US Congressional Committee Urged To Invite WIPO Staff Involved In Computer Shipments

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The World Intellectual Property Organization has notified the US congressional committee scheduled to hold a briefing tomorrow on WIPO technical assistance shipments of computers and software to North Korea and Iran that the committee should invite staff who have more direct knowledge of those activities.

The shipments, made by third parties, are being investigated by the United Nations sanctions committees for each country, at UN headquarters in New York, according to sources. It is not clear what penalty WIPO or its staff might face from the UN if found in violation.

At the United States national level, any activities involving Iran and North Korea are considered highly sensitive. The US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee has scheduled a 24 July briefing entitled, “WIPO Technology Transfers to Rogue Regimes.” WIPO authorised computers, software, servers and printers to be sent as part of its technical assistance programme. It insists these are readily available technologies and are used only for intellectual property rights development.

According to a WIPO official, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry approved the request to testify for the person considered the whistleblower in the matter, Moncef Kateb, the WIPO Staff Association president. Kateb has been told by Gurry that he has nothing to fear, the official said.

Kateb reportedly was concerned about Gurry’s approval being made under staff regulation 1.6 governing outside appearances, and about being reminded that he would be subject to WIPO Staff Regulations and Rules and the Standards of Conduct of the International Civil Service. Gurry responded that the reference to Regulation 1.6 could be removed and that all staff are subject to the rules and standards.

Meanwhile, Gurry denied the participation of two other staff called on to testify: Deputy Director General James Pooley, and Miranda Brown.

The official said Pooley and Brown were denied on the basis of their not having had responsibility for the activities being investigated. It was also noted that Pooley has missed most of the latest senior management team meetings. In the case of Brown, it was also related to her having been absent from the organisation for three months. She has apparently moved to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, also in Geneva.

In communications with the House committee, Gurry said there are others with more first-hand knowledge of the activities. He told Pooley and Brown that these activities fell under the oversight of Yo Takagi (Japan), who handles infrastructure issues, the source said.

In March, Kateb notified the House committee of these activities, leading to a scathing letter last week to Gurry from the committee last week (IPW, WIPO, 20 July 2012). The Wall Street Journal, a conservative US newspaper, ran a piece from former US representative to the UN John Bolton, indicating that WIPO’s activity indicates that US donations to the UN are misspent. But extremely little of WIPO’s budget comes from the US government or taxpayers.

William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

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  1. […] Gurry denied permission to Deputy Director General James Pooley, an American, and Miranda Brown, on the grounds that neither were directly involved in the technical assistance programme to deliver computers and software. Gurry did approve the whistleblower in the case, Moncef Kateb, and has indicated that he would allow other officials to attend (IPW, WIPO, 23 July 2012). […]

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