Expatica news

UN investigates Lubbers harassment charge

 21 May 2004

AMSTERDAM — A United Nations delegation has been sent to the Swiss city Geneva to investigate whether UN Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, is guilty of sexually harassing a female worker.

A spokeswoman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan confirmed in New York on Thursday that two members of the UN’s internal investigations department (OIOS) have flown to Geneva, where Lubbers is based.

Annan met with Lubbers on Thursday, but the meeting had been planned for some time. Observers said it is more than probable that the allegations levelled against Lubbers dominated discussions.

Annan had said on Wednesday that he first wanted to await the outcome of the internal investigation, news agency ANP reported.

The details of the allegations have not been made public.  But quality daily newspaper The New York Times cited anonymous sources on Wednesday as saying Lubbers was accused of grabbing a woman by the buttocks in his office at the end of 2003.

The 40-year-old woman — who reportedly had worked for the refugee agency for more than 20 years — submitted a complaint after seeking advice from other colleagues over an extended period of time.

The US newspaper also reported that more female employees of the UN refugee organisation, UNHCR, have experienced similar treatment by Lubbers. But they did not go public with the experiences out of fear for their jobs.

Lubbers, 65, was Dutch Prime Minister from 1982 to 1994 before his appointment in October 2000 as High Commissioner of UNCHR. He replaced Sadako Ogata of Japan. His term of office was extended last year to the end of 2005.

Upon arrival in Washington on Tuesday, the Dutchman admitted a complaint against him had been lodged in April, but strongly denied the sexual harassment allegations. “There was no improper behaviour on my part,” he said.

But the American newspaper claims the woman at the centre of the allegations against Lubbers told UNCHR colleagues that she was “shocked and amazed” by the incident, which occurred at the end of a meeting in December 2003.

Furthermore, it has been reported that people familiar with the allegations levelled against Lubbers said the incident did not occur during the meeting, but after the proceedings had ended and everyone else had left the hall.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news