The independent external panel of the United Nations, established by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to explore the issues surrounding the sexual abuse of children by non-UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic last year, has begun its work.
The problem for the panel, as GAP sees it, is that two of the three members are neither external to the UN nor, by extension, are they independent. On July 8th, we explored the dubious connections to the UN of one panel member: Hassan Bubacar Jallow. It turns out that he has a number of entanglements with the Organization, two of which involved grant money he should have returned to the Organization but did not – until he was obliged to. Sources we consulted said that offenses like the two Jallow has on his UN record would normally have resulted in a reprimand, if not in termination, for the offending staff member.
Not for Jallow. The question is, why not?
Now, a friend of GAP’s has turned up extensive UN connections in the résumé of a second panel member: Yasmin Louise Sooka. Though her credentials are impressive, Ms. Sooka is a chronic UN expert panelist. In fact, she’s repeatedly worked for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the office under scrutiny by the current panel of independent experts on which she serves. According to a UN Consultative Group “Ms. Sooka has also carried out numerous missions on behalf of OHCHR, advising on issues of truth, justice, reparations in Ghana, Timor-Leste, Burundi and Nepal as well as serving on an advisory panel providing advice to the Secretary-General of the UN regarding accountability for war crimes in Sri Lanka.”
This document also refers to her as one of the 3 candidates shortlisted for a top UN post of Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Repatriation and Guarantee on Non-recurrence of Serious Crimes and Gross Violations of Human Rights. Though she failed to secure this post, she’s been on other UN assignments. Her bio says “she has been part of many advisory missions on Transitional Justice for the United Nations including Afghanistan, Burundi, Kenya, Nepal, and Uganda.” As someone who has been on the UN payroll for a longtime and who has links to OHCHR and Ban’s close circles, Sooka can’t be expected to be independent and critical toward her UN employers, especially the OHCHR. Being impartial means running the risk for losing future employment opportunities at the UN.
The fact that two of the three-member panel are or have been on the UN’s payroll makes them potentially dependent on the UN’s future employment opportunities. It also makes this exercise at best questionable and at worst deliberately flawed. Besides the clear lack of independence, the main flaw lies in the fact that none of the three members of the panel is a certified investigator, which makes the entire process a questionable exercise.