General Unicef India Head Under Fire

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Apr 4, 2005
AN INFORMAL government inquiry has found the India representative of UNICEF prima facie guilty of sexual harassment of a female colleague. Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury, whose ministry conducted the probe against Cecilio Adorna, has written a letter to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee requesting him to withdraw the diplomatic immunity given to the officiaL A copy of the letter is with the Hindustan Times. Complainant Rema (name changed) worked in the Delhi office of UNICEF till December 31, 2006 - till two months after she formally lodged a complaint against Adorna. Her contract was terminated after an internal inquiry absolved Adorna of all charges. Ever since she has been fighting for justice. UNICEF India office said the allegations against Ador- na had been found false. "UNICEF responded in accordance with established procedures to the allegations made by a former staff member by sending a team of experienced investigators to India," a statement is- sued by UNICEF, in response to questions asked by HT, said on Tuesday "The investigation was in full compliance with established United Nations and UNICEF procedures and included a detailed analysis of all available evidence, as well as interviews of witnesses. The evidence did not support the allegations raised by the former staff member" Adorna is currently out of the country and was not available for comment. His term in India ends in December In September, an informal inquiry by former secretary, Women and Child Development Ministry, Deepa Jain Singh found evidence against Adorna. INDIA & UN: THE RULES DIFFER INDIA: Every office should have a permanent committee to look into all complaints of sexual harassment. UN: There is no such provision in its offices. A committee is constituted only after a complaint is lodged. JUSTICE DELAYED, JUSTICE DENIED October 2006: Roma (name changed) complains of attempted rape against Cecilio Adorna, UNICEF country representative. November: UNICEF constitutes a panel to look into the allegations. December 11: Panel submits a report absolving Adorna of all charges. December 31: Rema is removed from her post. February 2007: Roma approaches the National Commission for Women which said UN is not within its jurisdiction. April: She approaches the police, who say that Adorna onjoys diplomatic immunity. She then moves a Patiala House court. September: Roma meets Women and Child Development minister. An inquiry is ordered. October: Adorna leaves India even though his tenure wasto end in December. I lost to the powerful country representative of UNICEF after facing sexual harassment in front of several colleagues. Even Indian law agencies did not help me... I am still trying to get justice -

The inquiry was conducted after Rema met Chowdhury, complaining that UNICEF did not follow procedure. She said the immunity clause for diplomats saved Adorna from prosecution under Indian laws. After the inquiry, Chowdhury wrote to Mukerjee: "Mter examining accounts of some of key eyewitnesses, we believe there is reasonable cause to establish that the petitioner has suffered sexual harassment and assault." The letter also said there were anomalies in the procedures adopted by UNICEF in the probe. Chowdhury wrote there was lack of clarity on the immunity status of UN staff who commit any unlawful action in their "personal capacity". "We are very concerned that lack of action in such cases may be interpreted as endorsing the alleged misbehavior of diplomats." She urged Mukerjee to take up the case with UN. Mukerjee replied it was being examined by his ministry UNICEF maintained it has zero-tolerance policy in place.

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