Ousted U.N. election chief vows to fight dismissal calling harassment charges false | VailDaily.com

Ousted U.N. election chief vows to fight dismissal calling harassment charges false

UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. electoral chief on Tuesday vowed to fight her dismissal, vehemently denying charges she sexually harassed her staff and abused her authority.Carina Perelli also expressed hope her firing would not affect the critical Iraqi parliamentary election on Dec. 15, the referendum in Congo on Dec. 18, elections in the Palestinian territories on Jan. 25 and in Haiti early next year.The 48-year-old Uruguayan has won wide praise for her work in helping organize elections in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Palestinian territories and had been considered one of the young rising stars at the United Nations.But in August, the U.N. formally accused her of harassing her staff after a four-month review by a Swiss consulting firm into the claims of an abusive and sexually offensive environment in the Electoral Assistance Division that she headed.Perelli was handed a letter Tuesday informing her that Secretary-General Kofi Annan had decided to summarily dismiss her “for serious misconduct” based on a subsequent U.N. investigation panel’s report that found “you engaged in sexual and professional harassment of your staff and abused your authority as a manager.”The letter from U.N. Undersecretary-General Christopher Burnham, obtained by The Associated Press, said Annan had concluded that Perelli’s conduct was “inconsistent with the standards of conduct expected of international civil servants and that the patent nature and the gravity of this misconduct warrant immediate separation from service.”After meeting Burnham and being informed of her rights, Perelli was escorted downstairs by a plainclothes U.N. security officer.”I’ve been fired,” she told reporters. “My contract has been terminated.”She said she was going to fight the firing “because the charges are false, because there has been no due process in this whole exercise.”Perelli said she would appeal her dismissal through the U.N. system and did not rule out taking further legal action afterward outside the United Nations.Perelli said “there are a lot of inconsistencies and ironies in this case,” noting her nomination as a manager of the year this year – a contest she did not win.In a 19-page response last month to the accusations by the U.N. panel, Perelli questioned how her department could have performed so successfully “under almost impossible pressure” in elections around the world if staff were “cowed, afraid, de-motivated and harassed.”Perelli said in the response, obtained by AP, that she still did not know “any details about alleged incidents of abuse of authority and harassment” so she could not clear her name. She accused the U.N. of violating her rights by overseeing a process “presuming me guilty and requiring me to prove my innocence.”France’s U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, said “we have a lot of esteem for her work.””She wants to fight, so let’s set the process going in the U.N.,” he said.U.S. Ambassador John Bolton criticized the firing just days before the Iraqi elections.”One has to ask why after a year of inquiry a decision had to be made nine days before a critical election in Iraq that the office here at the U.N. is very much involved in,” he said. “I think (this) is another example of why we need reform at the U.N.”Perelli said the U.N. has “a very competent team” in Iraq and she spoke with them on Monday night about trying to mitigate any effects on the election.Perelli said her salary was terminated and she was losing her U.N. passport and health care for her family, including her husband, teenage daughter and disabled mother.Perelli’s firing comes at a difficult time for the United Nations, which has endured criticism over alleged corruption in the oil-for-food program in Iraq, allegations of sexual harassment by former U.N. refugee chief Ruud Lubbers, and claims of sex abuse by U.N. peacekeepers in Congo and elsewhere.Vail, Colorado

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