1 August 2004

As predicted, a sexual harassment case against UNHCR Ruud Lubbers was closed. Citing lack of evidence, Secretary General Kofi Annan absolved his handpicked choice for the Refugees post. And as usual in turning attention away from similar embarrassment, we were asked to look forward so that everyone will concentrate on the challenging tasks ahead. Rotterdam's NRC Handelsblad commented that the matter was closed not because the man was innocent but because claims could not be proven.

It is doubtful, however, that everyone will keep quiet. Three women had come forward from within the Office and one from outside. The former Dutch Prime Minister had thus far blamed it on cultural misunderstanding. Grabbing a woman's behind was merely a friendly gesture. It happens all the time in Scheveningen, though not necessarily in the Hague. He also issued a carefully worded statement denying any wrongdoing in a particular meeting. Other claims were dealt with in general.

Observers noted that only last month the Chief of the U.N. Inspectors Dileep Nair, had described Lubbers attitude by saying that "the man was bringing discredit to himself." Undeterred, the High Commissioner infomred an Amsterdam festival that he will serve his full term until the end of 2005. Obviously, he knew what he was talking about. The Inspector himself was under a cloud with staff claiming he demanded sexual favours and kickbacks as reported by New York dailies. Suddenly, Lubbers was off the hook and talk about Mr. Nair died down. The Secretary General who had telephoned Lubbers two months earlier to admonish him on the investigation suddenly issued a statement clearing him. Some were asking what would the former Dutch Prime Minister during the start of the Bosnia war (but not Sebrenica) have: what has he known for being selected to the High Commissioner's post over other officially proposed compatriots? Like Jan Pronck for example? What does he know to get away with controversial statements about children in African refugee camps? What does he know to get away with sexual harassment accusations? What does he know?