Friday, June 17, 2011

Imagining a United Nations Without Diplomatic Immunity

by Claudia Rosett @

Why… that would mean the UN would be subject in the U.S. to genuine rule of law. A novel idea for the UN, where since its 1945 founding, immunity and impunity have gone hand in hand.

The usual argument in favor of immunity is that it is necessary for the UN to carry out its business. Such are the perquisites of diplomacy. But at the UN, which is a collective too often left by its 192 member states to police itself, this immunity translates all too easily into abuses of many kinds. In a recent post pegged to l’affaire Strauss-Kahn,Multilateralists Gone Wild, Colum Lynch provides a tour of assorted sexual escapades and allegations among the diplomatically immune set.

And then there is of course the effect of immunity on the UN’s financial integrity — or lack thereof. In a case worth watching, a Turkish businessman has now brought a $150 million lawsuit in New York federal court against the UN Development Program, or UNDP. The businessman, Kahraman Sadikoglu, alleges that the UNDP failed to pay him for his work in 2003 in clearing sunken ships from the Iraqi port of Um Qasr. The UNDP has refused to comment, respond, or accept notice that the lawsuit has been filed. A federal judge has issued an order that could open a way around this — the Fox News web site has the story, on how “Contract Dispute With United Nations Could Lead to End of Diplomatic Immunity.” If this gets real traction, it could just spell the makings of UN accountability on a scale the institution has been promising for decades, but never delivered on yet.

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