law

UN Justice and Secrecy

UN Justice and SecrecyOne of the oldest democracies in the world, Greece, recognized the vital, organic and inherent interdependence between justice, transparency and human rights. Greece established the Ministry of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights as State Justice Secretariat in 1833.

This pioneering  Greek Ministry should serve as a lesson for the UN, and indeed as a shining example for all countries, that transparency is both a pre-requisite for justice and a necessary outcome of justice as well, while human rights remain the overall framework of real justice.

By linking justice, transparency and human rights; this Greek Ministry also highlights the close intrinsic two-way connections and interactions between transparency, justice, peace and security as core constructs of human rights. Without transparency, there is no justice. Without justice there is no peace, security or human rights.

Now, 177 years after the Greek initiative, the United Nations still prefers to carry out its activities, including its new internal justice activities, shrouded in secrecy and lacking any degree of the pre-requisite transparency or openness to the general public, citizens of the world, and even more so to the Judges of the UN’s own new Internal Justice system.

What happened to the UN Internal Justice website (http://www.un.org/en/internaljustice/)?! Why wasn’t that website updated for more than 10 days?!

The last statement on the front page of the UN Internal Justice website confirms: “Last updated: Thursday, 11 March 2010”. That is more than 10 days ago, which raises questions and concerns about the UN bureaucracy and its lack of transparency in general and apparently a new conspiracy of silence by that entrenched UN bureaucracy and the UN bosses against the new UN Internal Justice system.

Why isn’t that important website updated daily? Is that lack of transparency a deliberate act by the UN bosses? Is the decision not to update that important website related to the recent brave Orders by Honorable Judge Michael Adams of the UN Dispute Tribunal in New York?

It is becoming obvious that the UN Secretary General and his Administration are stone-walling, disregarding, and trying to play games with the last 5 Orders of Honorable Judge Adams:

1. NY-2010-040.pdf 2. NY-2010-042.pdf 3. NY-2010-043.pdf 4. NY-2010-044.pdf 5. NY-2010-046.pdf

While we are not attempting to comment on the merit of this case, this is up to the most able intellects of Honorable Judge Adams,  we are only citing this example case to show how the UN still functions in secrecy and with disregard to its own Internal Justice system.

The case in question here is about a senior UN officer, who worked for the UN for over 30 years. Later in his career with the UN, he applied for the senior post of UN Assistant Secretary-General, however, his application was allegedly treated with the standard UN Human Resources secrecy, lack of following due process and lack of adhering to the UN rules and procedures.

