International brief ~ UN refugee chief facing sexual harassment scandal
International brief ~ UN refugee chief facing sexual harassment scandal

[JURIST] In Friday's international brief, multiple allegations of sexual harassment have arisen against UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers [official profile]. Lubbers, a former Dutch prime minister, allegedly harassed five different female employees under his supervision according to an internal report authored last year by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services [official website] and publicly reported Friday by Britain's Independent newspaper. The report documented the five women's statements, though four refused to press charges and spoke only on the condition of anonymity. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan [official profile] reviewed the report in July of 2004, but concluded that there was insufficient evidence to bring formal charges against Lubbers. Annan did write a warning letter to Lubbers, advising him of his concern about the situation. Lubbers responded to a series of questions from the newspaper that obtained the report by stating that the charges lacked credibility and that the OIOS report was confidential for a reason and should remain so. The allegations come at a time when the UN is already receiving negative publicity from the Oil-for-Food scandal and the sexual exploitation of the Congolese population by UN peacekeepers. The Independent has more.

In other international legal news …

  • King Gyanendra [BBC profile] of Nepal has announced the formation of an Anti-Corruption Commission in the country that will have the power to conduct independent investigations into politicians and government officials for evidence of graft and bribery. The Commission, consisting of six members, will have the power of a Nepalese court, and will be able to 'take action' against those found to be violating anti-corruption laws. The Chairman of the new commission, Bhakta Bahadur Koirala, said the process would be successful if it received the support of the people in conducting its investigations. The move has been greeted with cautious optimism by other nations and human rights groups, but Gyanendra still faces worldwide condemnation for his earlier dissolution of the elected government [JURIST report] and establishment of draconian press restrictions [JURIST report]. Several EU countries, along with India and the US, have withdrawn their ambassadors from Nepal in protest. Read the King's official Notice of the Press Secretariat – February 17 [scroll if necessary] outlining the commission. Kantipur Online has local coverage
  • Talks held Thursday between Togo President Faure Gnassingbe [BBC profile] and Nigerian President and African Union Chairman Olusegun Obasanjo [official profile] failed to result in any change in either side's position. The AU and ECOWAS are still calling for immediate national elections to be held in order to follow the orginal Togolese constitution, which required a new election for president after the death of the incumbent. Faure is still resisting elections, after having been named interim president by the nation's military and succeeding in having the National Assembly change the nation's constitution to allow Faure to finish out his incumbent father's term as president. Both leaders issued statements referring to the talks as a period of exchanging views and advice, and a spokesperson for Obasanjo said that the meetings were never about negotiations, so no real changes were expected. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage [JURIST Countries report] of Togo. Reuters has more.
  • Serbian authorities have made six arrests in a test case for suspects alleged to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1990s Balkan conflicts. Serbian prosecutors are not releasing the identities of the suspects, but have confirmed that they are holding six individuals and are actively seeking three more. The arrests, made by the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, are a result of a trial procedure in which the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [official website] began investigations into the suspects, then passed off the files to the Serbian War Crimes Council of the Belgrade District Court. If successful, the process would see more cases given to Serbia [government website] in order to speed the process of trying those implicated in human rights abuses during the Balkan conflicts. The move is designed to help the ICTY finish its major prosecutions by its mandatory disbandment date of December, 2008. From Belgrade, B92 Radio has local coverage.