WIPO Staff Council Head Fired On Eve Of Annual Assembly; Chair Asked To Share Reports On Gurry 22/09/2014 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 4 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The World Intellectual Property Organization administration received a strong reaction from UN unions after it fired the president of the UN agency’s staff association on the eve of the annual WIPO General Assembly. Meanwhile, the General Assembly chair has been called on to provide to member states the results of two confidential reports evaluating allegations made against the WIPO director general. Report of Misconduct A report of misconduct by WIPO Director General Francis Gurry was filed (IPW, WIPO, 7 May 2014) by WIPO Deputy Director General James Pooley, a veteran Silicon Valley patent attorney who joined Gurry’s senior management team in 2008 and whose term ends in November. Pooley’s report was kept confidential but leaked to various news sources, some of which published it (e.g., see here). Gurry was re-elected in March for another six-year term starting next month, and this week named his new senior management team (IPW, WIPO, 17 September 2014). The misconduct report was sent last spring to the WIPO Internal Audit and Oversight Division (IAOD), which asked the member-state Independent Advisory Oversight Committee (IAOC) to review it, according to sources. The IAOC sent it back to the IAOD for evaluation, which sent it out to external investigators, including KPMG, the sources said. All summer, there was no firm information available about the reports but various rumours circulated. On 19 September, Estonian Ambassador Jüri Seilenthal, a former chair of the WIPO Coordination Committee and candidate for director general in this year’s WIPO election, sent a letter to the chair of WIPO Assemblies [pdf] stating that he had learned the results of the reports of the evaluations had come out in August but that no official information exists. He suggested to WIPO General Assembly Chair Päivi Kairamo, the ambassador of Finland, that the best course would be to send the reports of these investigations to member states “as they collectively exercise the oversight function of WIPO. As this concerns senior management there is no other competent body to evaluate this situation.” He added, “I hope having clarity amongst Member States of WIPO on these very specific issues will help us all put this very difficult times in WIPO governance behind us.” Staff Case Causes Buzz Separately, the WIPO Staff Council President, Moncef Kateb, the former director of the Algerian copyright office who has worked at WIPO since 1998, was suspended without pay on 5 September on charges of “serious misconduct” for alleged conflict of interest in a staff legal matter. According to documents, he was ordered off the WIPO premises and his computer and devices were seized. On 19 September, he was fired, just before he was due to present remarks at the annual WIPO General Assembly this week. A source said the remarks might still be presented by another staff representative. Legal documents state that Kateb was the initial whistleblower in 2012 accusations that WIPO inappropriately shipped computer equipment to highly sanctioned Iran and North Korea. The discovery of these shipments as WIPO technical assistance drew significant attention, but did not result in a finding of wrongdoing against WIPO. On the Kateb case, a WIPO spokesperson said they do not comment on personnel matters, as they are confidential. But the WIPO secretariat’s position is that the disciplinary action was taken in this person’s capacity as a staff member of WIPO, and not as President of the Staff Council, a source said. The documents related to this case are available here [pdf]. The letters of charges say that Kateb appears to have violated conflict of interest rules in his role of legal representative of two staff persons who were found guilty of serious misconduct earlier this year. The two appealed their decisions, and Kateb engaged in a conflict of interest in continuing to represent them as he had previously sat as a member of the Joint Advisory Committee, where the cases were referred. The charges also accuse him of improper use of confidential information. A press release issued yesterday by the Geneva-based lawyer for Kateb, Edward Flaherty, asserts that he was fired as retaliation for defending staff and opposing alleged misconduct by WIPO Director General Francis Gurry and his administration. “Mr Kateb has been subject to numerous threats and disciplinary measures from WIPO administration during his four-year term as president of the staff union due to his efforts to protect staff from intimidation and unethical treatment,” the release states. “Masks Will Be Provided” The three staff federations of the United Nations system representing some 120,000 international civil servants worldwide released a joint statement protesting Kateb’s treatment, calling for his reinstatement and the replacement of Gurry as WIPO director general, the release said. The trade unions’ letter is available here [pdf]. An extraordinary assembly of WIPO staff has been announced for today at 5pm in front of the new WIPO building. The announcement states: “All staff members are invited. Masks will be provided for colleagues who wish to remain anonymous.” The WIPO Staff Association claims to have membership of 710 members, more than half of WIPO employees. Extraordinary Retaliation or Proportionate Response? In 2012, Kateb was involved in the whistleblower action that revealed that WIPO had shipped computer technology to heavily sanctioned Iran and North Korea, a charge that led to significant pressure on Gurry’s administration as it was considered to violate United States law. At that time, Gurry did not give permission for Kateb to testify before a hearing of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on the issue, on the basis that he was not the appropriate official with knowledge of the transactions. The UN later assessed that the shipments did not appear to violate UN sanctions, though WIPO was reprimanded for its failure to inform the UN sanctions committee earlier (IPW, WIPO, 24 September 2014). “We believe that the real reason Mr. Kateb was suspended on the eve of the Assemblies of Member States of WIPO is because he would have used his speaking slot to continue raising inconvenient questions on Mr. Gurry’s style of leadership,” the unions said. “Mr. Kateb has blown the whistle in the past, including on the shipment of sophisticated IT equipment to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” it continued, “and as you may know, Mr. Gurry is currently the subject of a preliminary investigation for two different charges, one for improperly influencing a procurement process, the other for improperly using the Geneva police to obtain the DNA of WIPO staff so as to identify the author of a letter against him.” Kateb’s Statement Kateb himself issued a statement [pdf] in his own defence after his firing. “My term of service coincided with a new administration that was determined to force change regardless of its impact on staff, and that governed with a level of secrecy and manipulation favored only by the most autocratic national governments,” he said. “The recent trumped-up charges against me are only the latest in a long pattern of retaliation and harassment by the WIPO administration, which wants a compliant, weak Staff Association that will not trouble it with substantive opposition.” He said his attorney has requested the WIPO Internal Audit and Oversight Division to examine the administration’s behaviour as an abuse of power. “I plead with the Member States to recognize that something much larger is at stake here,” he said. “The concentration of unbridled power at the top of WIPO has led to a wilful disregard for the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and association.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related William New may be reached at email@example.com."WIPO Staff Council Head Fired On Eve Of Annual Assembly; Chair Asked To Share Reports On Gurry" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.