Until 2016, Anders Kompass was responsible for the UN's human rights operations in some 60 countries and was stationed in Geneva. In the summer of 2014, he provided the French government with a report which was written by UN staff and contained the testimonies of children in a refugee camp in the Central African Republic, describing how French soldiers had subjected them to sexual abuse, coercion and threats.
– I have read many horrific reports, but this one hit me especially hard. The most recent testimonies were only a few weeks old, says Anders Kompass.
Soldiers were sent home
After Anders Kompass handed over the report, an inquiry was launched and soldiers were sent home. Yet, as a direct consequence of his actions, Anders Kompass was suspended from his position eight months later. Several high-ranking UN officials criticised him in public for not having redacted the names of the victims, witnesses and investigators before sharing the report. The accusations came from the very top level of the organisation.
– Information which could put victims, witnesses and investigators at risk must be redacted, Farhan Haq, spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, told Al-Jazeera shortly after the suspension of Anders Kompass.
Cleared in two investigations
Anders Kompass was later cleared in two separate reports – one written internally by the UN and one by an independent external panel. The internal review was concluded when investigators found that the accusations were unfounded, and the independent report stated the opposite of what the critics had claimed: that the fact that the names had not been redacted had a positive effect. Still, some people have continued to claim that Anders Kompass acted wrongly in that particular regard. One of them is former Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.
– The report cleared him on many accounts, most of them, except for the fact that he had not protected their identities, Jan Eliasson said in an interview with SVT's Aktuellt.
The independent review panel also severely criticised the fact that information about the abuse was passed from desk to desk within the UN machinery for weeks before reaching Anders Kompass.
– Instead of reporting the allegations in an urgent manner, they were kept quiet. It took months before France was given details on the allegations, said Marie Deschamps, chair of the panel, at the press conference where the report was presented.
”There is a remark”
When Uppdrag granskning meets Jan Eliasson at the UN headquarters in New York, a year has passed since the independent review was concluded. He still maintains that the report contains criticism against Anders Kompass.
– There is a remark about adhering to existing rules regarding the right to anonymity and the protection of witnesses. That remark is there...
But not in regard to Anders Kompass. On the contrary, the report states that revealing the names had a positive effect.
– It is in a report, it is in that report. Why don't you read it afterwards, says Jan Eliasson.
But what the report actually says is that Anders Kompass should have made France agree to confidentiality in writing, and not just verbally, before sharing the information.
Retraction of statements
Anders Kompass was not, however, criticised for providing France with the names of witnesses. On the contrary, the report concludes that it had a positive effect. And Jan Eliasson now wants to change his statement:
– I would express myself differently now, compared to what I may have said on TV...
After studying Uppdrag granskning's material, the current UN leadership emphasises that it supports the external review panel and its findings – that Anders Kompass did not commit an abuse of authority, but that it is important to protect the names of witnesses and victims.