Friday, April 12, 2013

UN Whistleblower Wasserstrom to Speak in NY; Letter to be Sent Requesting US Government Withhold Funds

click here for this in full at:

(Washington, DC) – Pioneer UN whistleblower James Wasserstrom will speak at a press conference next Monday, April 8, about a recent decision in his landmark whistleblowing case. Wasserstrom will travel from his post in Afghanistan to New York for the event. That morning he will also announce, and make available to the press, a letter addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting the US government to withhold 15% of its funding to the United Nations in accordance with federal law requiring such if the organization fails to protect whistleblowers from retaliation.

The press conference will be held at 10:00 am in the Landmark Room of the ONE UN Hotel, 1 UN Plaza, 44th Street between 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue, in Manhattan.

Shelley Walden, international program officer for the Government Accountability Project (GAP), a nonprofit whistleblower protection organization representing Wasserstrom on advocacy issues, will join the whistleblower to discuss the broader implications of the recent judgment for UN whistleblowers. Stated Walden, "The Wasserstrom relief decision is just the latest evidence that the United Nations is not serious about protecting whistleblowers or holding itself accountable. Instead, the organization is sending a loud and clear message to its staff: Keep quiet."

Wasserstrom's letter, which will be distributed to journalists who attend the event, will describe the UN's failure to meet the whistleblower protection criteria established in the 2012 US Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 2055). The law requires a 15% withholding of the US contribution to any UN agency if it "is not taking steps to ... implement best practices for the protection of whistleblowers from retaliation, including best practices for legal burdens of proof, access to independent adjudicative bodies, [and] results that eliminate the effects of retaliation..." Wasserstrom's letter suggests potential steps that the United Nations could take to address these shortcomings, and will request that the US government advocate for the release of a UN report on internal corruption in the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). To date, the United Nations has failed to publicly release this investigative report, which is based in part on Wasserstrom's disclosures.

UPDATED 4/8/2013: You can read the letter here.

Background on Wasserstrom's Case

From 2002-08, Wasserstrom served with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations as a senior official at UNMIK. In 2007, he alleged internal corruption involving UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative (SRSG) Joachim Ruecker, Principal Deputy SRSG Stephen Schook, and UNMIK Legal Advisor Alexander Borg-Olivier. After his whistleblowing came to light, he was detained by UNMIK police officers on trumped-up charges, his home and person were illegally searched, his photograph was posted on all UNMIK premises barring his entry, and the United Nations and UNMIK subjected him to criminal and administrative investigations.

In 2008, Mary Dorman, Wasserstrom's attorney, filed a case against the Secretary General in the UN's internal justice system. Specifically the complaint alleged that the UN Ethics Office, which has the responsibility to protect whistleblowers, and the Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), which investigates claims of retaliation referred to it by the Ethics Office, failed in their responsibilities. In a June 2012 decision, the UN Dispute Tribunal agreed, calling his treatment "appalling." In a decision issued last month, the judge concluded that it is "difficult to envisage a worse case of insensitive, highhanded and arbitrary treatment in breach of the fundamental principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." However, the Tribunal awarded a paltry $65,000 in damages and costs, or 2% of the amount sought by Wasserstrom. This amount does not address the full consequences of retaliation experienced by Wasserstrom.

"This low award will have a chilling effect for would-be whistleblowers, plain and simple," said GAP's Walden. "Wasserstrom's case exemplifies the persistent failure of the United Nations to protect whistleblowers from retaliation. This landmark judgment shows that even when UN whistleblowers win their cases, they still lose as they are left far worse off financially than if they had simply remained silent."

The Ethics Office's Dismal Track Record on Whistleblowers
Wasserstrom's letter will also detail the failure of the United Nations to protect whistleblowers. UN Ethics Office reports show that at least 343 protection-against-retaliation inquiries were submitted to the Office over the period from 2006-12. The Office completed a preliminary review in 87 of these cases and Wasserstrom's was one of only nine cases in which it found a prima facie case of retaliation. After further review, the Ethics Office found in favor of only one whistleblower, ultimately rejecting 99% of UN whistleblowers' retaliation claims, including Wasserstrom's. In 2011, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon tried to shut down whistleblowers' access to the justice system, but was unsuccessful.

For more information about the event or letter, contact GAP's Shelley Walden at, or at 202.457.0034, ext. 156. Regarding the ongoing litigation, contact attorney Mary Dorman at or 646.230.7444.

Contact: Dylan Blaylock, GAP Communications Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 137

Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP's mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

No comments: