- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 4, 2006

Milosevic simply died

Deposed Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic died of natural causes, according to an investigation by the U.N. tribunal that tried and housed him.

Investigators ruled that Mr. Milosevic, 64, died of a heart attack on March 11. They said they found no evidence of poisoning, suicide or other foul play. They noted, however, that visitors were able to bring boxes, medicine and liquor to his prison office with little security oversight.

Mr. Milosevic, who had a history of heart and other health problems, was found dead in bed at the U.N. Detention Unit, ending a war-crimes trial in which the accused defended himself with long, angry speeches.

Inspector general cleared, overall

An independent investigation into accusations against the former U.N. inspector general found irregularities regarding personnel issues, but dismissed claims of sexual harassment.

The accusations against Dileep Nair, a former Singapore government and banking official, embarrassed the United Nations, which had no way to credibly investigate its own anti-corruption chief.

In issuing the report Wednesday, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he considers the episode concluded.

“The secretary-general decided there was no further action to be taken in the case and, accordingly, the matter is closed,” said Stephane Dujarric, Mr. Annan’s spokesman.

The report found Mr. Nair “pre-determined” three hiring and promotion decisions, and criticized the way he handled the severance of a senior officer who had verbally and physically attacked a subordinate.

The 56-page document, plus a dozen letters and annexes, was compiled by Jerome Ackerman, an American lawyer who once served as a judge on the U.N. Administrative Tribunal. It was submitted to Mr. Annan’s staff on April 26, and made public on a day with much competing news.

Mr. Nair served as U.N. undersecretary-general in the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) from 2000 to 2005. The job is one of the hardest in the U.N. system, requiring a diplomat’s velvet touch and a ravenous appetite for numbers. For many in Congress and the White House, it is one of the most important offices in the United Nations.

Mr. Ackerman noted that Mr. Nair and OIOS itself were not very cooperative with his investigation, refusing to be interviewed or turn over files. But Mr. Annan apologized to Mr. Nair in his cover letter, blaming the U.N. staff union, which backed several accusations, for Mr. Nair’s suffering “unnecessary and unmerited public innuendo.”

So why should anyone except the aggrieved parties read the Ackerman report? Parts of it are fascinating.

For example, it appears that even the most routine promotions and other personnel decisions are tortuously quantified, annotated, analyzed and evaluated. Review boards second-guess all decisions, and the appeals process is nearly endless. Regardless of the factors that went into Mr. Nair’s decisions, it seems he and other department heads have little latitude on staffing issues.

The former U.N. watchdog, who vigorously denied all wrongdoing, left more than a year ago and now serves as Singapore’s consul-general in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. His successor is Inga-Britt Ahlenius of Sweden.

Annan’s successor

Selection of the next secretary-general will begin in earnest next month, according to Danish Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Loj, president of the Security Council for the month of June.

Ms. Loj sent a letter Friday to Swedish Prime Minister Jan Eliasson, president of the U.N. General Assembly, informing him that the council “intends to start in early July the process of consideration of candidacies.” In the spirit of “transparency and dialogue,” member states are invited to present candidates of any nationality.

The letter comes as the General Assembly considers a resolution that would demand the council submit more than one name for de facto ratification before U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s term expires Dec. 31.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at bpisik@washingtontimes.com.

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