UN employees have no immunity in crime, sexual abuse cases: Spokesperson
Stephane Dujarric. (Xinhua/UN Photo/Manuel Elias/IANS)
Stephane Dujarric. (Xinhua/UN Photo/Manuel Elias/IANS)

UN employees have no immunity in crime, sexual abuse cases: Spokesperson

By Arul LouisUnited Nations, Feb 21 (IANS) UN employees have no immunity in cases involving crimes including sexual abuse, according to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.His remarks came after a contractor for the UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) in Bihar, accused the organisation's senior staff in India of "harassment". "Sexual abuse is a crime and immunity is not there to protect people who commit crimes," the UN chief's spokesperson said on Tuesday when asked about the status of UNFPA staff in India against whom allegations were made."The vast majority of UN staff have functional immunity ... to cover what they do for work," Dujarric said, clarifying their protected status. "If you commit a crime, that is, by definition, not part of your function and, therefore, not covered by immunity."Prashanti Tiwari, a contractor for UNFPA, had complained to Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj about the alleged harassment by UNFPA staff and asked for her intervention to have their legal immunity waived.Tiwari had accused a senior staff member of UNFPA of "harassing" her and also said that two other UNFPA staffers subjected her to "mental and verbal abuse". Attempt to get a response from UNFPA in New Delhi was not successful. On being asked about the issue, Nadeem Noor, head of UNFPA in Bihar, told IANS that as he was on leave for last 15 days due to which he was not aware of any such development. "We will look into the report if there is any such issue," he said.Tiwari is the architect of Bandhan Tod -- a campaign against the rampant social evil of child marriage in Bihar to save the future of young girls. She is also the manager of Gender Alliance, a collective of over 270 charities which attracted international attention on empowerment of young girls through the Bandhan Tod strategy. She wrote in her letter to Sushma Swaraj that she was harassed after she provided "evidence" of "religious intolerance" and "sexual harassment" during a deposition before a UNFPA human resources mission last year, reports said.Tiwari reportedly asserted that it was difficult to take legal action because UN officials enjoyed legal immunity. "Her claims will, like any others, be looked into according to UNFPA policies and procedures," said the UN chief's spokesperson.Dujarric declined to get into the specifics of the case as he said he did not have enough details about it. UNFPA have an online "Investigation Hotline" for reporting cases of harassment, sexual harassment or abuse of authority, apart from reporting about fraud, or embezzlement. (Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in)--IANSal/soni/hs

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