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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.
WASHINGTON, D.C.– Five senior House Foreign Affairs Leaders—US Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Ted Deutch (D-FL)—have called upon Secretary of State John Kerry to demand the release of a detailed UN investigative report into corrupt practices at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the conduct of its Director-General, Francis Gurry, who has been implicated in the illicit transfer of technology to the rogue nations of Iran and North Korea.
In a letter sent late last week the members insisted that Secretary Kerry demand the release of an investigative report conducted by the United Nations’ Office of Internal Oversight Services, stating that, “There is strong, bipartisan congressional interest in the results of this report and in ensuring that there is full accountability and transparency at WIPO.”
It is believed that Gurry is seeking to bury the report, which is sitting on the desk of the chairman of the WIPO General Assembly, Ambassador Gabriel Duque of Colombia. The bipartisan letter expressed strong concern at this stonewalling, stating that “We are prepared to support the use of our leverage in order to bring this report to light and we stand ready to work with our mission to hold WIPO officials accountable.”
According to Rep. Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs subcommittee tasked with congressional oversight of the United Nations, “The World Intellectual Property Organization is a critical component of a global system of intellectual property and patent protection. Unfortunately, WIPO has lost its way under Director-General Gurry, and is putting at risk United States IP security while also retaliating against whistleblowers who have courageously stepped forward to expose corruption.”
In addition to Smith, who is Chairman of the International Organization Subcommittee, the chairs and ranking members of the Middle East and North Africa and Asia and Pacific subcommittees whose jurisdictions encompass the two rogue nations implicated in the illicit technology transfer, signed the letter.
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, and the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs from 2012 to 2013, stated, “Since I first began investigating WIPO’s illicit transfers of dual-use technology to Iran and North Korea more than four years ago, Director General Gurry has engaged in a disturbing pattern of misconduct in order to shield himself from accountability, manipulating our investigation every step of the way by withholding evidence, intimidating WIPO employees, and retaliating against whistleblowers, all while continuing to put our national security at risk by agreeing, in exchange for reelection support, to open WIPO offices in countries that are notoriously insecure and dangerous for U.S. intellectual property. In the interest of accountability, protecting future whistleblowers, and ensuring even more sensitive U.S. technology and proprietary information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, the WIPO General Assembly should immediately release the full and unredacted report on Gurry’s repulsive behavior and I stand ready to work with my colleagues to use every bit of leverage we have to ensure this report sees the light of day.”
Per Rep. Matt Salmon, Chairman of the Asia and Pacific subcommittee, “We rightfully expect that the international organizations of which we are members will at least serve their constituent nations responsibly. Instead, we’ve seen something very different from WIPO’s Director General Francis Gurry. As members of the Foreign Affairs committee, we have a vested interest in truth and transparency in these organizations. It is our hope that Secretary Kerry will use America’s standing at the U.N. to demand the full release of the oversight report on WIPO and its corrupt policies.”
Rep. Brad Sherman, Ranking Member of the Asian and Pacific subcommittee, stated “The current situation at the World Intellectual Property Organization is unacceptable. I hope Secretary Kerry will take forceful action to secure the full record and hold UN officials accountable.”
Rep. Ted Deutch, Middle East and North Africa Ranking Member, added: “I hope that we can finally bring transparency and accountability to WIPO. The international organization charged with protecting intellectual property rights has a lot of work to do to restore the faith of the creative community and the world in its ability to serve out its mission.”
The letter follows upon a February hearing co-sponsored by three congressional subcommittees on “Establishing Accountability at the World Intellectual Property Organization: Illicit Technology Transfers, Whistleblowing, and Reform.” At that hearing, two WIPO whistleblowers who had exposed the technology transfers as well as the attorney for the WIPO Staff Council also called upon for the results of the UN investigation into Gurry’s alleged misconduct be made public.
In a separate letter sent last week, one of the testifying whistleblowers, former WIPO Deputy Director for Innovation and Technology and then-highest ranking American in the organization, James Pooley, expressed alarm that Ambassador Duque “has steadfastly refused to publish the full report, even in redacted form that protects witnesses names.”
Smith’s subcommittee on International Organizations has held a series of hearings on UN reform and oversight. In addition to the February WIPO hearing, Smith convened a hearing last month on sexual exploitation and abuse by UN Peacekeepers which also featured key whistleblowers and UN reform experts who blasted the UN’s cover-up of sexual exploitation of minors.
According to Smith, “As a result of our hearings on sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers and illicit transfers of technology to rouge nations such as Iran and North Korea by WIPO, we are looking at legislation to enhance whistleblower protection and to make our UN contributions contingent on demonstrable reform and accountability.”
Smith- Jeff Sagnip (202) 225-3765
Ros-Lehtinen- Keith Fernandez (202) 225-3931
Salmon- Tristan Daedalus (202) 225-2635
Sherman- Ben Fishel (202) 225-5911
Deutch- Jason Attermann (202) 225-3001