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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 179
February 28, 2005

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U.N. Refugee chief resigns under pressure

After months of criticism, secretary- general Kofi Annan decided that U.N. refugee chief Ruud Lubbers had to go because of the growing controversy over allegations that the former Dutch prime minister had sexually harassed female staffers.

Lubbers didn't go easily. He resigned but proclaimed his innocence, saying he felt insulted and accusing Annan of giving in to ``media pressure.''

At a meeting with Annan, U.N. diplomats said the secretary-general offered the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees two choices - resign or face suspension and charges of breaking U.N. rules.

Allegations first surfaced last year that he had made unwanted sexual advances toward a female employee, identified in media reports as an American. But it was only recently the British newspaper The Independent published the first detailed description of her allegations and statements from four other women who didn't file official complaints but claimed Lubbers sexually harassed them.

As the United Nations struggles to improve its image in the face of scandals over the U.N. oil-for-food program and sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers in Congo, diplomats said Annan decided that Lubbers had become a liability - but he was also a fighter.

U.N. lawyers then started preparing charges against him, U.N. diplomats said on condition of anonymity. Apparently knowing what was coming, Lubbers, 65, decided to resign before being suspended.

The UNHCR's chief spokesman, Ron Redmond, told The Associated Press that Lubbers had ``poured his heart and soul into this job over the last four years.'' ``He's one of the hardest-working people I have ever seen, and what a lot of people don't know is that he has done it all for free. He has refused to take a salary.''

Redmond said Lubbers returned his paycheck to the agency and paid his own travel and other expenses. ``Each year over the past four years he has given UNHCR about $300,000,'' Rmdmond said.

``It's an extremely sad day for the high commissioner and for UNHCR,'' Redmond said. The turmoil was ``really difficult for any organization to go through. The high commissioner realizes that, too.''

Source: The Guardian (London)/ Associated Press



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