United Nations Deals with String of Sexual Harassment Complaints

 

The UN is currently dealing with a string of sexual harassment complaints within its own ranks, reports say. Several women who complained of harassment say their employment contracts weren't renewed, and the men they accused retired or resigned, putting them out of reach of the U.N. justice system, reports say.

 

But a planned overhaul of the United Nation's internal justice system took effect mid-summer and the goal has been to create a more independent and professional system for resolving disputes, including sexual-harassment claims.

 

The current system was originated in 1946 and is a confusing system of investigation and appeals processes. U.N. workers have made or faced accusations of sexual harassment in the past, but many say the system for handling such complaints is arbitrary and mired in bureaucracy.

 

Much of the impetus for the U.N.'s effort to change the way it handles sexual-harassment cases stems from a 2004 case. An investigation concluded that Ruud Lubbers, then head of the U.N.'s main refugee agency and the former prime minister of the Netherlands, had sexually harassed Cynthia Brzak, a longtime American staffer. The probe found that Mr. Lubbers engaged "in serious acts of misconduct" of a "sexual nature." Mr. Lubbers, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, resigned in 2005. Ms. Brzak reportedly said she faced retaliation, including threats to abolish her position. She filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Manhattan seeking damages from the U.N., Mr. Lubbers and others. Last year, a federal judge ruled that U.N. officials had diplomatic immunity, and dismissed the case. Ms. Brzak has appealed, reports say.

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