UN Whistle-Blower Protection
Whistle Blower

UN Whistle-Blower Protection

This is a quick review of a UN Whistle-Blower Protection case through the Prism of Law of Dharma.  Order number 19 (NY/2010) of the UN Disputes Tribunal, 3 Feb 2010, Wasserstrom vs UN Secretary-General.

"You have a right to action/work; but not to its fruits (results). Don't be motivated by rewards/results, nor become a prisoner of inaction." Bhagavad Gita, ch. 2/47.


Bravo Judge Adams, of UNDT, for helping to restore some signs of independence, hope and trust in the new avatar of the UN Internal Justice System!


Indeed, the case of protection to whistle blowers has been always a problem in most countries; even in the USA with elaborate laws available for enforcement it has always been a calculated risk.

In the case of UN, the staff regulations and rules have specific obligation for staff to report potential or actual wrong doings, with hopefully some form of protection from retaliation by powers-that-be and/or the concerned accused individuals or groups. Here, Wassestorm, formerly a professional staff of the UN Mission in Kosovo, is the Appellant of the case and whose contract with the UN, I guess, was already terminated by end June 2007, but who is still fighting to resurrect his integrity and reputation, muddled by/through the UN system. We have the UN Ethics Office that supposedly found a credible case of retaliation against the appellant, but the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS ) whose investigation found that there was NO retaliation.  Finally, the case comes to UNDT for some final understanding and possible resolution.

Complex and Confused Approaches:

The case grows from whistle-blower's protection into administrative doctrines, contract laws, et al drawing some kind of parallel to the case of ILO Admin Tribunal (ref: Judgement 1203). In the process, the whole gamut of terms of reference, rules, regulations, procedures, et al of the office of Ombudsman and Ethics office functions were all analyzed. I don't know for what.  This is how simple "common sense" becomes a "non-sense".  Never mind!

What happens is that the system does not worry about its unilateral or joint decisions at different power centers  impacting the lives of many individuals.  The judge himself at one stage seemed having difficulty in understanding the Respondent's submission  on certain aspects of procedures followed by the management.  Another facet is to what extent the Ethics Office responsibility and its involvement to resolve the issue could be considered inscrutable, meritorious and above board.

The Judge was clear in his mind in stating that there are a number of issues raising concern about the adequacy of investigation and correctness of the management approach (viz., retaliation, no retaliation  or what).

Thus, Judge gives necessary orders stating that the applicant and his legal adviser should receive the full report of the investigation authority.   Therefore, the whole complaint remains  pending and still hangs until final review/judgment pronouncement.

The UNDT noted finally that the applicant has a right to be heard on any adverse investigation before a decision was made.

Hence, UNDT makes a tentative view and wants to wait for final determination only upon consideration of the whole of the evidence and the submission of all the parties concerned.


Assuming Wasserstorm is no longer with the UN service and is now a private citizen, can anything stop him from seeking legal remedy through national judiciary on a defamation suit? If that happens, then the UN may be obliged to relieve those senior officials of any immunity from prosecution under law of the land. Retaliation against whistle blowers or absence of it cannot be proffered as a part of the UN official function by any stretch of imagination.

It also makes abundantly clear that even the Ethics Office or the OIOS are not paragon of virtues and devoid of the usual play of "egos" big and small.  In fact, it behoves of the organization to make appointments to those offices analogous to judicial appointments  after thorough background search and senate clearance in the US.  It will be a shame if more and more decisions of EO & OIOS come under cloud of bias or wrong strategies.

V. Muthuswami, Chennai, India.
Joint appellant to the Common Cause Appeal # UNAT 2009-001.

The UN Postunpost.net • Copyright © 2010 • All Rights Reserved

This Post Has 6 Comments

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    Harassment and silencing of whistle-blowers are unfortunate, but quite prevalent in the hands of Indian rulers and governance style - be they in the bureaucracy or in any of the big-moneyed public sector enterprises. One can characterize this governance by the following 19th century English anonymous verse that reads thus:

                           The law locks up the hapless felon
                            who steals the goose from off the common,
                            but lets the greater felon loose
                            who steals the common from the goose. 

    However, fortunately, we have plenty of honest, sincere and hardworking Indians - many are young - because of whom the country is making rapid progress and attracting large investments. 

  2. Avatar

    Terrible acts of whistle blower harassment and revenge take place in India. See some recent ones below.


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    Forget all of this, the system is corrupt from within and nothing can save it, except a clean microwave affliction to kill the virus from within, just take a look at unctad!!!

  4. Avatar

    BG Ch.2/47 - this \"popular\" verse explaining the nature of Karma (action,  understanding the reaction/results, action without attachment, and finally knowing what is \"inaction\") needs a good understanding of life itself - and who am I, what I am  and why I am here? Having learned from my Guru,  it makes clear for one to think before action not vice versa. Then, \"Accept\" the result with a mindset and attitude as His \"Prasadam\" (blessing).  Hence, serenity is restored with NO BP/cholesterol problem!

    Explaining \"truth\" in words and phrases (and thru written materials) has  its limitations. A learned teacher helps one to get the essence in a holistic fashion. 

    Incidentally, this verse has many times been wrongly understood - even the die hard communist (who is supposedly non-believer)  used to quote this verse conveniently as God\'s approval of communist philosophy!? 

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    Nice posting. Do you know about this edition of the Gita?

  6. Avatar

    For those unfamiliar with the Indian philosophical treatise, here is an explanation of the verse quoted from the most revered Bhagavad Gita verse  ch.2/47:

    It is just common sense that nobody acts without expectation or expecting results. But the BG reminds humanity that once you act, you have NO control on the outcome/result.. That depends on what and how one acts; how this gets analysed in the cosmic soup in the context of your own past/present acts, commissions & omissions, and results delivered with reference to the present context.  

    Understand there is always an \"order\" in what happens; there is an \"order\" in \"disorder\" - this cries for good introspection and deep reflection. 

    It is impossible to remain without action without which your body cannot function and sustain.
    So, understand the nature of \"right\" action in coherence with Dharmic principles and do so in complete possession of faculties kept in a serene good working order.   

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