The United Nations’ UNAIDS has fired two staffers for financial and sexual misconduct, including a whistleblower. Whose allegations of being sexually assaulted sparked months of turmoil at the organization.
Last March, Martina Brostrom publicly accused a senior UNAIDS director of forcibly kissing her. And also trying to drag her out of a Bangkok elevator in 2015. She also said he had sexually harassed her on other occasions.
But before the allegations became public, Brostrom herself and a college were being investigated by U.N. officials for alleged sexual and financial misconduct.
Brostrom had reported the assault to her family and friends almost immediately after it occurred in May 2015. Also to senior UNAIDS officials on several occasions later that year and the following year.
Fraudulent practices and misused travel funds
Internal documents obtained by the AP showed U.N. officials had “evidence” Brostrom and a supervisor had taken part in “fraudulent practices and misused travel funds.”
Among other charges, the two were reprimanded for “abusing U.N. privileges. For requesting special U.N. rates for the purpose of booking hotels for alleged sexual encounters.
UN investigators also found evidence suggesting the pair used UNAIDS email accounts to exchange sex messages. Using explicit sexual language, profanity and nudity.
Brostrom said that she was fired from UNAIDS last week in an act of retaliation.
“I spoke up about what happened to me and what was happening in UNAIDS. As a consequence, I have suffered tremendously,” she said. Brostrom’s supervisor was also terminated.
Whistleblower credited for starting a #MeToo at UN
Brostrom was credited by some for starting a #MeToo movement at the U.N. Her complaint that she was sexually assaulted led to two inquiries. A U.N. investigation that concluded there was insufficient evidence to support her claims.
An independent assessment of UNAIDS management found a culture of impunity and “defective leaderships. In an email on Saturday that did not identify Brostrom by name, agency spokeswoman Sophie Barton-Knott said that “two staff members were dismissed from UNAIDS.
Stating an independent investigation concluded beyond reasonable doubt that they had misused UNAIDS corporate funds and resources and had engaged in other misconduct, including sexual misconduct.”
Barton-Knott said the investigation began eight months before. One staffer filed allegations of being sexually assaulted. She said any claims the employee was fired as payback for lodging sexual assault claims were “baseless and misleading.”
Brostrom’s lawyer, Flaherty, said she will be appealing her dismissal.
“She categorically denies the allegations,” he said in an email. The ongoing scandals have been a damaging distraction for UNAIDS. The agency is at the center of multi-billion-dollar, taxpayer-funded U.N. efforts to end the global AIDS epidemic by 2030.
The virus affects more than 37 million people worldwide and kills more than 900,000 people every year.