United Nations Orders Yet Another ‘Independent’ Investigation of Unrwa 

The UN tends to let those charged with mismanaging the chief agency at Gaza swing through the revolving doors of the world’s governing body.

AP/Peter K. Afriyie
The United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, on January 23, 2024, at United Nations headquarters. AP/Peter K. Afriyie

Doth the United Nations protest too much? The world body is ordering “independent” investigations into alleged terrorist ties within its main agency at Gaza. If history is any indication, even those charged with abusing their authority could manage to regain power within the UN.

The secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, has ordered “an independent Review Group” led by a former minister of foreign affairs of France, Catherine Colonna, to examine if Unrwa “is doing everything within its power to ensure neutrality and to respond to allegations of serious breaches when they are made,” he said in a Monday statement

“It’s independent in the sense that no UN staff is involved in it,” the spokesman for the secretary-general, Stephane Dujarric, tells the Sun. “The head of it and the three research institutes are working separate from us.”

The investigation will take place alongside another inquiry by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services into allegations that 12 Unrwa staffers helped orchestrate the October 7 attacks. “It’s the kind of investigations that OIOS routinely does, looking into the behavior of staff members,” Mr. Dujarric told reporters on Monday. “They will need the cooperation of everyone, all Member States involved.” 

The OIOS will also ask for information from the parties involved in the current conflict at Gaza — Israel and Hamas. “The cooperation of the Israeli authorities, who made these allegations, will be critical to the success of the investigation,” Mr. Dujarric said. According to Israeli reports, sources within the Israeli Defense Forces have indicated that they have additional information that has yet to be published about Unrwa’s complicity on October 7.

UN agencies, though, have a long history of investigating Unrwa for evidence of mismanagement, yet still enabling the alleged perpetrators to swing through the revolving doors of the world governance organization.

“There has been massive and irrefutable evidence of Unrwa’s extensive complicity and cooperation in Hamas’ antisemitic genocidal hate campaign,” a senior member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Christopher Smith, said at a hearing on Unrwa held before the House last week. Committee members warned that thousands of United Nations employees could be working with Hamas.

Following an announcement of the OIOS investigation, Unrwa’s chief, Philippe Lazzarini, said that it would concentrate on 

 “smear campaigns” against the agency, including by the Geneva-based watchdog UN Watch. 

“The UN’s new ‘independent review’ of Unrwa is a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham,” UN Watch’s executive director, Hillel Neuer, wrote on X. 

The Red Cross is promoting as its next director-general Pierre Krahenbuhl, who resigned from commissioner-general of Unrwa in 2019 amid an internal probe that found “management issues,” the UN stated. Mr. Krahenbuhl was accused of abusing his authority, engaging in nepotism, and hiring a woman with whom he was having an affair.

Although the inquiry found “credible and corroborated” allegations of serious ethical abuses at Unrwa, he was mostly cleared of the allegations and went on to serve as secretary-general to the Red Cross. “He is recognized as a strategic and purpose-driven leader,” the Assembly of the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement in April, “with deep organizational experience and dedication to the ICRC.” 

An Israeli attorney and human rights activist, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, is taking matters into her own hands, she tells the Sun. Her law center, Shurat HaDin, is launching three lawsuits with the goal of dissolving Unrwa. The center urged Secretary Blinken in a letter on Monday to end Unrwa financing, or else it will petition the Southern District of New York to do so. 

In the Israeli court system, Shurat HaDin is planning to remove the legal immunity granted to the head of Unrwa and sue the agency for damages on the basis of its ties with terrorist groups. Ms. Darshan-Leitner tells the Sun that she is also demanding that the secretary of the Israeli defense ministry declare Unrwa a terrorist organization.


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