.s. federal court. they're choosing to stress the work that they're using to alleviate cholera and to improve the water and sanitation systems in haiti. >> reporter: the difficulty in irradicating the epidemic has been compounded by the many people who lack access to a clean water supply. popular spots for bathing and collecting drinking water is the nation's streams. al jazeera's fault linu linum ld with families who expressed what should be done next.
>> how many people here know someone who is dying of cholera? >> reporter: many are also still homeless living in tent cities after the nation's devastating earthquake four years ago. the number of people who died in january 2010 is unknown. estimated range from 10s of thousands to nearly a quarter of a million. 1.5 million were homeless. the national economy and infrastructure from staterred. >> there is no doubt that we're facing a major humanitarian assistance emergency,. >> reporter: a week after the disaster the international community rallied to help the western hemisphere's poorest country out of the rubble. a peace keeping mission in haiti
fran 1993 to 1996 help to go reform the country in the aftermath of a military coup. many on the island viewed them as occupiers and are suspicious of foreign forces. in october 2010 haitians of port-au-prince gather outside of the nation's headquarters protesting against the renewing of the operation. >> it is for haitians. >> reporter: that ended in clashes with police. later that month cholera first appeared. something unseen in the region since the 19th century infecting thousands of people. they published lab results linking the cholera to south asia, not haiti.
point to go foreign workers, riots lasted for days, leading to looting of warehouses. >> we're asking the removal of them, removal of them from wherever they are. it is not only an issue of cholera. they have to remove them from haiti. >> reporter: three years later haiti is still reeling from the outbreak. small tents act as makeshift hospitals in local villages. >> what we have in haiti cannot really cope with the demand. we know that it is a germ that if you drink unclean water you can get, and once you have it, you can die, if you don't have
access to medical care. if we are able to provide clean water to our people, if we are able to give them sanitation, hygiene, to help our people, i'm sure we'll be able to irradicate cholera in haiti. >> reporter: it has killed over 8,000 people and infected over 600,000 more. minista is still working to eradicate the disease. it has distributed 5,000 water till trace units and chlorine to infected populations. $20 million has been put towards the effort on top of the $118 million donation by the u.n. the mission's mandate ends on october 15th unless it is again renewed. >> when we come back we'll talk about thwith the lawyer brings e
>> we're examining the cholera epidemic in haiti and a new lawsuit aimed at the u.n. mission there. joining us now from boston, a lawyer and director of the institute for justice and democracy in haiti, the group leading the lawsuit. from new york, editor and journalist in haiti and recently returned from haiti, and former correspondent in haiti for the associated press and author of "the big truck that went by: how the world came to save haiti and left behind a disaster." he was the first to report the u.n. cholera story. kim, let me start with you. you just came back from haiti. what is the situation on the ground with regards to the cholera? >> i think people are identifying the u.n. very much with cholera. you often see that in the demonstrations. there was a giant one with probably over 10,000 people on september 30th that i was in, and they had many signs saying
the u.n. equals cholera. so the anger is very palpable, and i think the welcome for the lawsuit is great. >> jonathan, help us understand exactly how we know now that the u.n. is responsible for this outbreak. you did a lot of original reporting on this. >> there was a lot of circumstantial evidence in the beginning. i went up to the base on octob october 27, 2010. >> that's the u.n. base. >> yes, the u.n. base in a town built right next to a river. a contingent of the pepalese soldiers you had just rolled in, and they said the source could not be true because the sanitation of the base was so good. but it took three seconds of being at the base to know that wasn't true.
there was excrement leaking, pools where they had dumped it, and it was a terrible scene. and since then there has been a preponderance of scientific evidence, and then the u.n.'s own study in 2011 and scientific study since that there is looking at the bacteria itself and comparing it to nepal. it's a slam dunk as it gets, really. >> brian, what do you hope to get out of this lawsuit? what do you want the u.n. to do? >> we're asking the u.n. to do three things. first put in the water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to contain the epidemic. most of the deaths happened within the outbreak but its killing 1,000 haitians per year and that will continue indefinitely until something is done to stop it. we're asking the u.n. to put in the infrastructure necessary to
stop the cola and the killing. secondly, we're asking for compensation for the victims. many of our families have lost their own wage earners. children will have to drop out of school because they can't afford school fees and that's condemning a generation to poverty. and the third thing we're looking for is the u.n. to own up to its mistake and apologize to the haitian nation. >> the u.s. is a signatory to conventions, which give immunity and impunity to the united nations. what persuades you that the first judge who hears this lawsuit won't simply say there is nothing to be done because of the force of these international conventions? >> it is true that the u.n. has immunity, and i think for good reasons but it is not true that the u.n. has impunity. the u.n.'s immunity is contingent. this ithis is in all the treati.
