Former UN official describes losing Kosovo job

AP News
Posted: Oct 14, 2011 4:57 PM
Former UN official describes losing Kosovo job

A former official at the U.N. mission in Kosovo said Friday he was plunged into a severe depression and had problems sleeping when he lost his job shortly after reporting suspected corruption by his colleagues.

American James Wasserstrom told a U.N. employee tribunal that losing his job in 2007 was "disastrous."

He is asking for $1 million in damages from the United Nations for failing to protect him from retaliation for speaking up. Under a 2005 policy, the United Nations is required to protect whistleblowers from adverse action.

The U.N. maintains Wasserstrom was not targeted for retaliation, and argues that his case is without merit because his suspicions of corruption were based on rumor. A subsequent investigation failed to prove Wasserstrom's suspicions.

His case is a test of the U.N.'s new independent court for employee issues, which replaced a secret, delay-plagued system that critics say favored U.N. management. Unlike the old system, decisions by the current U.N. Dispute Tribunal are binding on the Secretary-General.

Wasserstrom says his U.N. job was eliminated after he reported on colleagues he suspected were taking kickbacks from local officials in Kosovo's energy sector.

He says he was detained by U.N. police, his apartment searched and his office was taped off for months. Posters bearing his picture warned employees not to allow him on to U.N. premises while the mission investigated him for supposed conflict of interest. The U.N. accused Wasserstrom of conflict of interest after he agreed to work as a consultant for the main airport in Kosovo after his job was terminated, but no charges were ever filed and the investigation was later dropped.

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It was unclear when the case would be resolved. The two sides were meeting outside of court Friday afternoon, but Dorman said she didn't expect an immediate resolution.