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Protecting Whistleblowers since 1977

Media Advisory: GAP to Host Panel on Whistleblowing at the United Nations Featuring Ridenhour Prize Winner

April 28, 2015
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Washington) - On Wednesday, April 29th, GAP client Aicha Elbasri will receive the prestigious Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling from the Nation Institute and Fertel Foundation for her efforts to urge the United Nations to stop concealing war-crimes. Immediately following the event, the Government Accountability Project will host a “Whistleblowing at the United Nations” panel featuring Elbasri. She will be joined by James Wasserstrom, another U.N. whistleblower. Wasserstrom made allegations of high-level internal corruption at the U.N. Mission in Kosovo and brought retaliation claims against the organization, resulting in a landmark U.N. justice system ruling that revealed profound deficiencies in the U.N.’s accountability mechanisms and its whistleblower protection program.

The event will be at 2:00 p.m. in the Murrow Room on the 13th floor of the National Press Club at 529 14th St, NW and is open to the public.

In January 2014 the U.S. Congress passed legislation that allows the U.S. to withhold 15 percent of its funding from the United Nations Secretariat and any U.N. agency that fails to implement best practices for whistleblower protection, including external arbitration. The Department of State recently reported that the U.N. largely complies with the law, despite the fact that the U.N. doesn’t offer whistleblowers access to external arbitration. The panelists will highlight whistleblower cases and policy shortcomings that show the U.N.’s failure to protect whistleblowers. They will also call on the Department to revise its reports and comply with the legislation, a step that could cost the United Nations between $200 million to $450 million in U.S. contributions.

The panelists will also share their own stories about the ordeals endured by U.N. whistleblowers and discuss a recent coalition letter sent by nine whistleblowers to the U.N. secretary-general, executive heads and select special rapporteurs on human rights.

About the Panelists

Elbasri served as spokesperson for the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) between August 2012 and April 2013. She maintains that during her assignment, UNAMID and the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations routinely misled the media and U.N. Security Council members by concealing atrocities committed by Sudanese government forces, as well as the U.N.’s failure to protect civilians. More information about her case is available here.

While assigned to the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Kosovo (UNMIK), Wasserstrom blew the whistle on what he alleged was a conspiracy to pay a $500 million kickback to senior U.N. and Kosovo officials. After disclosing this information lawfully, he suffered egregious retaliation at the hands of his U.N. colleagues.  The landmark ruling against Wasserstrom at the highest level of the U.N.'s internal justice system, the U.N. Appeals Tribunal, greatly reduced whistleblower rights. His advocacy for stronger protection for those who come forward helped lead to the current whistleblower protection language in the Consolidated Appropriations Act. More information about his case is available here.

The panel will be moderated by GAP Executive Director and International Program Director Bea Edwards.

 

Contact: Shelley Walden, International Program Consultant
Email: shelleyw@whistleblower.org

Contact: Andrew Harman, Communications Director
Email: AndrewH@whistleblower.org
Phone: (202) 457-0034 ext. 156

Government Accountability Project

The Government Accountability Project is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP's mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. GAP was consulted by U.N. management when the organization created its initial protection against retaliation policy and has advised several staff associations within the U.N. system about whistleblower protections.

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