it's contingent on the u.n. having alternate mechanism for those to get justice. the u.n. itself calls for the standing claims commission. the treaty provision that the u.n. keeps citing, the main article is really to say that the u.n. is obligated to compensate people. and courts across the world have increasingly said that immunity cannot mean impunity. if an international organization refuses to give people harm by its operations an alternate mechanism for justice then courts should not allow the organization to invoke it's immunity clause. this will be the first time that an u.s. court does it, but there has never been a case where the evidence is so strong, nor the foreclosure of alternate americanismechanism so absolute.
>> it said that it will improve the water standard in haiti and yes there were these nepales soldier who is had the cholera bacteria, but there was big infrastructure problems, and a lack of safe water supply. if the--do the haitian people see the u.n. as investing this money on their behalf? and help me understand the level of anger that you were talking about. >> well, the anger is very deep. just to go back to these claims that the u.n. is trying to help. i remember a week after the cholera case started to emerge i was talking to a cuban doctor on the ground, and he said that they're doing everything wrong. they need to seal out these areas. not put the cholera victims in these hospitals where it spread like wildfire. the u.n. meanwhile just sat there and let this thing escalate out of control when it
was obvious what was happening. this is a rationalization coming later, but the people really are resentful, angry and fed up having gone around the delegation led by one of the most outspoken senators about the u.n. occupation and, two, about the cholera epidemic. they just met with william gardner who is the deck general for europe. the mandate is due to be renewed and haitians are angry about it. the haitian senate unanimously passed a resolution in may calling for the u.n. to be completely withdrawn from haiti in may of 2014. but there's no indication that that's happening. in all these claims that they are investing is a lot of time just recycled monies being put
in and the damage has largely been done. largely through the coup d'etat of ten years ago. the u.s. cut off aid, which would come into haiti through the interamerican development break which would have gone to improve these water sanitation systems. i think there's a great deal of hypocrisy involved. >> jonathan, you talked about in your book you describe it as a disaster. how the international community came to help haiti, and then left such a disaster. what has gone so horribly wrong? >> this is one disaster after a large disaster. we're talking about the earthquake that struck in 2010 and the response and shortcomings there. in terms of the cholera epidemic, that was an office disaster literally left behind by the international community. you have soldiers who are ordered there butty u.n. security council.
they bring them in, they literally left behind a disease that has killed people and sickened a good portion of the population, there are many who show signs of this disease. right now groups are taking credit for the mitigation group and some of that has been important. they point to the fact the number of deaths happening right now are lower than the rates they were happening before. but we have to understand this is how cholera works. it comes into an area. it infects a bunch of people. it burns itself out and then the bacteria goes back into river beds, into the soil and keep mutating and waits to find that right combination and that right person with the right gut that it can go into and explode again. we've seen it happen in north america, europe across the 19th and 20th century. anyone who istying back and
saying we don't need to worry about this thing any more because the death reality has gone down is really not looking at it realistically. there is a major threat out there even one that is killing people still. >> more of our guests in a moment. you're watching "inside story" stay with us. >> tonight... from lucrative denfense contracts, to behind the scenes lobbyists... >> did the egyptians ever think that aid would ever be cut? >> never >> fault lines explores the enduring relationship between the american and the egyptian militaries... >> i don't think we will suffer now, we have already airplanes...tanks... >> they haven't changed the nature of what they provide us...why would we want to change what we provide them? >> fault lines business as usual? egypt and the usa tonight, 9:30 eastern on al jazeera america that's all i have an real money.