  1. When the case came before Honorable Judge Adams, he ordered the UN administration (respondent) as follows: “The respondent is to produce to the Tribunal by close of business Friday, 5 March 2010 the documents considered by the Selection Committee, the records of the deliberations of the Committee and any communication by it to the Secretary-General together with the documents prepared by officials in the EOSG relating to the appointment of the ASG/DESA.”  NY-2010-040.pdf dated 3 March 2010.
  2. On 7 March 2010 the respondent filed a submission, stating that it declined to produce the documents requested, for reasons set out in its previous submissions.” Upon receiving this submission, Honorable Judge Adams ruled: “To disobey an order of the Tribunal is undoubtedly contempt. Whether it is so described matters not. A deliberate decision to disobey is a direct attack upon the jurisdiction of the Tribunal and its power to undertake the responsibilities with which it has been entrusted in its Statute by the General Assembly.” The order of Honorable Judge Adams continues: “The Tribunal is disturbed by the Respondent’s conduct. It cannot condone an act by the Respondent designed to keep in the dark the circumstances..” NY-2010-042.pdf dated 8 March 2010.
  3. On 8 March 2010, Honorable Judge Adams ruled: “As I have already explained in my order earlier today, the respondent was in willful disobedience of an order of the Tribunal to produce certain relevant documents to it. As a consequence of that disobedience, I ordered that the respondent was not entitled to be heard in respect of the case in which the documents were required.” The ruling continues: “I regard the refusal as a direct and brazen attack on the rule of law created by the General Assembly and solemnly embodied in the Statue of this Tribunal. The Secretary-General can either comply with the rule of law, or he can defy it, but it should be understood, that if ·he defies it, he cannot expect that the Tribunal will be prepared to listen to what might be said by him or on his behalf.” NY-2010-043.pdf dated 8 March 2010.
  4. On 9 March 2010, Honorable Judge Adams stated: “A confrontation between the Tribunal and the respondent on a matter so fundamental as the issue here is obviously undesirable. I take some comfort in the apparent appreciation of its seriousness.” Then Honorable Judge Adams ordered: “At the close of the day’s proceedings, the Tribunal ordered that the officer who made the decision that Tribunal’s Order 40 (NY 12010) would not be complied with is to appear before me at 10:00a.m., Wednesday, 10 March 2010.” NY-2010-044.pdf dated 9 March 2010.
  5. On 10 March 2010, Honorable Judge Adams wrote: “At shortly after 9:30am this morning the Registry was informed in a document entitled ‘submission’ and signed by a legal officer and the Chief of the Administrative Law Section of the Office of Human Resources Management as follows- In response to Order No. 2010/44, the respondent notifies the Tribunal that the officer referred to … will not be appearing before the Tribunal at 10.00am on 10 March 2010.”  Honorable Judge Adams continues: “As I have already said, the refusal to obey the Tribunal’s Order is a brazen attack upon the rule of law embodied in the Tribunal and cannot be disregarded. In other jurisdictions, serious personal penalties would apply to officials who willfully disobeyed the order of a court.” Honorable Judge Adams added: “The question is whether the rule of law will be applied or if these matters will be governed by administrative fiat.” Then Honorable Judge Adams order the UN Administration: “The respondent is ordered within twenty-four hours to supply the name and contact details of the officer who made the decision to disobey the order made by the Tribunal to produce the documents identified in the Tribunal’s ruling..NY-2010-046.pdf dated 10 March 2010.

The last order is dated March 10, 2010; after which, the UN stopped updating its Internal Justice website, at least until today, March 22, 2010. Is that last order and the ensuing confrontation, between Honorable Judge Adams and the UN Administration, the reason for not updating the UN Internal Justice website?

The bigger question remains, why is the UN Administration insisting on refusing to submit the required documents as ordered by the Tribunal?!

M. Alaadin A. Morsy

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

3 thoughts on “UN Justice and Secrecy”

  1. One day after The UN Post published this article, the UN Internal Justice website was finally updated with only 4 new judgments by the honorable judges of UNDT, NY.
    However, the documents of 2 of these 4 judgments do not open online; and there is no update, judgment or order on the case cited in this article.

  2. Bravo! UN Post!!

    As we are finally  hoping for genuine reforms taking roots in the internal justice system, we seem to get stuck in the unchanging traits of hypocrisy and hierarchical over-lordship

    Though the UN Appeals Tribunal has been sitting in its inaugural session in Geneva since 15 March 2010, nothing has been heard thus for (22 March 2010).  Neither the UNAT nor UNDT publish journal(s) of their weekly business schedules, similar to the published listings of any higher judicial courts.

    The right to information, transparency and accountability are the basic requirements of any genuine justice system in a democratic governance. It may even become  necessary to call for judicial activism to question  and correct the entrenched bureaucracy of its usual old secretive negative habits.  Of course, such justice rulings would work provided the system provides timely enforcement of judge’s order/decision.  This important lacuna could easily throw the newly born baby out with the bathwater. 

    Hope and pray that the new Internal Judges are truly independent and courageous in sending  a timely  message to the UN GA, that it is not just those dozen or so Judges alone can uphold justice, but the huge sluggish establishment abiding by the commitment to rule of law and justice, can help make the justice system truly work.  

    MDG Review in 2010 should demonstrate that internal justice in the UN has finally arrived.

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