Report Says Top U.N. Official Engaged in Sexual Misconduct

ByABC News
February 18, 2005, 6:34 PM

Feb. 18, 2005 -- -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, engaged in "serious acts of misconduct" and "lacks the requisite integrity" for the job, according to a secret report of a U.N. investigation obtained by ABC News. The report's findings were never made public but were dismissed last year -- by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said the allegations were "not sustainable."

But the 15-page document contains a detailed analysis of the allegations against Lubbers and finds a pattern of misconduct involving "unwanted physical attention of a sexual nature." The U.N. investigation was triggered by a complaint last year from an American woman who works for Lubbers at the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

Lubbers, a former Dutch prime minister, told ABC News the allegations and the investigation were baseless.

"I think it was simply crap," Lubbers said. "I cannot feel bad."

The woman who first made the allegation, identified by her lawyer with only her first name, Cynthia, has worked at the UNHCR for over 20 years. She said Lubbers grabbed her from behind and "pushed his groin in her buttocks" as she was leaving a meeting in Lubbers' office, according to the report.

"It's like any assault," said Ed Flaherty, the woman's Geneva lawyer. "You feel violation, anger, fear, disappointment. It's a sexual assault."

It was not the first time she was sexually harassed by senior managers at the UNHCR, Cynthia said, but she felt so angry and humiliated that she had to speak out, according to the report.

Lubbers claims he only showed the woman out of his office in a courteous manner. "I gently pressured her out of the room," he said. "There were two witnesses in the room, so it was nothing."

The two witnesses were subordinates of Lubbers, the report said, and the high commissioner's attempts to discuss the allegations with potential witnesses before and during the investigation "may well have influenced" their testimony, the report said.

In addition to finding out who was cooperating with the investigation, Lubbers held staff meetings with managers about the allegations and encouraged other women to speak in his defense, the report said. He even put his own spin on events in a note to all UNHCR staff, both at headquarters and in the field, according to the report.