Monday, April 12, 2010

UN’s Immunity Upheld in Brzak Case

In a disappointing decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on March 2 that the United Nations is immune from a lawsuit filed by a UN employee who claimed that the former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers sexually harassed and retaliated against her.

Numerous Intergovernmental Organization (IGO) whistleblowers and employees have previously attempted to hold IGOs such as the United Nations accountable through filing lawsuits in national courts. In most cases, these lawsuits have been dismissed due to the immunity privileges of IGOs.

Many whistleblowers have maintained that, when an IGO lacks a functional justice system (as was previously the case at the UN), its employees should have access to national tribunals to defend their rights. In this case (CYNTHIA BRZAK, NASR ISHAK, v. UNITED NATIONS, KOFI ANNAN, RUND LUBBERS, WENDY CHAMBERLIN), the judge ruled against this argument, stating that “Although the plaintiffs argue that purported inadequacies with the United Nations’ internal dispute resolution mechanism indicate a waiver of immunity, crediting this argument would read the word ‘expressly’ out of the CPIUN [the Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations]. The United Nations has not waived its immunity.” The court also rejected Brzak’s arguments that granting immunity would violate her First Amendment and due process rights.

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