Thursday, February 2, 2017

UN Ethics Office Failure on UN Official's Book Sales With Morocco Denied in OHCHR Statement v ICP

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 2 – On the day Ban Ki-moon had to drop out of the race for South Korea's presidency based on corruptionthe UN Ethics Office (and others at the UN) never acted on, when raised by Inner City Press, it hardly seems like news that the UN Ethics Office is a bad joke.

   But a leaked Ethics Office document takes the Office's malfeasance to a new level, calls into question the utility of the UN's "new" whistleblower policy Inner City Press has asked about, and calls for inquiries in Congress and elsewhere.
 Inner City Press placed the Ethics Office ruling on its Scribd page, here, and and reported on February 1 it would emphasize for now this UNreported part of it.
  Eric Tistounet of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, without Ethics approval, published a book and had a member state promote it. Document at Page 11. One pitch mentions the state of Morocco.
   Now Prince Zeid's OHCHR responds with a press release denying everything, concluding "the claims made by the staff member were found to be unsubstantiated."
 Inner City Press has asked OHCHR this. 
  But the Ethics Office memo - on which UN holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric refused to answer Inner City Press, video here - admits Reilly's exposing of Morocco paying to promote OHCHR's Tistounet's book created a right to protection. And the event's website makes clear Morocco was paying, against the rules. That's not "unsubstantiated" - that's a cover up of corruption. On this and the rest, we'll have more.
  For now we only note that Zeid's OHCHR's self-serving total denial, seemingly a product of fear of loss of US funding, has been welcomed by Pierre Nkurunziza supporters in Burundi.
And this, from the annotator:
"They are clearly panicked, and the OHCHR Press Release is not saving the Ethics Office.   This would, of course, be the same OHCHR that still insists they did nothing wrong in the Kompass / CAR sexual abuse case…...

The question is not whether there was a casual connection between Eric Tistounet’s decision and Cao Shunli’s death.  Eric Tistounet’s decision gave Emma Reilly cause to be concerned for the safety of the human rights activists in China, and in the specific case of Cao Shunli, that concern turned out to be justified.

The question is whether Emma Reilly had reasonable grounds to believe that Eric Tistounet’s decision might be misconduct ….. and the Ethics Office bent over backwards to say ‘no’!

This would, of course, be the same Ethics Office as was involved in “facilitating” Zeid's misconduct complaint against Kompass - and didn’t know that child sex abuse generally gets a bad rap in the Press."
  Yes, that's them.
  The UN spokespeople who defended Ban Ki-moon's corruption to Inner City Press until the day he left, and stonewall now, often say the Ethics Office as approved this or that. For example, Ban's mentor and UN official Han Seung-soo being on the boards of directors of Doosan Infracore and Standard Chartered Bank, which has UN contracts.
  Or Jane Holl Lute, being on the board of a railroad, and also a "senior US administration official" while being a UN official. The list goes on.

   But it gets worse, much worse. As stated by the memo's annotator to Inner City Press:
"this is a whistleblower protection case. The staff member reported that OHCHR gave names of Chinese human rights activists to the Chinese government. This was when China was trying to get on the Human Rights Council. They prevented a number of activists from traveling to Geneva to attend the meetings, and we know that one of them subsequently died in police custody.
OHCHR tried very hard to keep this quiet, but one Human Rights Officer, Emma Reilly, complained about it. They then retaliated against her.
Of all the insanity in this, possibly the best bit of all is the Ethics Office arguing that even after OHCHR deviated from their usual policy and shared information with the Chinese government about which Chinese human rights activists were being accredited to attend the Human Rights meeting, and even though a human rights activist DIED after being detained to stop her traveling to a UN human rights meeting..........a UN Human Rights Officer still does not have reasonable grounds to believe that misconduct has taken place....... so nothing she said or did is 'protected.' The new whistleblower policy is a POS because nothing in it will give the s/m any comfort when the Ethics Office bends over backwards not to recognize retaliation. There is still nothing the staff member can do about this.
Can you make these documents available on your site?"
 But of course. See more of his summary here, and response to Ethics Office, here.
 And see this, from the Government Accountability Project which also requested a reversal of UN USG Cristina Gallach's retaliatory eviction of Inner City Press, without response from the old UNSG and old USUN / Isobel Coleman - still UNacted on by the new SG. We'll have more on this.
  The UN system's mistreatment of whistleblowers goes beyond the UN Secretariat's firing of Anders Kompass after he went public with sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic by peacekeepers, and outright censorship in 2016.
  At the World Intellectual Property Organization, Director General Francis Gurry abused his power after a detailed charge of misconduct filed by then Deputy Director General James Pooley. Whistleblower Miranda Brown has yet to be reinstated. 
There was a staff protest at WIPO in Geneva on January 25. Video here. Staff say, "Since 2008, WIPO staff have found themselves on the receiving end of DNA theft, interference in procurement processes, summary dismissal of their staff union president Moncef Kateb, intimidation of staff who speak out and cover-up, including the attempted suppression of an investigation by the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services into inappropriate behaviour by their Director-General."
 Also on January 25, Inner City Press asked the UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: 
Inner City Press: going back to when you announced the new whistle-blower policy.  I’m sure you’ve now seen that the Government Accountability Project has said it made some good steps, but they think it falls short of the US, under the US law that requires withholding contributions.  Do you disagree with that? They’re saying that the law requires external arbitration.