on u.n. operations on other places. what do you think--what part of the u.n. system with regards to its missions do you think needs to be reformed? >> i think the u.n. has really has an addiction to impunity. the immunity itself is useful. was long as the u.s. lives up to its obligation to provide an alternate mechanism the system would work. but it does not live up to its end of the bargain. and not only is there cholera, but sexual assault by u.n. peace keepers that are not addressed. and then our other sexual assault and people are getting away with it all the people because they're not set up to reduce the harms of vulnerable populations. this is important not only for
haiti cholera people but people around the world. we're trying to force the u.n. to live up to its own ideals of promoting the rule of law, fighting disease, and to make itself accountable to the populations it says it's serving. >> isn't there a risk by going after the u.n. and holding it accountable that the u.n. will retreat and in retreating take with it the millions of dollars it has to invest in countries like haiti? >> first of all, in some countries, and kim and jonathan have both reported a lot on this. there is considerable controversy in haiti whether the investments have been worth it. most of the investments go back to countries like the united states in terms of procurements and salary and there isn't much impact on the local population. it does go dow down to landlordt it doesn't get to the people. people got sick from cholera.
people have been getting raped. the u.n. should pay for the damages it causes or those damages are going to be continued to be borne by the people least able to bear, much of the poor people of haiti, but congo and other countries. >> that's a huge issue in the united nations, not just haiti but every place where it has operations or international peacekeeping operations. one of the fundamental issues is the issues of corruption. does the u.n. do enough to deal with issues of corruption? not only it's staff, but the soldiers who are represented on peacekeeping missions. do they do enough to deal with issues of corruption? >> there was a report that came out from transparency u.k. it was talking about u.n. peace keepers around the world. the answer that transparency international gave to that question was no. there are systemic and deep
problems with corruption in the u.n. system, and just frankly what we're seeing in haiti seems to be a lack of accountability. this is a huge problem. going back to the question that you were just talking about with brian. a number of people have reacted to this case by saying, isn't haiti trying to bite the hand that feeds it? isn't the u.n. trying to help, and they're just being so ungrateful? first of all, these are very complicated issues. you have to ask yourself why. one of the wrong assumptions people make when they look at this particular case on cholera is that the u.n. nation soldiers were there in haiti to respond to the earthquake of 2010. actually they were not. these were not humanitarian workers, they were soldiers. and in terms of the money that the u.n. was spending
$800 million a year for the u.n. keepeacekeeping mission, that's going to the troops contributing countries, so it was going to nepal and not haiti. if there has been a harm it seems reasonable to ask what that harm was and it's understandable why people who have suffered and died as a result that have harm should be getting some kind of justice. >> the authorization for that mandate is unfairly soon. the haitian government has said, the u.n. parliament has taken a vote and said they would like the u.n. forces to leave. you are with a group of haitians now who are trying to persuade the u.n. not to renew that mandate. we talked about the anger. what happens if the u.n. decides it will stay? >> well, it has decided. it's doing it in spite of the haitian people's wishes. we have to recall that this
occupation is, in fact, illegal even under the u.n.'s own chart. those peacekeeping charters are between states. this is a violation of the haitian constitution which explicitly forbids any deployment of soldiers on haitian soil. i think the u.n. is simply acting as it really has since it's inception. it's a handmaiden for washington policies in haiti, much in the aim way the korean war. it was used as a proxy force. and even the general accounting office did a study to see which would be more economical in terms of keeping troops in haiti, whether it's u.s. troops or u.n. troops. they found that it comes to half the costs.
i think this is really what we're looking at. >> when do you expect to see the u.n. in court? do you have a court date, and what do you think they will say to you? >> we're far from having a court date. the u.n. does not want to give the victims their day in court. they'll do everything to prevent that from happening. we're expecting a long procedural challenge, and if it keeps losing, appeal it up to the appeals court and possibly up to the supreme court. we're not sure when we'll get the court date. we're sure we'll keep fighting until we get one. >> thank you, brian, thank you jonathan and kim. that's it from the team from washington, d.c. and you can keep the debate going by logging on to our facebook page where you can send us your thoughts on twitter.
>> congressman luis gutierrez. democrat of illinois and a major advocate for 11 million undocumented immigrants. passed in june now gutierrez wants action in the house. >> let's make sure we understand this is a work in progress. >> what about the golf t government shut down and washington's partisan politics? >> there are 200 plus republicans who wouldn't agree with barack obama if darkness befell and he had light. >> and to the halls of