UN reopens botched UNAIDS sexual assault investigation
April 27, 2018
The following is a statement from Paula Donovan and Stephen Lewis, Co-Directors of AIDS-Free World and its Code Blue Campaign:
Earlier today, UNAIDS announced that the investigation into Ms. Martina Brostrom’s sexual assault and harassment allegations against Luiz Loures, Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, will be reopened. AIDS-Free World’s Code Blue Campaign has been deeply critical of the UN’s shockingly biased and corrupted internal investigation, which overlooked the improper intrusion of Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. We are sickened by evidence that Mr. Sidibé has launched a costly damage control campaign to protect his status and position, including retaliation against staff who do not pledge allegiance to his administration. We are not alone. After a careful review, The Lancet medical journal lambasted Sidibé’s stewardship of UNAIDS, noting that “internal loyalty to the existing leadership seems to trump integrity in the organisation, and has contributed to a culture devoid of transparency and accountability.” We felt certain that the UN Secretary-General would acknowledge the validity of the Code Blue Campaign’s critique: Every step taken in the Loures case and every procedure followed ensured that a pre-determined outcome would be reached.
But we must object to the decision to allow the new investigation to be conducted by another internal investigative body – this time the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services – without the real-time monitoring of an independent entity operating outside of the UN Organization.
This new investigation will be riven by the same insurmountable conflict of interest that marred the first investigation. In fact, it is already happening. In the hours after the decision to reopen the case was announced, the irregularities were apparent: Ms. Brostrom initially learned from the media – not UNAIDS – that the case would be reopened; it was confirmed that Loures’ contract had been extended past the announced March 31st departure date, presumably to allow for a more favorable financial package; and, although Loures reports to the Secretary-General, it was announced that the final decision-maker in the reopened investigation would be the Director-General of the World Health Organization and not Mr. Guterres. We see nothing in today’s news about planned actions that would prevent Mr. Sidibé from continuing to malign women at UNAIDS who have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Code Blue Campaign has called on Member States urgently to appoint a Temporary Independent Oversight Panel, entirely separate from the UN Organization and reporting directly, and only, to the Member States. The Oversight Panel would have the power to monitor every step of fact-finding and investigation processes. It would peruse the full details of the final recommendations and ultimate dispositions of cases before they are made formal. Such independent oversight is the only way to ensure full transparency in a system that has shown itself sorely lacking in legitimacy.