|06USUNNEWYORK1343||2006-07-11 20:16:00||UNCLASSIFIED||USUN New York|
VZCZCXYZ0000 PP RUEHWEB DE RUCNDT #1343/01 1922016 ZNR UUUUU ZZH P 112016Z JUL 06 FM USMISSION USUN NEW YORK TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9568 INFO RUEHXX/GENEVA IO MISSIONS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
UNCLAS USUN NEW YORK 001343
1. SUMMARY: The UN Staff Union's Report of the Commission of
Experts (CE) on Reforming Internal Justice at the United
Nations concludes that the UN is in breach of the
international human rights standards, because: it does not
provide a level playing field for staff involved in
administrative or disciplinary proceedings; final
adjudication can take years; internal processes are not open
to public scrutiny; resolutions by UN Panels are not binding
on management; and the entire process lacks the requisite
professional legal scrutiny by accredited judges and
mediators. The report calls for an overhaul of the current
"dysfunctional" system and provides various recommendations
to fix it. End summary
2. On June 12, 2006, the UN Staff Union released its Report
of the Commission of Experts on Reforming Internal Justice at
the United Nations, for consideration by the General
Assembly's recently commissioned Redesign Panel (RP), which
is set to release its own report in late July 2006 in
response to GA resolution 59/283. This resolution directed
the Secretary-General to form a panel of external and
internal experts to consider redesigning the system of
administration of justice.
3. The CE report is authored by three internationally
experienced jurists, Geoffrey Robertson (UK), Roger Clark
(Rutgers University) (USA) and (Columbia University)
(Senegal). They concluded the current internal justice
system breaches the UN's Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and is long overdue for reform.
4. Current System: According to the report, the current
system, with its informal and formal mechanisms, is mired
with inefficiencies. Informally, the Commission identifies
both the Informal Dispute Resolution process and Ombudsman's
office as insufficient mechanisms for dispute resolution. In
both instances, these processes lack the capacity and
decision making authority to successfully mediate disputes.
Formally, the Commission declares the Administrative Law Unit
(ALU), Joint Appeals Body (JAB) and Joint Disciplinary
Committee (JDC) inadequate, while also citing procedural
overlap. The report described the ALU as inept when, in
2000, it received 167 requests for review yet did not issue a
single response. JAB was determined by the Commission to be
more of an advisory body to management than a directing body.
The report cites delays in JAB's procedure ranging from 19
to 37 months. The Commission noted overlap between JDC and
JAB as a contributing factor to such delays.
5. The Commission concluded that the United Nations
Administrative Tribunal (UNAT) lacked credibility, as the
judgments passed by this body are 'non-binding' on the
Secretary-General. Furthermore, because the Under
Secretary-General fo Management (USG) considers the JAB
reports (which are non-binding) before any appeals can be
made to the UNAT, the process is innately biased since the
primary body that makes the original decision on the matter
is headed by the same official. As a result, the USG's
involvement through JAB creates a conflict of interest and
predetermines (or biases) any recommendation to the
Secretary-General; this can undermine the entire process and
damages the integrity of the judicial system.
6. Reformed (New) Structure: Informal mechanisms, utilizing
the Ombudsman Office are strongly encouraged by the
Commission as an avenue of mediation which may reduce time
and costs associated with adjudication in formal channels.
The Commission suggests expansion of outreach activities of
the Ombudsman Office as a primary informal means of dispute
resolution. In addition, the Ombudsman Office should subsume
the responsibilities of the Panel on Discrimination and Other
Grievances (PDOG). In short, this report suggests that the
JAB, JDC and PDOG should be dissolved while the Ombudsman
Office should be expanded and refined.
7. In the cases of formal mechanisms, the Committee suggests
that an 'Employment Tribunal' be erected, taking over some
responsibilities from JAB/JDC which were not assumed by the
Ombudsman Office. The report perceives the complete
separation of UNAT from Office of Legal Affairs as the most
effective way to reinsert procedural integrity. As part of
this plan, the report suggests two changes: the increased
openness and accessibility of appeal hearings, and the
utilization of modern communications technology.
Incorporation of these changes would improve the functional
side of the process.
8. Besides addressing formal and informal mechanism reform,
the Commission also commented on other contentious issues.
First, it notes the current system of using volunteer staff
members through the Panel of Counsel to provide advice to
staff members in early stages of a dispute has failed to
provide sufficient and effective counsel. The CE states the
POC can only fulfill its public defender role through the
recruitment of licensed attorneys to defend staff that cannot
afford outside counsel. Second, it notes the failures in
abiding by specified time-limits for formal appeals
processes. Third, the report refers to the
institutionalization of peer review as an effective and
acceptable mechanism for administration of justice, yet the
current system has several drawbacks that need to be
addressed if peer review is retained. Lastly, the report
underscores the importance of the establishment of an Ethics
Office and the development of a Whistle blower Protection
Policy. The report then notes that the Ombudsman position
should be upgraded from a D-2 position (within the Department
of Management) to an Assistant Secretary-General (reporting
to a newly formed independent review board suggested by the
9. Recommendations: CE proposes the following major
(a) Establish an Internal Justice Council (IJC).
-- Five expert person body to supervise the overhauled UN
internal justice system, appointing professional judges and
arbitrators, not assigning individuals nominated by member
states, to newly formed Employment Panel and Appeals Tribunal.
(b) Restructure UN Appeals Tribunal (UNAT).
-- Full-time President and 6 part-time judges, meeting 4
times per year.
-- Separate UNAT completely from the Office of Legal Affairs.
-- Empower UNAT to issue decision binding judgments.
(c) Establish an Employment Tribunal (ET) to decide
-- Replace JAB/JDC with ET
-- Staffed ET with professional judges
(d) Request for Administrative Review.
-- Rescind Staff Rule 112.2 abolishing review as a
precondition for appealing an administrative decision.
-- Empower Ombudsman to conduct reviews and make
recommendations to SG, as an alternative to voluntary
(e) Restructure and Upgrade the Ombudsman's Office
-- Appointed by IJC.
-- Comprised of external and internal mediators.
-- Take over abolished PDOG functions.
-- Ombudsman or OIOS should assume protection of whistle
blowers from Ethics Office
-- Provide legal counsel to staff
-- Maintain peer review for disciplinary matters
-- Ethics Office Chief should be upgraded to ASG level.
10. COMMENTS: The Commission's critical report, not
surprisingly, is biased in the Staff Union's favor. More
importantly, the many weaknesses identified by the CE have
also come to the attention of the Redesign Panel. In a recent
informal preliminary briefing by the Redesign Panel to WEOG
mission members, given before the CE report's release, the RP
reached similar conclusions and their final report may be
more expansive. For instance, the RP's report will also be
focused on justice issues at UN field operations, where the
panel believes there are thousands of UN employees whose
contract status precludes them from receiving the same
standards of justice as their full time international staff
colleagues. The RP report is scheduled for release in late
July 2006 and the Secretary-General's accompanying report is
due to be issued in the first resumed session of the 61st
UNGA, March 2007.
11. Mission notes that both expert bodies call for overhaul
of the UN administration of justice system to introduce
institutional use of external legal professionals, shift
decision-making from management to an independent legal
entity and make decisions binding on management.
Administration of Justice issues will be a prominent feature
in the General Assembly's 61st session.