FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
(WASHINGTON) – The Government Accountability Project is increasingly concerned by the ongoing investigation of GAP client Anders Kompass, a senior official at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva. Over a year ago Kompass officially informed French authorities of the alleged sexual abuse of children by French troops in the Central African Republic (CAR) by sending them a report detailing the allegations. The United Nations treatment of Kompass seems to directly contradict the findings and recommendations by the UN’s own Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, David Kaye, in his recent report that expressly addresses whistleblowing in international organizations.
In April 2015, the OHCHR suspended Kompass and put him under investigation by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) for “leaking” the report, which is how the international body characterizes his transmitting the information through official diplomatic channels. While Kompass’ suspension was overturned by a UN appeal tribunal in May, he remains under investigation by OIOS.
As the nation’s leading whistleblower advocacy and support organization with an established expertise in the protection of UN whistleblowers, GAP notes below the Special Rapporteur’s findings and recommendations on this topic as they relate to the treatment of Anders Kompass:
The Special Rapporteur’s Report addresses whistleblowing in international organizations
Part IV. Section C.
54. First, whistle-blower definitions should apply broadly to encourage all disclosures of wrongdoing that implicate the interests of the organization and all stakeholders, including Governments and civil society. As it stands, many organizations’ protections apply to reports of staff failures to comply with obligations, rather than applying to the full range of wrongdoings of which a person may gain knowledge…[emphasis added]
The UN attempts to justify the actions taken against Kompass by citing purported concern that the report he sent to French authorities contained the names of the alleged child victims, witnesses and staff. It must be understood that Kompass did not “leak” the report to the press or any other public body, but rather sent it via official channels to the proper authorities who were in a position to take appropriate action. In doing so he was the only person within the OHCHR to give the necessary details to high-level authorities with the power to act. Indeed once they had the information, the French quickly dispatched professional investigators to Bangui. In other words, the “full range of wrongdoings” of which Kompass gained knowledge included, first and foremost, serious allegations of child sexual abuse that had gone unreported to the proper authorities. Instead of recognizing the need to act to thoroughly investigate and end any abuse of children, let alone hold those responsible accountable, the UN chose to find fault with Kompass for his alleged failure to comply with a questionable administrative obligation.
57. Lastly, those who identify wrongdoing – especially evidence of serious legal violations and human rights abuses, such as sexual and gender-based violence – [emphasis added] should be protected from retaliation when they make public disclosures to the media, civil society or Governments. To be sure, disclosures should respect the rights and reputations or others, but in the absence of effective internal systems, external disclosure provides a necessary safety valve to promote accountability…
That multiple eyewitness accounts of sexual abuse of extremely vulnerable children, some orphans, in camps for internally displaced persons constitute evidence of serious violations is beyond dispute. What should also be beyond dispute is that an experienced OHCHR professional sending those accounts in an official report via established diplomatic channels evidences both his concern for the seriousness of the matter and his respect for the rights of those involved. How Kompass disclosed the information – informing his superior of his actions at the time he took them and sending the report with a signed cover letter (and being officially thanked for doing so by the French authorities) – speaks to the considered, professional way he handled the alarming report. Nevertheless, the UN’s only response to Kompass has been to suspend and investigate him.
GAP believes that the ongoing OIOS investigation of Kompass constitutes retaliatory action for his disclosing the abuse of children by French troops deployed in the CAR under a UN resolution. As such, GAP calls on the Secretary-General to end immediately the OIOS investigation of Anders Kompass.
Beyond tarnishing Kompass’ professional reputation and endangering his career, GAP is concerned that the UN’s actions will have a chilling effect on other UN whistleblowers who identify serious wrongdoing and human rights abuses.
With the publication of the UN Special Rapporteur’s report with its particular focus on whistleblower protections, there should be no doubt that the UN has obligations to protect its own staff who disclose information while performing their assigned duty to uphold the international body’s own mission and mandate. Anders Kompass is one such professional.
Andrew Harman – GAP Communications Director
(202) 457-0034 Ext. 156
Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. GAP was consulted by U.N. management when the organization created its initial protection against retaliation policy and has advised several staff associations within the U.N. system about whistleblower protections.