It took unique courage for a young widow like Lubna Hussein to confront "Public Order" regulations (see another headline) and wear pants in a public place. She knew that her "indecent act" will get her in jail with a possibility of 40 lashes by plastic whips that leave permanent scars on her body. Yet she decided to face and shame her accusers. In that she was inspired by so many brave Sudanese patriots, men and women, who loved their country and would not accept to drag its tolerant spirit into a regime of oppression.

As U.N. Information Assistant, she recognized that she could be protected by her immunity. But she decided to resign in order to keep the U.N. out of the controversy. Advocating the principles of U.N. Charter, she decided to take a stand. She did not merely distribute to the media the Declaration of Human Rights; she actually practiced it.

Proud as we are of our brave enlightened colleague, we have to wonder about the position -- or lack of it -- of United Nations current leaders. Perhaps the Secretary General does not wish to offend the government of Sudan, which chairs some group which has an impact on his possible quest for a renewed term. Perhaps the staff member involved is too junior for a high-level pronouncement. Or maybe the question is too detailed for a busy world leader dashing from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Frequent flighting does not allow one to focus on the mere threat of lashing a talkative female staffer in Khartoum.

But whatever happened to the U.N. Special Representative in Sudan? Actually, there are THREE, at least three, representatives in Sudan at the Under-Secretary General level. Not a word was heard from any of them. Let's find a pretext for two of them, and claim that they were very busy on the Darfur question -- although they have done nothing to advance it over the last three years.

But, again, where is Ashraf Qazi? We had heard nothing from that useless man since he was transferred from Iraq where he was known for similar irrelevance. For the last two years, staff following up Sudanese affairs were running a competition on who could spot him anywhere in his area of prescribed operations. He has no credibility. The general impression is that, like his other compatriot, he was being parked as a reward for services rendered -- certainly not to the U.N.

In a case where taking a public stand is the issue, nothing was heard from Qazi. Lubna was a U.N. staff member at the time of her arrest. That is, Qazi was officially -- nominally -- her overall boss. Yet he had nothing to say. Also, with all due respect, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is officially the U.N. Chief Administrative Officer. That is, the staff member falls under his immediate supervision -- and protection.

With a growing international outcry inspired by the courage and patriotism of Lubna, it seemed that the U.N. Information Assistant was the only one wearing the trousers in Khartoum. All other senior U.N. officials were embarrassingly caught with their pants down.