UNICEF official in sexual harassment row
An informal government inquiry has found the India representative of UNICEF prima facie guilty of sexual harassment of a female colleague, reports Chetan Chauhan.delhi Updated: Oct 24, 2007 01:00 IST
An informal government inquiry has found the India representative of UNICEF prima facie guilty of sexual harassment of a female colleague.
Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury, whose ministry conducted the probe against Cecilio Adorna, has requested External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukerjee to withdraw diplomatic immunity against law given to the UN official.
Complainant Rema (name changed) worked in the Delhi office of UNICEF till December 31, 2006 -- till two months after she formally lodged a complaint against Adorna.
Her contract was terminated after an internal inquiry absolved Adorna of all charges. Ever since she has been fighting for justice.
UNICEF India office said the allegations against Adorna had been found false. "UNICEF responded in accordance with established procedures to the allegations made by a former staff member by sending a team of experienced investigators to India," a statement issued by UNICEF, in response to
questions, said on Tuesday. "The investigation was in full compliance with established United Nations and UNICEF procedures and included a detailed analysis of all available evidence, as well as interviews of witnesses. The evidence did not support the allegations raised by the former staff member."
Adorna is currently out of the country and was not available for comment. His term in India ends in December.
In September, an informal inquiry by former WCD secretary Deepa Jain Singh found evidence against Adorna. The inquiry was conducted after Rema met Chowdhury, complaining that the UNICEF probe did not follow procedure. She complained that the immunity clause for diplomats has saved Adorna from prosecution under Indian laws.
The inquiry was conducted after Rema met Chowdhury, complaining that UNICEF did not follow procedure. She said the immunity clause for diplomats saved Adorna from prosecution under Indian laws.
After the inquiry, Chowdhury wrote to Mukerjee: "After examining accounts of some of key eyewitnesses, we believe there is reasonable cause to establish that the petitioner has suffered sexual harassment and assault." The letter also said there were anomalies in the procedures adopted by UNICEF in the probe.
Chowdhury wrote there was lack of clarity on the immunity status of UN staff who commit any unlawful action in their "personal capacity". "We are very concerned that lack of action in such cases may be interpreted as endorsing the alleged misbehavior of diplomats." She urged Mukerjee to take up the case with UN. Mukerjee replied it was being examined by his ministry.
UNICEF maintained it has zero-tolerance policy in place.