Spokesman:  I think we look forward to having a dialogue with the Government Accountability Office, more importantly, with the US authorities on this.  I think we’re very, we feel very strongly that the new whistle-blower policy meets best practices, that it is a great improvement on what the staff had before.  And I think it’s a testimony to both parties willing to move forward that the staff and management agreed on this rather quickly in the new Secretary-General’s term.

Inner City Press:  When you say the staff, given that there’s a dispute about who the staff union is, what do you mean by that?

Spokesman:  Well, it’s with the global, global staff management…
"to call for the removal of the WIPO Director General. The agreed demonstration will therefore take place on Wednesday, 25 January 2017 from 12h15 to 12h45 in front of the broken chair at the Place des Nations.  Speeches will start at 12h15 sharp.... We will also have some balloons to hand out which calls for the resignation of the WIPO Director General.

We count on your presence at the demonstration. Remember, today it is WIPO, but tomorrow it could be your organization."
  On January 6, Inner City Press asked the UN about reports it would be issuing a revised whistleblower policy, and about criticism of it. See below. 
The policy was announced on January 23, the first full day of the Trump Administration in the US, where already legislation calls for cutting contributions to the UN if it does not protect whistleblowers. Will this, which still apparently denies access to the UN Dispute Tribunal, be enough? 
Inner City Press asked UN holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric on January 23, video here, UN transcript here: 
Inner City Press: now that you've announced this… the whistle-blower policy, I wanted to ask you a couple of things.  As I'm sure you know, the Government Accountability Project in [Washington], D.C., had criticized this policy in December 2016, and I wanted to know, has… can you highlight any changes?  Basically, they were saying that, in the past, they… they are saying it's weakening, the current one, which says, if you allege a violation of a rule, you're protected.  And now you have to allege, according to them in December, substantial harm to the UN's reputation and that that harm will be… Has been resolved?

Spokesman:  I think what they… the criticism was aimed at a draft that they obtained.  I will leave it for them to speak.  I hope they and all concerned Member States will read through the policy.  And if they have any comments, we obviously would welcome them.  But, I think no… it's… it would be difficult to argue that this new policy weakens the whistle-blower protection system.  In fact, it strengthens it, and it keeps alive the broad parameters under which… under which staff members are able to file complaints with the Ethics Office.

Inner City Press:  What are António Guterres' views of what happened with Mr. [Anders] Kompass?  This was a high-profile whistle-blower case known to many Member States and commented on newspapers all over the world.  Does he believe that… would this new protection… would this new policy have in any way protected Anders Kompass from being fired and thrown out of his office?

Spokesman:  I think it's… Mr. Kompass' case was examined thoroughly by the… by the independent panel.  I really don't have anything to… you know, I… it's… I don't think it would be… it would not be possible for me to hypothetically plug back in what he may have done or may not have done into a policy that's just been enacted.

Inner City Press:  And can you just… I'd asked you over the weekend, but can you somehow, in a succinct way, clarify what the Ethics Office said about the Women's March on Saturday?  They sent out an e-mail at 5 p.m.… 6 p.m. on Friday that saying participation in political events may be contrary to the UN Charter.  Was this meant to tell staff not to go?

Spokesman:  I think the message from the Ethics Office was meant as a reminder to international civil servants as to their code of conduct.  It was not meant to prevent participation in the march.