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BK Blog Post
Posted by Tom Devine.
Tom Devine is legal director of the Government Accountability Project, where he has worked to assist thousands of whistleblowers to come forward and has been involved in the all of the campaigns to pass or defend major whistleblower laws over the last two decades.
Yesterday, the United Nations Dispute Tribunal lifted the suspension of Anders Kompass, the senior staff member at the OHCHR who transmitted allegations of pedophilia by French troops in the Central African Republic to the French police. He is expected to return to work today.
The decision shows that the grounds for placing Kompass on leave are bogus. The Secretariat argues that informing the police about heinous sexual abuse by French troops in Africa was improper. Its attorney further claimed that if Kompass were at work he might destroy evidence, an assertion the Tribunal rejected on the grounds that Kompass was working for eight months after he transmitted the allegations to the French mission in Geneva. During that time, there is no suggestion that evidence had been either concealed or destroyed.
In this respect, it has to be emphasized that the Applicant does not deny having provided information to the French authorities. More importantly, had he had any intention to destroy or conceal evidence, he could have easily done so, at least after 12 March 2015. Under these circumstances, to place him on administrative leave on 17 April 2015 to prevent him from concealing or destroying evidence, does not seem to be an effective measure as provided for in the administrative instruction.
In fact, of course, Kompass is the only staff member at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to handle the evidence in question properly. He transmitted it to the French police, who had jurisdiction over the troops accused of pedophilia. They immediately dispatched investigators to the scene of the crimes alleged.
It should be noted that Kompass' transmission of the evidence to the police has been characterized as a "leak" by the UN, but it was not. Reporting a crime to law enforcement is not a public disclosure of information. Moreover, in most cases, when reporting serious crimes, a witness does not have the right to withhold evidence. Thus, the UN's argument that Kompass should have redacted the names of witnesses and victims from the report he transmitted to the police is nonsense. They could not investigate without this information.
The Tribunal further ruled that the official who placed Kompass on administrative leave did not have the authority to do so.
Finally, the ruling shows that the Tribunal recognizes the incalculable reputational damage inflicted on a staff member when placed on leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
...[P]lacement on administrative leave inevitably has a negative impact on the reputation of a staff member's integrity... Therefore, and since the Applicant is currently being prevented from carrying out his functions as a result of being on administrative leave, which is of public knowledge, the Tribunal finds that if the suspension [of administrative leave] is not granted, the harm done to the Applicant's reputation will be irreparable and could not be adequately compensated at a later stage.
In short, the official who placed Kompass on leave lacked the authority to take such a decision. The argument the Kompass might tamper with evidence if he returned to work was illogical, and the profound damage to Kompass' reputation as a result of the imposition of leave on him is real.
All of this begs the question, if the action was not taken in order to prevent him from tampering with evidence, why then was it taken?
More will be revealed.