<p>UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA RAMONA MATOS RODRIGUEZ, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Civil Action No. 20-928 (JEB) PAN AMERICAN HEALTH ORGANIZATION, et al., Defendants. MEMORANDUM OPINION Most public attention on human trafficking and forced labor understandably focuses on destitute victims who live on the margins of society. In this case, however, those allegedly taken advantage of were Cuban physicians, who assert that their government, through threats and intimidation, coerced them into providing medical services in Brazil, restricted their movement and contacts while abroad, and withheld and eventually confiscated the lion’s share of their wages. Plaintiffs, four Cuban physicians now living in the United States, claim that they were victims of the Mais Medicos program, a medical mission operated by the Brazilian government in conjunction with Cuba, from 2013 to 2017. Plaintiffs, however, do not name Cuba or Brazil as defendants in this lawsuit. Instead, they bring this putative class action against the Pan American Health Organization, an international body affiliated with the World Health Organization and tasked with advancing public health in the Western Hemisphere. Plaintiffs charge that PAHO provided, or knowingly benefited from others having provided, their forced labor, and they seek damages under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. 1 PAHO now moves to dismiss, principally contending that it is immune from suit under the International Organizations Immunities Act (IOIA) or, failing that, the United Nations Charter or the World Health Organization Constitution. Until recently, this would have been an easy issue, as it was generally accepted that international organizations like PAHO are absolutely immune from suit under the IOIA. The Supreme Court, however, recently overruled that approach, holding in Jam v. International Finance Corp., 139 S. Ct. 759 (2019), that the IOIA provides international organizations the same (less-than-absolute) degree of immunity enjoyed by foreign sovereigns under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. PAHO’s Motion thus presents several novel questions, including how to apply the FSIA’s exception for “commercial activity” to an international organization like PAHO and whether the immunity-conferring provisions of the U.N. Charter or WHO Constitution are binding domestic law capable of being enforced by federal courts. The Court ultimately concludes that it has jurisdiction over PAHO as to several, though not all, of Plaintiffs’ claims against it. The Court also rejects PAHO’s alternative request that this suit be dismissed for reasons of international comity and its argument that it has not been properly served. The case will therefore proceed. I. Background A. Factual Background As this Opinion mainly concerns PAHO’s assertion of immunity, the Court need set out only briefly the relevant facts as alleged by Plaintiffs. (There is no occasion to assess the veracity of these factual assertions, which the Court must accept as true at this stage.) Plaintiffs claim that they were recruited into the Mais Medicos program “under threat of harsh social, economic, political personal, reputational, and legal repercussions” from the Cuban regime and 2 that they were not told where they ...</p><br>
<a href="/opinion/4804604/matos-rodriguez-v-pan-american-health-organization/">Original document</a>