WASHINGTON, May 25, 2017 – Ahead of a new UN human rights office report on Israeli accountability for the 2009 Gaza conflict that is based on that year’s UN Goldstone Report, the Geneva-based NGO UN Watch today submitted a legal complaint to UN chief Antonio Guterres which alleges that, in violation of UN rules on ethics and neutrality, a key staffer on the U.N.’s Goldstone Commission, Grietje Baars, was a leading organizer of anti-Israel legal campaigns, who went on to become a spokesperson for the 2010 Gaza flotilla. UN Watch is demanding a full investigation.
UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer will present the legal brief in testimony today before a U.S. Senate hearing about the UN Human Rights Council.
The decision to launch an investigation into allegations of misconduct lies with the Secretary-General. UN Staff Rule 10.1(c). According to the UN’s OIOS Investigations Manual, misconduct involving a conflict of interest is considered serious Category I misconduct (as compared to a Category II routine matter which includes simple theft, traffic violations, contract disputes, etc.). This means that OIOS must investigate this matter itself and not refer it back to OHCHR for investigation. Pending the results of the investigation, we recommend that, at the very least, the following current and former OHCHR officials be subjected to appropriate disciplinary action pursuant to UN Staff Rules 10.2 and 10.4.
- Grietje Baars
Grietje Baars was employed by the OHCHR on a temporary basis to serve on the Goldstone Commission. She gravely breached the most basic neutrality and conflict of interest obligations applicable to all UN staff. Since she is no longer employed by the OHCHR or any other UN body, we recommend that a written censure be placed in her file pursuant to Staff Rule 10.2 (a)(i), and that she be permanently barred from service to the UN in any capacity pursuant to Staff Rule 10.2 (a)(viii). See, e.g., Kuruc v. Secretary-General of the United Nations, Judgment No. UNDT/2015/008, Jan. 30, 2015 (imposing Staff Rule 10.2(a)(viii) for employee’s violation of Staff Regulation 1.2(f)).
- Francesca Marotta
As OHCHR Chief-of-Staff during the relevant time, Francesca Marotta is directly responsible for the decision to hire Grietje Baars for the Goldstone Commission. In hiring Baars, Marotta grossly breached her own neutrality obligations as a UN employee and ensured that the Goldstone Commission would be anything but impartial towards Israel. Currently, Marotta is the Chief of the Methodology, Education and Training Section of the OHCHR. We recommend that she be placed on administrative leave pending investigation and the disciplinary process pursuant to UN Staff Rules 10.2(b)(iii) and 10.4 and UN Administrative Instruction ST/AI/371. Ultimately, we recommend that Marotta be dismissed pursuant to Staff Rule 10.2(a)(ix).
- Navi Pillay
As the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the time of the Goldstone Commission, Navi Pillay bears ultimate responsibility for the OHCHR’s decision to hire and retain Grietje Baars for the Goldstone Commission. Her term as High Commissioner ended in 2014 and she no longer holds a position with the UN. Accordingly, pursuant to Staff Rule 10.2(a)(i), we recommend that a written censure be placed in her file pursuant to Staff Rule 10.2 (a)(i), and that she be permanently barred from service to the UN in any capacity pursuant to Staff Rule 10.2 (a)(viii).
In light of the foregoing, UN Watch urges UN Secretary-General Guterres to:
(a) Publicly disavow the Goldstone Report, delete it from all UN websites and declare that the report has no legal or evidentiary value and should not be relied upon for any purpose;
(b) Commence an OIOS investigation into the OHCHR’s hiring and vetting process for the Goldstone Commission;
(c) Impose disciplinary measures on the key OHCHR officials and staff responsible for the improper hiring and retention of Grietje Baars for the Goldstone Commission, including Grietje Baars herself, former Chief-of-Staff Francesca Marotta and former High Commissioner Navi Pillay.