UNJUSTICE.ORG: UN whistleblowers protection: no more business as usual, please

10 September 2012

Vesna Dzuverovic, the former UN-Habitat professional staffer for whom UNJustice and the Government Accountability Project (GAP) have campaigned for, has written to the UN Secretary-General pleading to accept the UNDT recommendation that he takes “a sympathetic review of her case with a view to bringing substantive justice and closure to it.” 

The UNDT has regarded this case as a key test of the Organization’s determination to protect whistleblowers against retaliation for reporting violations. While declaring the case irreceivable as time-barred, the UN court noted that, exceptionally in this case: 
“This recommendation is made bearing in mind the special measures that have been put in place with regards to the protection of whistleblowers who risk their jobs, professional lives and livelihoods by courageously seeking to expose wrong-doings within the Organization.
The United Nations, being the foremost international Organization for setting standards for governments and other organizations, needs to review the case of this Applicant as this will serve not only the ends of justice but also to reassure whistleblowers that they are indeed protected”, (UNDT/2012/105).

Given the existing limitations of the UN internal justice system in providing access to justice in accordance with international standards, the hope is now that the Secretary-General, who has received this recommendation from the UNDT judge, will take a compassionate view and solve Ms. Dzuverovic’s and other UN whistleblowers’ difficulties in obtaining redress. 
“One can conclude that this case testifies that in some situations neither the formal nor the informal UN [internal justice] systems work due to some lacunae in the concept” wrote Vesna Dzuverovic. 

“If the UN aspirations and its principles are to be heeded, such specific cases must be resolved as well - if there is no other way, then through some affirmative actions and exceptional measures such as those requested in the above UNDT Recommendation”, she added.
A copy of Ms. Dzuverovic’s letter to the Secretary-General is available here below. 

His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon                                                      
Secretary-General of the United Nations                                         
United Nations, Room S-3800                                                               
New York, NY 10017
Vesna Dzuverovic, former UN staff member                                         
Place and Date:                                                                              
Belgrade, September 7, 2012
RE: Applicant's plea and a reminder regarding implementation of the UN Dispute Tribunal’s RECOMMENDATION in judgment UNDT/2012/105

Your Excellency,

In connection with the Recommendation issued by the UN Dispute Tribunal within its Judgement No. UNDT/2012/105 (Case No. UNDT/NBI/2012/006) of 12th July 2012, I would be grateful if you could consider this case and advise what it is that I could do to assist you in the review process. While waiting for your response, I underline in advance some points that, in my opinion, should be paid special attention to:
1) The outcome of the above-referenced case is of vital importance for myself personally but it is as important for the United Nations since it will send a far-reaching message on the truthfulness of the UN promises on the "highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity" - or the lack of it.
2) The United Nations have definitely played a dominant role in my career. I have dedicated some 20 years of my life to it - first 10 years as a UN Volunteer and a regular staff member, and the remaining 10 years as a former staff member who was unsuccessfully trying to undo the injustice she suffered which included her forced separation from the UN system based on unjust and unsound grounds.
3) The injustice consisted basically in the fact that I was complying with my job description, the administrative instructions from the UN HQ regarding financial matters and the advice given to me by the UN Ombudsman - but was most severely punished for that. Almost immediately upon my visit to the OIOS office in Nairobi to discuss some problematic operations in the Technical Cooperation Division of UN Habitat where I was working, I was transferred out of my unit and then transferred again and again - in total 4 transfers in 4 years until my final separation.
4) These numerous transfers have distorted my professional profile making it even more difficult for me to find any new employment, particularly since I was already approaching the retirement age. Following the separation, I embarked on the voyage of trying to clarify the situation, fully convinced that I will manage to reverse it because I had an abundance of proof to show that I was a dedicated staff member who was a victim of retaliation. That endeavour lasted for more than 10 years and ended with the UNDT Judgment of 12 July 2012 (in the attachment herewith). This Judgment dismissed my application as unreceivable, but it also pointed out to many inconsistencies and unfair moves that the UN administration took against me. The UNDT judge RECOMMENDED that the SG use his discretionary powers to redress this situation and bring final justice to the case.
5) The efforts I invested to resolve the situation covered a period of more than a decade and included everything that has been put at the disposal of staff members to defend their rights, but also to protect the proclaimed UN values and principles. I contacted all UN institutions in charge, starting from Staff Association and Gender Unit, Panel on Discrimination and Other Grievances, Rebuttal Panel and up to the the Joint Appeals Board. All of these entities gave me their support in writing but as no concrete results ensued in the form of a reinstatement or another employment I had to appeal to the former UN Administrative Tribunal. It ruled in my favour only in part and granted me only a symbolic compensation. As I established at once, its findings were based on misinterpretation of facts and wrong assumptions.  As at that time there was no option available for staff members to appeal to a second instance to have the UNAdT judgments reviewed, I addressed my claims to the Ethics Office instead but it channelled me to the UN Ombudsman's office. I have been in contact with that office for almost ten years now but no results ensued. My insistence with OIOS to investigate my case brought no results either, so I requested a Management Evaluation and finally brought the case to the UN Dispute Tribunal which closed the case by issuing its Judgment/Recommendation.
One can conclude that this case testifies that in some situations neither the formal nor the informal UN systems work due to some lacunae in the concept. It points out that in these situations there is a manifest lack of efficiency of measures introduced within the UN with worthwhile objectives of protecting staff members in general and whistleblowers in particular, and preventing discrimination, harassment, retaliation, bias and similar. If the UN aspirations and its principles are to be heeded, such specific cases must be resolved as well - if there is no other way, then through some affirmative actions and exceptional measures such as those requested in the above UNDT Recommendation. 
After publication of the said Recommendation, various sources have expressed their support for it. Some comments in this sense can be found on the websites of the GAP (www.whistleblower.org) and UNJUSTICE (www.unjustice.org).       
I remain at your entire disposal for any additional information or proof.
Counting with your attention and understanding, I thank you very much in advance for a response.
Vesna Dzuverovic, former UN staff member.

Related information:
Urgent Appeal, Unjust: when an outstanding female staffer loses her job and pension entitlements for blowing the whistle on the United Nations (3 April 2012)