Saturday, December 16

Norway and France: Revise Diplomatic immunity to Deal with Corruption

Provided that they can manage to do what they are attempting to do, then this can't be anything but good for the global community. The only problem I can see that would prevent this would actually be the diplomats themselves.

Press release
No.: 162/06
Date: 13.12.06

Erik Solheim promotes French-Norwegian anti-corruption proposal

Today employees in international organizations enjoy diplomatic immunity which can protect them from being prosecuted for corruption. “We cannot allow a form of immunity that in practice gives protection to people who have been involved in corruption, for example in the UN system,” said Minister of International Development Erik Solheim.

Mr Solheim is taking part in the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in Jordan today. He took the opportunity to promote a joint French-Norwegian proposal for a review of the practice of immunity and certain other privileges enjoyed by employees in international organizations such as the UN and the World Bank.

As the situation is today, these privileges can impede the effective prosecution of corruption and thus in practice provide protection contrary to the provisions of the UN Convention against Corruption.

“The intention behind the immunity granted to employees in public international organizations is to enable them to carry out their duties in difficult situations such as conflicts and wars. It doesn’t make any sense if this protection means in practice that such employees cannot be charged for receiving bribes. We have to look into this in order to ensure the credibility of international efforts against corruption. This is why France and Norway have jointly put forward a proposal to start work on drawing up measures to ensure that the Convention against Corruption also applies to employees in international organizations,” said Mr Solheim.

The conference programme focuses on issues relating to the establishment of a mechanism to assist in the effective implementation of the Convention, technical assistance and asset recovery.

“Asset recovery is a key issue. We in the developed countries have a particular responsibility here. Enormous amounts of stolen money are concealed in tax havens and in protected bank accounts in our part of the world. We cannot accept this any longer. Laws and rules will have to be amended. This is why this question must be on the political agenda at presidential level,” said Mr Solheim.

International Development Minister Erik Solheim can be contacted via Press Contact Narve Solheim, tel.: +47 4829 9690. - Foreign of Foreign Affairs, Norway

This is great news. There is no lack of corruption in the international 'Diplomatic' community, ESPECIALLY WITHIN THE UN. Take the following:

A senior United Nations official has pleaded not guilty to charges that he steered millions of dollars in UN contracts to a businessman representing an Indian company and was rewarded with a discounted luxury apartment in New York.

A judge in Manhattan Federal Court ordered that the official, Sanjay Bahel, of India, be released on $US900,000 ($1.2 million) bail with personal sureties of $US75,000 in cash, a luxury car and the title to his apartment.

A Federal magistrate in Miami released businessman Nishan Kohli after he posted $US1 million bail.

The US attorney for Manhattan, Michael Garcia, charged Mr Bahel with taking a bribe from Mr Kohli in exchange for helping to secure approval of more than $US50 million in contracts for Mr Kohli’s clients. - (November 2006) The
Drug Smuggling:

A U.N. employee used U.N. diplomatic pouches to smuggle illegal drugs as part of a ring that brought 25 tons of contraband into New York in the past year and a half, federal prosecutors and the FBI said yesterday.

The shipments of khat — an illegal stimulant grown in East Africa — were received by a mail clerk employed by the United Nations, Osman Osman, who sent them across America, according to an indictment unsealed yesterday.

Prosecutors say Mr. Osman, a Somali citizen who had been employed at the United Nations for 29 years, was an important cog in the largest khat trafficking enterprise America has known. Forty-four defendants were named in yesterday's indictment, and 14 were still at large, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office said. - (July 2006) The New York Sun

Jean-Bernard Mérimée, France's former United Nations ambassador, has been charged with corruption and bribery of foreign officials as part of a French investigation into suspected irregularities in the Iraq oil-for-food programme.

Mr Mérimée was released on bail of €150,000 (£102,000, $180,000) after being questioned by an investigating magistrate as part of his three-year inquiry into more than 11 French officials and businessmen suspected of having received oil vouchers from Saddam Hussein's regime. - (October 2005)

That is just the tip of the iceberg. Then you have the everyday UN Diplomat caught driving Drunk (Morocco and Russia), beating his kid (Kenya), and so on. You would think that countries would be sending the best to act on their behalf at the UN. Well, no such luck. Even sadder is that these are the people that the world is depending on to make the planet a better place to live. Too bad that many diplomats are only concerned about taking advantage of the benefits afforded to them, as Diplomats, to advance their own personal businesses.

Normally, diplomatic immunity does not extend to a diplomat's own country (A US Diplomat has no immunity in the US.). A UN employee, as opposed to a diplomat to the UN, gets his immunity through the UN itself and travels under a UN Laissez-Passer. His immunity would extend even his own country, as he is in service to the UN. While an employee's own country can most likely ignore any immunity conveyed to one of their own citizens, there is nothing forcing that citizen to return home. Their immunity applies to even how the organization operates.
The UN and its agencies are immune to the laws of the countries where they operate, safeguarding UN's impartiality with regard to the host and member countries. Hiring and firing practices, working hours and environment, holiday time, pension plans, health insurance, life insurance, salaries, expatriation benefits and general conditions of employment are governed by UN rules and regulations. This independence allows agencies to implement human resources policies which may even be contrary to the laws of a host- or a member country. For instance, a person who is otherwise eligible for employment in Switzerland may not be employed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) unless he or she is a citizen of an ILO member state. - Wikipedia
Technically, it is up to the UN to drop immunity to let other countries prosecute crimes by UN employees. That can be a problem as even former employees are extended UN Diplomatic Immunity by continuing to employ them with a symbolic $1 yearly salary.

'Former' UN employees pulling a $1 salary from the UN include Benon Sevan and Iqbal Riza, both implicated in the Oil-for-Food fraud. While the men listed above have had their immunity pulled out from under them, these two have not, thanks to the direct protection of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, himself. The question is, will the new Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon clean out the UN's ranks of all of those who are hiding from prosecution?

This is an important matter. The world for some reason looks up to the UN like it operates at some higher level. However, that is only possible if it is staffed with 'better' people. If you pack the organization with criminals than they will take advantage of that as well and turn it into nothing better than organized crime, a mafia of sorts. That is basically what has happened with the UN human Rights Council. Its members include China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and the Ukraine, all States that are hardly shining examples of countries with a high standard of human rights. This proposed change will not fix the Human Rights Council, but it will be a first step in the right direction.

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