UN Whistleblower Cleared of Wrongdoing for Revealing Abuse in Central African Republic

Anders Kompass, representante del Alto C

Anders Kompass, the director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Anders Kompass, the UN whistleblower who exposed the sexual abuse of children by peacekeepers in Central African Republic, has been completely exonerated after an internal investigation.

Kompass, the director of field operations for the office of the high commissioner for human rights in Geneva, leaked an internal UN report on the alleged sexual abuse of children by French troops in Central African Republic (CAR) to French prosecutors.

Kompass stated that he informed his boss – the deputy high commissioner – that he had leaked the report in order for the French to mount an investigation. The UN disputed this, insisting that he had breached protocols by sharing a secret internal document.

On 17 April 2015, he was suspended by the high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and put under investigation for leaking confidential information.

It’s only a few days ago that Kompass was informed in a letter that the internal investigation, run by the Office of Internal Oversight (OIOS), had cleared him of all charges. Continue reading

Whistleblower Protection at the UN: Reasons for Despair or Hope?

By Rishi Gulati*

[The author has had no involvement in the cases mentioned below; this entry should not be construed as legal advice in any way or form whatsoever]

Anders Kompass United Nations

Anders Kompass, the director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

In a recent article in the Guardian, it was disclosed that French authorities thanked a senior UN official, Mr Anders Kompass for disclosing sexual abuse by French troops. That article says in part:

Sources close to the case say Kompass, director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, disclosed the report to the French because of the UN’s failure to act quickly to stop the abuse identified in its own internal report.

Hinting that the allegations represented just a fraction of what had taken place, a UN spokesman said on Friday: “It is possible, it’s horribly possible” that more allegations of sexual abuse of children by French and other soldiers in the Central African Republic could come to light.

The same report says that: “The official, Anders Kompass, has been suspended by the UN and faces dismissal for what the organisation says is a “breach of protocols” in releasing a confidential internal UN document.” I will return to the Kompass case shortly. But before that, some points on the UN whistleblower protection system, or the lack of it.

Problems facing whistleblower protection at the UN

The internal rules of the UN contain several layers, one of these layers is known as the Secretary-General Bulletins. These possess binding force. Under the Secretary-General’s Bulletin on protection against retaliation (ST/SGB/2005/21) the UN Ethics Office protects staff from being punished for reporting misconduct or for cooperating with an official audit or investigation – commonly known as “whistleblower protection.”

But are whistleblowers rights at the UN actually protected? There are some very disturbing findings. Continue reading

UN Ordered to Lift Suspension of Sexual Abuse Report Whistleblower

Anders Kompass, representante del Alto C

Anders Kompass, the director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The UN Dispute tribunal has ordered the United Nations to immediately lift the suspension of a whistleblower who disclosed the alleged sexual abuse of children by peacekeeping troops in Africa to the French authorities.

The judge said that the decision to suspend Anders Kompass, the director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, was “prima facie unlawful” and ordered the UN to lift his suspension immediately to prevent further damage to his reputation.

Kompass leaked an internal UN report on the alleged sexual abuse of children by French troops in Central African Republic to French prosecutors last summer. The French immediately mounted an investigation and revealed last week they were investigating up to 14 soldiers for alleged abuse.

In his statement to the UN dispute tribunal, Kompass stated that he informed his boss – the deputy high commissioner – last July that he had leaked the report in order for the French to mount an investigation. The UN disputes this.

Nine months later on 17 April this year, he was suspended by the high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and put under investigation for leaking confidential information – including the names of victims and staff members who conducted the interviews with the children.

The confidential internal report leaked by Kompass contained interviews by a UN official and a member of Unicef with a number of children, aged between eight and 15, who say they were sexually abused at a camp for internally displaced people in Bangui, the capital of CAR, by French troops last year.

The order of the dispute tribunal on Wednesday means Kompass’s suspension will be lifted temporarily while an internal management review takes place into the handling of the case.

UN Commission Wants International Tribunal to Prosecute Perpetrators in Central African Republic

CAR Commission

Fatimata M’Baye (right) and Philip Alston, two members of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic (c)Loey Felipe

Two members of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic (CAR), yesterday called for the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes committed in CAR.

Fatimata M’Baye and Philip Alston, two of the UN Commission’s three members, reported that crimes against humanity and war crimes have been widely committed by all parties in the ongoing conflict.

M’Baye and Alston warned that “unless the world pays attention and holds perpetrators accountable, the situation in CAR could very much spiral into genocide.”

According to the latest report of the Commission, the UN is currently in negotiations to establish a criminal court to prosecute ‘political players’ who have committed crimes against humanity.

“If that goes ahead we are extremely concerned in making sure that a majority of the judges must come from the international community…We do not believe that national judges have that type of independence,” law professor Alston said.

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened investigations into atrocities committed in CAR since 2012. However, according to Mbaye, the ICC can only prosecute a few top leaders and there is a need for justice on a much larger scale.

More than two years of civil war and sectarian violence resulted in the killing of at least 5,000 people. According to UN estimates, nearly 440,000 people remain displaced inside the country while some 190,000 have sought asylum across the borders.

ICC: Forthcoming Bemba Verdict Significant for Sexual Violence

Jean-Pierre Bemba during his trial (c) Reuters
Jean-Pierre Bemba during his ICC trial in 2013    © Reuters

The International Criminal Court (ICC) recently heard closing speeches in the case against former vice-president of the DRC, Jean-Pierre Bemba. 

Bemba is charged with command responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by troops from the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) when they went into the Central African Republic in 2003 to assist then-President Patassé with quashing a rebellion.

The Prosecution allege that the MLC troops were under Bemba’s effective command and control, that he knew or ought to have known that they were committing crimes, and that he failed to take steps to prevent the crimes or punish the soldiers.

Sexual violence has been a prominent part of the case against Bemba. Then-Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in his opening speech that:

“Women were raped systematically to assert dominance and to shatter resistance; men were raped in public to destroy their authority, their capacity to lead.”

According to the Prosecution, Bemba’s troops systematically raped, pillaged and murdered civilians in the CAR and committed hundreds of sexual assaults within a few days.

Defence counsel for Bemba, Peter Haynes QC, demanded Bemba’s acquittal contending that he did not receive information that crimes were being committed; that the troops fought under the command of CAR’s national armed forces and not Bemba; and that he tried to prevent the crimes.

iLawyer Guénaël Mettraux considers the judgment, which is due in 2015, to be a potential benchmark ruling, setting the standards by which political or military leaders will be held responsible for crimes committed by their subordinates:

“The decision might have relevance around the world because the ICC could very well set a precedent for other situations.”

Whilst sexual violence has been charged in other cases before the ICC, most famously in Lubanga and Katanga and Ngudjolo, all three defendants were acquitted on these counts.

The CAR continues to experience ongoing conflict and some observers are sceptical about the effect that the ICC judgment could have in the region. Patrick Vinck, researcher at the Harvard Humanitarian Institute warns that the trial, which took place 10 years after the atrocities, is not only a failure of the ICC but a failure of the international community to help the CAR achieve peace.