U.N. Must Remove Head of Intellectual Property Agency Implicated in DNA-Taking Scandal, Says Watchdog
Tribune de Geneve: Gurry’s Dubious Deals With Putin, China Anger WIPO Members; Technology Transfers to Iran, North Korea Spark U.S. Outrage
GENEVA, Nov. 20 — In wake of a Geneva newspaper’s exposé of major wrongdoing by the head of the World Intellectual Property Organization, an independent watchdog organization today called on United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon to immediately remove WIPO director-general Francis Gurry as chair of the UN’s High-Level Committee on Management, and to ask for his resignation from the UN agency that oversees crucial international matters including global patent protection.
A detailed investigative report published Monday in the Tribune de Geneve implicated Gurry in the secret and “illegal” taking of the DNA of WIPO staff members, in his attempt to find out if they were the source of anonymous letters criticizing Gurry in the run-up to his 2008 election to the influential and highly coveted post.
Nominated by his native Australia, Gurry is vying for re-election in March.
“For the UN’s senior management committee to be chaired by an individual found to be violating basic management, professional and ethical standards, is an embarrassment,”said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the non-governmental organization UN Watch.
“Nor should Gurry be allowed to further damage the one global organization charged with protecting innovation the world needs to face the great economic challenges of tomorrow.”
The DNA scandal came to light recently after one of the targeted employees managed to get access to her personnel file and found the incriminating report.
UN Watch urged the Australian government to withdraw Gurry’s nomination immediately.
“Failure to do so will damage Australia’s good record in the UN and their reputation more generally. Gurry will never step down. Barring action by Ban Ki-moon, only Australia can prevent him from securing a second term, and we trust that Australia’s new government will do the right thing,” said Neuer.
The article also revealed the intense international controversy that erupted recently when WIPO member states discovered that Gurry had curried favor with authoritarian regimes Russia and China by offering to create offices ther—without the knowledge or consent of WIPO members.
Anger among member states was so severe that they rejected Gurry’s proposed WIPO budget for the next two years, threatening turmoil in the world organization.
Geneva sources believe that Gurry promised the Russians to open an office in return for their support for his original 2008 election, which he won by one vote. His tête à tête with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in 2011 has fueled more suspicions, said the Tribune de Geneve.
Making matters only worse, Gurry has reportedly sought to win over his critics among member states by offering them their own WIPO offices—without conducting any of the professional business case analysis required to justify their creation.
Gurry has even suggested to Iran—which was condemned yesterday by the UN General Assembly for gross and systematic human rights violations—that a WIPO office could be opened in Tehran.
The news is likely to stir outrage among members of the U.S. Congress who last year condemned Gurry for secretly authorizing the shipment of high-end U.S. computer equipment to the rogue regimes of North Korea and Iran.
In September, influential members of Congress sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urging the Obama administration not to support the re-election of Gurry in the upcoming vote in March.
“Gurry’s erratic and secretive behavior and colossal lack of judgment must disqualify him from receiving support from the U.S. government,” the letter said.
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