UN refugee chief Lubbers quits

21st February 2005, Comments 0 comments

21 February , AMSTERDAM — Sex harassment allegations eventually got the better of Ruud Lubbers on Sunday as he quit the post of UN High Commissioner for Refugees, claiming bitterly that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan had "insulted" him.

21 February

AMSTERDAM — Sex harassment allegations eventually got the better of Ruud Lubbers on Sunday as he quit the post of UN High Commissioner for Refugees, claiming bitterly that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan had "insulted" him.

Lubbers announced his decision in a letter to Annan, asserting that the UN did not have sufficient faith in him to continue on in his present capacity. The letter was also sent to various media agencies on Sunday.
 
But Lubbers made clear that he came to the decision himself. The 65-year-old will remain as UNHCR chief until a successor can be appointed. The UNHCR is responsible for distributing aid to the world's 17 million refugees.
 
Lubbers rejected suggestions that his resignation was a confession that he was guilty of sexual harassment. "It does not feel like it. I think that a border has been breached," he said.
  
He was referring to the leaking last week of a confidential report written by the United Nation's internal investigation department OIOS and the publicity around his alleged actions in recent months.

The scandal surfaced after a 51-year-old American woman lodged a complaint in April last year claiming that Lubbers groped her at the end of a meeting in Geneva in December 2003.

The leaked report revealed allegations from four other women who had also complained of unwanted sexual advances. They had refused to lodge official complaints due to fear of reprisals.

"There were obviously certain people who had an interest in allowing the report to leak as if it was truth," Lubbers said.

The OIOS report had recommended "appropriate actions" be taken against Lubbers last May, but Annan rejected the findings at the time, not because of a lack of evidence to satisfy the investigators, but because the allegations were unsustainable on a legal basis.

The matter appeared closed until British newspaper The Independent got its hands on the report last week, sparking renewed controversy. The UN then said on Friday that the case was not over and that Lubbers' future as High Commissioner for Refugees was in doubt.

Two days later, Lubbers released a bitter letter of resignation, telling Annan: "Now, in the middle of a series of problems and with ongoing media pressure, you apparently view this differently. Despite all my loyalty, insult has now been added to injury and therefore I resign as High Commissioner".

Lubbers said Annan did not explicitly request his resignation, but admitted that they had analysed this idea during a meeting on Friday. Lubbers later conceded that the pressure became too intense to continue.

He said Annan already had other problems to deal with in New York, such as the fraud controversy around the Oil for Food programme and sexual abuse by peacekeepers in the Congo. The sexual harassment allegations against Lubbers thus made matters more complicated.

But Lubbers was disappointed by his resignation, confirming that he had wanted to stay on until the end of his current contract, which ends on 31 December 2005.

Despite the scandal tarnishing his name, Lubbers denied his reputation was in tatters. He said he drew on support in recent times from a large number of people within the UN who had wanted him to stay on.

Lubbers was Dutch prime minister from 1982 to 1994. Independently wealthy, he was donating his salary — estimated at about USD 300,000 — and travel expenses to the UN each year, Reuters reported.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news + Ruud Lubbers

0 Comments To This Article