UN SG accused of undermining judges' authority

[JURIST] An internal UN conflict was publicized [Fox News report] Friday concerning a dispute between UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] and the judges he appointed to his employee rights safeguards tribunals. Just over two years after Ban instituted the internal justice system, its judges have charged the UN chief with attempting to limit their powers and "undermine the integrity of the Tribunal and its independence" through his recommendations outlined in an August 8 report [text] to the UN General Assembly (GA) [official website]. Ban's review outlined several procedural changes to the operations of the UN Dispute Tribunal and Appeals Tribunal [official websites], prompting a response from the judges in an open missive [text] to the GA on October 10. One of the Ban's contentious proposals is to suspend the Dispute Tribunal's ability to enforce interlocutory orders while the judgments are being appealed to the to the Appeals Tribunal, the UN's highest judicial body. The judges claim such a change would render the court toothless and "enable either party [to a dispute] to paralyze the [case management] process, thus preventing the Dispute Tribunal from the speedy and cost-efficient disposal of cases for which it has been praised by the General Assembly." Also disputed is Ban's proposal to remove the Tribunals' appellate power over decisions of the UN Ethics Offices [materials] and the Office of Internal Oversight Services [official website]. A Washington-based organization that protects organizational dissidents, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) [official website; report], was heavily involved in the original design of the UN's whistleblower protection rules and stated this week that Ban's proposal "would result in UN whistleblowers having little recourse when they are subjected to retaliation and would effectively render whistleblower protections at the United Nations meaningless." GAP observed that over 99 percent of retaliation cases reviewed by the Ethics Offices resulted in no substantiation for the whistleblowers involved. Also contained in Ban's report are requests for a $1 million increase in the internal justice system budget and 26 additional support staff for the judges, as well as the creation of a mechanism to deal with complaints against the judges themselves.

The tribunals were authorized in 2007, pursuant to GA resolution 62/228 [text, PDF]. The Appeals Tribunal is charged with appellate review of decisions of the Dispute Tribunal, which hears grievance and discipline disputes between UN members. Judges were appointed [JURIST report] in 2009, including one American judge, Mark Painter [personal website]. The UN Internal Justice Council (IJC) [UN backgrounder] was responsible for advising the GA on appropriate judges for the two tribunals. The IJC was formed in 2007 following an independent review of UN internal justice procedures. The two-tiered tribunal system was also one of the suggestions put forth by the independent "Redesign Panel" convened in 2006 at the behest of the GA after then-secretary general Kofi Annan had called the UN's internal justice system slow and cumbersome.

 

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