RSS FeedFacebookSearch
Gary Younge
UN refugee chief denies sexual harassment

The UN high commissioner for refugees, Ruud Lubbers, is under investigation for sexual harassment after a member of his staff filed an official complaint.

He denies the allegation. In a statement read to reporters in Geneva, the former Dutch prime minister said there had been "no improper behaviour" on his part.

The case is now being investigated by the UN's office of internal oversight.

According to the New York Times, the complaint was filed by an unidentified female in her 40s who works as an administrative officer in the agency's human resources department and has served for 20 years at the Geneva-based agency.

Mr Lubbers, who is married with three children, said: "It has been brought to my attention by Dileep Nair, the head of the office of internal oversight, that a complaint about sexual harassment has been filed against me by a UNHCR staff member.

"The complaint refers to a formal meeting in my office on December 18 2003. The meeting was attended by five other staff members.

"The complaint was filed on April 27, more than four months after the alleged harassment. In that meeting of last December 18, there was no improper behaviour on my part."

The woman claims that the alleged incident occurred at the end of the meeting as she and other staff members were leaving the room. She later told colleagues that she was "shocked and horrified" by what had happened.

A UNHCR spokesman, Ron Redmond, declined to comment further.

Mr Lubbers, 65, was a Dutch prime minister from 1982 to 1994 and was elected to head the UN's refugee agency in October 2000, succeeding Sadako Ogata of Japan.

His term, extended last year, expires at the end of 2005.

Mr Lubbers was in Washington yesterday to meet the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, and other officials to discuss humanitarian crises in Sudan and elsewhere.

He led an investigation into the sexual exploitation of children in refugee camps in west Africa by local workers hired by the UNHCR. After a five-month inquiry, 10 cases out of 43 were proven, although none involved a UN staff member.

Mr Lubbers told the Associated Press at the time: "There is absolutely no place in the humanitarian world for those who would prey on the most innocent and vulnerable of the world's refugees - the children. There must be zero tolerance."

© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc
 follow on twitter
RT @EthnicityUK: Gary Younge is interviewed by @sonikkalogan about his work on racism and gun violence in @the_hindu #DataPoint podcast. h…
RT @thefreedomi: 🚨 NEW: Saudi women’s rights activist & academic Salma al-Shehab was sentenced to 34 years in prison + 34 year travel ban f…
RT @LRB: #DawnFosterForever! On Thursday 15 September at the @LRBbookshop, @BizK1, @piercepenniless, Lynsey Hanley and @garyyounge will d…
RT @ShowunmiV: This is how we support Black women and girls
RT @sonikkalogan: It's #DataPoint Pod Thursday! In this week's episode, I talk to @noraneus, @garyyounge and @Casey_J_Wooten about the U.S.…
RT @bgnoiseuk: Next month, @LRBbookshop will host an event to celebrate the life and work of Dawn Foster with @BizK1, @piercepenniless, Lyn…
Help me Twitter. The quote: ""You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming." is most commonly…
RT @the_hindu: #DataPoint | This Thursday, @sonikkalogan takes a look at the #US gun violence epidemic, as mass shootings continue to grow…
City workers get double-digit wage rises while lowest-paid see 1% increase - “Them’s the breaks”
RT @LRBbookshop: On 15 Sept we'll host an evening celebrating the life and work of Dawn Foster, with @BizK1, @piercepenniless, Lynsey Hanle…
© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc