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Exclusive: U.N. Drops Leak Investigation Into Human Rights Official in CAR Sex Scandal

Senior U.N. human rights official cleared of wrongdoing following lengthy probe into allegations that he improperly leaked sensitive U.N. documents to French government.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - APRIL 24:  Director of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Anders Kompass gives a speech on the meeting about Palestine problem in Geneva, Switzerland on 24 April, 2014. Legislative framework of Palestine problem is discussed on the meeting that will continue for 2 days in United Nations office in Geneva. (Photo by Fatih Erel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - APRIL 24: Director of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Anders Kompass gives a speech on the meeting about Palestine problem in Geneva, Switzerland on 24 April, 2014. Legislative framework of Palestine problem is discussed on the meeting that will continue for 2 days in United Nations office in Geneva. (Photo by Fatih Erel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Anders Kompass, a senior United Nations human rights official, has been cleared of wrongdoing for informing the French government in July 2014 about a sexual misconduct scandal involving French and African soldiers in the Central African Republic, Foreign Policy has learned.

The U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services, or OIOS, informed Kompass last week in a “closure letter” that the nine-month investigation “is now complete, and the evidence obtained does not substantiate the reported misconduct,” according to a U.N.-based source who described the letter’s conclusion. The United Nations has made no public statement announcing Kompass had been cleared.

The decision to drop the case comes less than one month after an independent panel of judges set up by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon exonerated Kompass. That panel also excoriated former OIOS chief Carman Lapointe of Canada, who completed her job as the U.N. watchdog in September, and accused the United Nations of “gross institutional failure” in addressing reports of sexual abuse of children.

The U.N. declined to comment on the decision by OIOS to close the case, citing the confidential nature of the watchdog’s investigations. Lapointe told FP by email that “the outcome is not unusual, and does not surprise me” since almost half of all OIOS investigations in non-peacekeeping operations ultimately are dropped.

Lapointe noted that OIOS is traditionally hamstrung in investigating cases of wrongdoing involving personnel outside the U.N. chain of command. The French and African troops accused of sexual abusing children in the Central African Republic were serving under the command of the French military and the African Union, not the United Nations.

“OIOS has no coercive powers, no ‘teeth’ as compared to national law enforcement,” she wrote.

But Beatrice Edwards, the executive director of the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower advocacy group that represented Kompass, said the investigation should never have been undertaken.

“We’re baffled by the fact that the High Commissioner for Human Rights requested an investigation of Anders Kompass in the first place, for reporting the sexual abuse of African children by peacekeepers to law enforcement,” Edwards told Foreign Policy. “While we’re relieved that the Kompass investigation is now officially abandoned, the U.N. should investigate the high commissioner’s actions and statements.”

The internal controversy first became public last April after the London-based Guardian newspaper detailed the U.N.’s effort to fire Kompass for giving Paris a highly confidential report documenting sexual abuse of children as young as eight by soldiers from France, Chad, and Equatorial Guinea. Kompass was stripped of his grounds pass and marched out of his office by U.N. administrators in front of his colleagues, people familiar with the episode told FP.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Raad al-Hussein, then asked OIOS to open an investigation into the allegations. Zeid maintained that Kompass had placed the victims of sexual abuse at risk by including their names in the report he provided to the French government. U.N. officials suspected Kompass of leaking confidential information to influential governments to advance his bid for a promotion.

But Kompass insisted he had brought the matter before the French authorities because the U.N. was doing nothing to halt the ongoing sexual abuse of minors in Central African Republic.

Kompass was also the target of a separate investigation into allegations he improperly leaked information on the U.N.’s internal deliberations on Western Sahara to the Moroccan government. While an initial U.N. probe into the Western Sahara case found no misconduct by Kompass, Lapointe ordered the case reopened before she stepped down from her job. The case was closed by Lapointe’s successor, a senior U.N. official said.

The independent panel reviewing the U.N.’s handling of the case said in its report last month that some U.N. officials in the high commissioner’s office “remain convinced” that Kompass “misused internal information to gain a member state’s support in a promotion he was seeking,” according to the panel report. That member state is Morocco.

Those officials, according to the panel, also said they suspected Kompass shared confidential information with the French “to curry favor in support of some unspecified personal agenda.”

Some U.N. officials say Kompass, who is backed by the Swedish government, was pursuing the No. 2 job in the high commissioner’s office. The panel said it found “no basis to conclude” that Kompass had a “self-interest or ulterior motive” in furnishing French authorities with the U.N. report on the CAR abuse.

Photo Credit:Fatih Erel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy’s award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. @columlynch

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