Kerry urged to withhold UN dues over alleged whistleblower abuse

Secretary of State John Kerry should withhold 15 percent of the country's dues to the United Nations because it's violating U.S. law on whistleblower protections, a former U.N. official said Monday.

James Wasserstrom says he was hounded out of the organization in 2008 following a 28-year career after he raised allegations of corruption against top officials at the U.N.'s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. Wasserstrom fought the U.N. for years and last month was awarded $65,000 by the U.N.'s dispute tribunal – far less than the $3.2 million he's claiming in legal costs, lost wages and emotional distress.

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In a letter to Kerry that was also sent to prominent lawmakers on Monday, Wasserstrom, a U.S. citizen, urged the State Department to withhold 15 percent of U.S. dues to the U.N., as called for under the 2012 spending bill. The law says the administration should withhold that amount “if the Secretary of State determines and reports to the Committee on Appropriations that the agency or organization is not taking steps to … implement best practices for the protection of whistleblowers from retaliation, including best practices for legal burdens of proof, access to independent adjudicative bodies, results that eliminate the effects of retaliation, and statutes of limitation for reporting retaliation.”

“In view of the facts of my case, and the shameful performance of the United Nations to date in this area, I urge you to report to Congress that it should withhold 15 percent of the Funds appropriated to the United Nations under the 2012 US Consolidated Appropriations Act,” Wasserstrom wrote. “This should apply not only to the UN Regular Budget. Especially in view of the fact that the confirmed retaliatory acts – still unaddressed by the Secretary General – took place in a peacekeeping operation, this is also to include 15 percent of the US contribution to the UN’s Peacekeeping Budget, per title I of the law.”

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

"This matter is under consideration for appeal to the United Nations Appeals Tribunal," a UN spokesperson said, "and so of course we cannot comment on it because it is still in litigation."

The Better World Campaign, which advocates for U.S. support for the UN, said withholding the funds would be a mistake.

“It’s important to remember that the UN has instituted a policy that meets or surpasses best practices for the protection of whistleblowers, and therefore, calls to withhold U.S. funds to the UN are unfounded," said executive director Peter Yeo. “Surely the UN can and should always do more to set and maintain a gold standard, and it is making substantial progress in the implementation [of] best practices, as is the requirement under U.S. law."