Thursday, October 9, 2008

UNDP staff face reprimands on Algiers security lapses

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A report on security lapses before the 2007 bombing of U.N. offices in Algiers recommends reprimands or disciplinary action against 12 U.N. employees, a U.N. investigator said on Wednesday.

The car bombing, which has been claimed by al Qaeda's North Africa wing, killed 17 U.N. staff and raised questions about security of U.N. operations around the world.

The report said there were "significant lapses in judgment and performance," a lack of supervision by senior managers preoccupied with Iraq and other countries and a badly designed security system subject to politicization.

Britain's David Veness, who was under-secretary-general for safety and security at the time, resigned in June after an earlier inquiry criticized failures in his department.

Ralph Zacklin, who headed a separate panel charged with assigning blame for lapses contributing to the attack, said the panel recommended administrative measures -- which could be as little as a letter of reprimand -- against six individuals.

Four more could face more serious disciplinary action, he said.

"There were significant lapses in judgment and performance on the part of those involved," a summary of the report said, pointing to a lack of supervision by senior managers who were preoccupied with Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia and Sudan.

"Algeria was not on the radar screen," it said.

Zacklin said it would be for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to decide exactly what action the 12 individuals would face.

"It's for him to look at our report, decide whether or not he wishes to follow our recommendations," Zacklin told a news conference. "He has the discretion to do that."

Zacklin said the five-member panel also recommended assigning collective responsibility to the security management team in Algiers, a body which includes representatives from all U.N. agencies on the ground and which was supposed to coordinate security measures in the field.


An earlier report by a panel led by Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi had criticized the lack of a close working relationship between Algerian and U.N. officials on security, as well as the internal working of U.N. security systems.

The Brahimi report said management had ignored warnings about potential threats in Algiers, had not supported security efforts by U.N. officials there and had not approached Algeria's U.N. mission to seek better protection.

Zacklin said the accountability panel's report mirrored much of that criticism. For example, he said the U.N. system of alert levels was politicized.

Zacklin said many countries disliked having a high level of security at U.N. facilities because it "indicates that the country is not secure." In the case of Algeria, he said, the government had pressed for the threat level to be reduced.

Zacklin declined to name the individuals facing possible action, but said Ban himself was not one of them.

He added that the panel "appreciated" Veness' decision to resign after the Brahimi report.

A summary of the report, which was not released in full for reasons of security and privacy while the cases are processed, said the panel made one "positive finding" about a security adviser in Algiers who was killed in the bombing.

Earlier this year the widow of Babacar Ndiaye of Senegal, the head of U.N. security in Algiers who was killed in the attack, said her husband had pleaded with U.N.

No comments: