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Civil Servants

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Legal Expenses Insurance – Game Changer for International Civil Servants

By | Administrative Law, Civil Servants, Employment Disputes, IAL, International Administrative Law, News, Uncategorized | No Comments

Earlier this year, lawyers from BWL were approached by a Manager at a large International Organisation based in London who had been, in his view, a victim of retaliation. As as a result, he was not promoted and his employer organisation failed to award him the pay rise he deserved.

He notified his household insurers who confirmed that his policy included legal expenses insurance for grievances arising out of employment disputes with his employer. Initially, his insurance company wanted to appoint an English employment lawyer to represent him throughout the international organisation’s internal justice system. Lawyers from BWL explained that the applicable law (i.e., international administrative law or ‘IAL’) was specific to international organisations and the insurance company eventually agreed to instruct experts in IAL to represent the employee in question. Once the formalities had been completed, the employee’s lawyers were able to represent him before the organisation and invoice the insurance company directly. A settlement was eventually reached, and at no stage did the employee have to pay for his legal representation.

This success story is a small step in balancing out the inequality of arms that exists all to often between international organisations and their employees. International Civil Servants are advised to examine the terms and conditions of their household insurance to check if it covers legal expenses for their employment disputes. They should also be aware that being insured does not mean that they have to accept any lawyer provided by the insurers, who will often not have the expertise required to represent them effectively.

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The Success of which we cannot speak

By | Administrative Law, Civil Servants, Human Rights, International Administrative Law, London, News | 2 Comments

Barristers from Bretton Woods Law last week won yet another international employment law case within the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s (“EBRD” or “Bank’s”) internal justice system.  In fact, this is the third straight win in a row of late at the EBRD for BWL, but, regrettably, we are prevented from telling you about two of the three cases because the Bank intentionally applies a cloak of secrecy to the ministrations and jurisprudence emanating from its Grievance Committee.  One of the three cases was, however, a judgement of the EBRD’s Administrative Tribunal (“EBRDAT”) in respect of the jurisdiction of the Grievance Committee to hear a particular matter.  This judgement was thankfully published on the Tribunal’s webpage and it makes for interesting reading for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the implicit criticism of the Bank’s behaviour [read].

The EBRD, which is headquartered in London, is an international organisation that enjoys limited immunity from legal suit within the United Kingdom.  But the EBRD’s immunity is sufficient to cover employment disputes and, as a result, disgruntled EBRD employees are generally unable to seek recourse or protection from English employment tribunals.  EBRD employees have in general no other option than to rely upon the substitute internal system of justice created by and imposed upon them by the Bank for the resolution of their employment related grievances.

The Grievance Committee is the EBRD’s court of first instance and therefore the fact-finding body within its internal justice system, with an appeal lying thereafter to the EBRDAT.  The Chair of the Grievance Committee is an external lawyer, who is assisted in his or her deliberations by two staff members sitting in the capacity of Assessors.  The EBRD’s internal law only permits the Grievance Committee to make a recommendation on the outcome of an employment dispute to its President, Sir Suma Chakrabarti, and it then falls to Sir Suma to decide whether to accept or reject the Committee’s findings.  Sir Suma is the decision maker at first instance and this is so regardless of whether the employee is seeking to contest the lawfulness of his decisions.  In contrast, the EBRDAT is permitted by the Bank to pass judgement on disputes and its judgements are both binding and published on line. However, the recommendations of the Grievance Committee are not published nor are Sir Suma’s decisions thereon, which is truly astonishing given the fact that the Bank, as an international organisation, is a product of and is subject to customary international law, including inter alia article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”)

Article 6 of the ECHR stipulates that “everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law” in the determination of their “civil rights and obligations.”  What is more, article 6 provides that not only should any hearing be in held in public, but that “judgement shall be pronounced publically.”  The EBRD falls down on both these points, for its Grievance Procedures (2011), which is the internal law that establishes and guides the Grievance Committee, exclude from the hearing or trial of the facts at first instance everyone other than the parties, including union representatives, and treats the proceedings of the Committee as confidential, including any report of the Grievance Committee to Sir Suma and any subsequent decision taken by him.  What makes matters worse is that the EBRD floats the threat of disciplinary action against any employee who openly talks about or otherwise discloses details of his or her case, both within the Bank and outside of it.

What this means in practice is that the EBRD is able to hide from the public at large and, more importantly, its serving employees the outcomes of cases that it has lost at first instance and any criticism levied against it by the members of the Committee, including the external and independent judge.  This lack of transparency self-evidently defeats the aims of justice, as it conceals judicial work that would assist immeasurably other disgruntled employees and their lawyers, stifles the making of informed complaints and, significantly, prevents the Bank’s Board of Directors from shining the spotlight of accountability on those who need to be illuminated.

Blanket confidentiality at first instance is an all too common practice within the internal justice systems of international organisations and BWL lawyers take the view that such confidentiality has no place in an internal system that acts as a substitute for national courts and tribunals.  It is abused by international organisations, it is abhorrent and it should be stopped.  If international organisations fear exposure of their behaviour, then the simple and, in truth, only answer is to take steps to improve.  However, until organisations such as the EBRD comply with their obligations under prevalent and applicable human right laws, we are unable to discuss in any detail how our clients, with our assistance, have prevailed and often in circumstances that have attracted judicial criticism of their employers.

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The Application of Human Rights to International Organisations: Do Employees of International Organisations Enjoy the Right to a Fair Hearing of their Employment Disputes?

By | Centre of Excellence, Civil Servants, Human Rights, IAL, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

International organisations are products of international law, as they are invariably created by means of multilateral treaties.  It is therefore not surprising that the International Court of Justice (“ICJ” or “World Court”) has made it quite clear on several occasions that international organisations “are bound by any obligations incumbent upon them under general rules of international law” (Advisory Opinion on the Interpretation of the Agreement of March 25th, 1951 between WHO and Egypt [1980] I.C.J. Reps at 89-90.  See also the Reparation for Injuries Case [1949] I.C.J. Reps 174 at 179: an international organisation is “a subject of international law and capable of possessing international rights and duties”).

It is now generally accepted that international organisations, as international persons, are bound by the customary rules of international law, including the customary aspects of international human rights law.  By way of example, Sands and Klein, editing Bowett’s Law of International Institutions, take the view at page 456 that:

“notwithstanding the fact that an international organisation is not a party to, say, a human rights treaty …if the rule contained in an agreement is reflected in customary international law then it can, as such, bind an international organisation.  It has been suggested, for example, that the World Bank is not subject to general international norms for the protection of fundamental human rights.  In our view that conclusion is without merit, on legal or policy grounds.”

The right to a fair and, indeed, a public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal in the determination of rights and obligations is now undoubtedly a general rule of international law; it is a ‘fundamental human right’ that finds its origins in article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“the Declaration”).  Building upon the Declaration, which was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10th December 1948, the states of Europe sought in 1950 to enforce certain Declaration rights by agreeing the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”).  Article 6(1) of the ECHR provides that in the determination of civil rights and obligations “everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.”

The geographical limitation of the ECHR was to a certain extent addressed and remedied by the United Nations opening for state signature on 19th December 1966 the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), which came into force on 23rd March 1976.  In conformity with article 10 of the Declaration and article 6 of the ECHR, article 14(1) of the ICCPR states that in the “determination … of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.”  Similar provisions can be found in other international human rights treaties, such as article 8 of the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights and articles 10 and 20 of the 2012 ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.

Most, if not all international organisations enjoy as a matter of law some form of immunity from legal suit in their respective member states.  This means that international civil servants, as the employees of international organisations, are prevented from pursing employment related complaints in national employment courts and tribunals.  In order to maintain their immunity from suit, international organisations are thus obliged to provide their employees with a forum in which they can litigate their disputes and, as such, international organisations have over the years developed and implemented various forms of internal justice mechanisms.  But merely providing an international civil servant with a mechanism by which his or her case can be heard is insufficient, as international law, as is clearly demonstrated above, requires that the hearing must be public and above all fair, which means that the mechanism must offer all the guarantees inherent in the notion of due process.  The consequences for an international organisation of failing to provide for a fair internal system of justice is that it risks losing its immunity and therefore risks being sued successfully in national courts.  In Waite and Kennedy [1999] 116 ILR 121, the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”), dealing with a case concerning the European Space Agency, made plain that “a material factor in determining whether granting […] immunity from […] jurisdiction is permissible is whether the applicants had available to them reasonable alternative means to protect effectively their rights under the [ECHR].”

The right to the enjoyment and protection of human rights is not lost merely because an individual decides to work for an international organisation.  Human rights ‘black-holes’ do not exist and they most certainly do not exist within organisations created and maintained by states.  So, in short, the answer to the question is yes, international civil servants, as the employees of international organisations, have the right to have their employment complaints heard and heard fairly.

International Administrative Law

Bretton Woods Law opens new office in Manila

By | Administrative Law, Civil Servants, Employment Disputes, IAL, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

Bretton Woods Law is pleased to announce they now have an office in the Philippines capital – Manila.

Due to the ever-growing number of international civil servants based in the Philippines that are instructing Bretton Woods Law lawyers to help them with their employment disputes with the international organisations for which they work, it has become clear that in order to offer them the high level of service available to all of our clients, Bretton Woods Law should have a representational office in Manila.

 

Manila is a natural choice for Bretton Woods Law due to the large number of international organisations that are based there, including:

If you are an International Civil Servant based in Manila and would like to discuss an employment dispute you might have, why not contact Bretton Woods Law at

L29 Joy Nostalg Centre
17 ADB Avenue
Ortigas Center
Pasig City
Manila, 1600

Email: enquiries@brettonwoodslaw.com
Telephone:
+63 2 7988171 (effective as of 17 April 2013)
Skype:
brettonwoodslaw

Bretton Woods Law lawyers are experts in International Administrative Law which is the employment law of the international organisations.

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Second Geneva International Administrative Law Seminar Focuses on the Fear of Retaliation

By | Centre of Excellence, Civil Servants, Employment Disputes, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

Bretton Woods Law’s second International Administrative Law seminar took place at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Geneva on Wednesday 27th April and, as ever, one topic on a full agenda really resonated with the attendees – the fear of retaliation.

It is apparent from seminar attendees that many international civil servants are reticent to file a case against their employers, as they are scared that their international organisation will engage in reprisal and retribution.

Bretton Woods Law stated that the best way to combat retaliation was to construct an anti-retaliation policy that contains a reverse burden of proof, which means that if an international civil servant files a case within the internal justice system operated by his or her employer and is then allegedly retaliated against, it is up to the international organisation, as the employer, to prove on a balance of probabilities that it has not engaged in such a practice.

Bretton Woods Law has the expertise and experience to draft such anti-retaliation policies, as well as all other related policies, such as whistleblower protection mechanisms, and have done so for a number of international organisations.  To discuss your own particular anti-retaliation requirements or any other international administrative law matter, contact your nearest Bretton Woods Law office.

For a detailed list of all the topics discussed at the second Geneva International Administrative Law seminar, please click here.

If you have been the victim of retaliation by an international organisation or any other form of unfair treatment, why not apply to join the International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence, a ‘think-tank’ designed to assist in the global development and improvement of International Administrative Law. The Centre of Excellence provides amongst other things,  a neutral forum for discussion and debate for those individuals interested in developing International Administrative Law.

International Administrative Law

Bretton Woods Law International Administrative Law seminar at PAHO draws top international civil servants from the Americas

By | Administrative Law, Centre of Excellence, Civil Servants, Employment Disputes, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

On 28th February, Bretton Woods Law held a seminar at the behest of PAHO (Pan-American Health Organisation) on International Administrative Law – the employment law of international civil servants. The seminar drew 50 attendees from around the Americas, including senior Staff Association members as well as doctors and other medical professionals.

The topics in the agenda were wide and varied and included: clarity of the law, confidentiality of proceedings and the role of lawyers for the organisation. However the point that seemed to cause the most debate was Staff Associations – their independence, the need for dues, industrial action & retaliation.

Some of those present expressed their fear of approaching Staff Associations to discuss their concerns and joining class actions for fear of retaliation and reprisal. There was also an in-depth discussion on the fact that even if employees win their case, they will not automatically be awarded their legal fees – which along with the fear of retaliation creates a strong barrier to some international civil servants taking their grievances to a tribunal.

It was of course agreed that the present situation is unfair and untenable, and change needed to happen, particularly a confidential forum where international civil servants could share their views and experiences without fear of reprisal and retaliation.

In view of these concerns, Bretton Woods Law was delighted to have the opportunity of inviting all attendees to apply for membership to the International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence , a forum whose primary aim is to assist in the global development and improvement of International Administrative Law.

The Centre of Excellence has also been designed to create just what these international civil servants need  – a confidential arena in which they can, without fear, freely express their concerns and views. It is hoped that from these shared experiences, new and thought provoking ideas and concepts will emerge, which, together with promoting international best practices, will enhance and significantly improve the employment law of international organisations worldwide.

 

If you are an International Civil Servant, who wants to help change your employment law, apply today for membership to the International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence.

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2nd Geneva seminar on International Administrative Law

By | Administrative Law, Civil Servants, Employment Disputes, IAL Seminars, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

Following the success last month of our first Geneva International Administrative Law (IAL) seminar, we have decided, due to popular demand, to hold a second seminar on Wednesday 27th March 2013 and we would like to offer you a complimentary invitation.

Attendees will again benefit from free expert advice from legal specialists, as well as being able to share their own views and opinions with their peers on the following topics:

  1. Effectiveness of internal justice system
  2. Clarity of the law
  3. Confidentiality of proceedings
  4. Staff associations (independence, the need for dues, industrial action & retaliation)
  5. Executive heads reviewing the lawfulness of their own decisions
  6. The role of lawyers for the organisation
  7. Mandatory mediation
  8. The ethics functionCase studies of common staff grievances and how to successfully litigate
  9. Improving IAL (codification of IAL principles, uniform internal justice mechanism, legal expenses insurance for all international civil servants, one Global AT etc)

Join us on 27th March at the Hotel Intercontinental 7-9 Chemin Du Petit-Saconnex Geneva, 1211.

  • Registration: 9.00am
  • Lunch: 1pm
  • Seminar closes: 3.30

Register here

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Equality of arms – a hot topic at first Geneva seminar

By | Administrative Law, Centre of Excellence, Civil Servants, IAL, International, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

On 6th February, Bretton Woods Law held its first International Administrative Law seminar in Geneva. The seminar was attended by a number of senior Staff Association members in order to discuss a selection of the most important aspects of International Administrative Law facing international civil servants today.

One of the main topics that was debated was the thorny issue of ‘Equality of Arms’, and for those international civil servants who could not make the seminar, an overview of Bretton Wood Law’s thoughts on this particular subject can be found below.

Bretton Woods Law has also set up the International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence, to assist in the global development and improvement of International Administrative Law. Apply for membership >

Equality of Arms

A ‘David v. Goliath’ situation prevails in most, if not all international organisations.  An employee who wishes to raise a complaint that his or her contract of employment has be contravened by the organisation that he or she works for (e.g., a secretary who claims to have been bullied or harassed by her boss), will normally have to face a human resources department that is advised by specialist lawyers from within the organisation’s legal department.  In some organisations, such as the multilateral development banks (e.g., the World Bank, EBRD etc.), whole teams of lawyers exist (known as institutional & administrative (“I&A”) law teams) whose primary function is to defend the organisation against employment related claims brought by staff members.  What is more, the organisation has if necessary the funds at hand to engage external lawyers to advise it and protect its interests.  In stark contrast, the employee does not have such legal resources at his or her disposal and may well not have the funds to engage a lawyer at all or only for a limited period of time.  The majority of internal justice systems operated by international organisations do not provide for any form of ‘legal aid’ nor do they operate a defence service under which lawyers are employed by the organisation to represent employees before the grievance committees and administrative tribunals that they operate (however, c.f., the United Nations Office of Staff Legal Assistance).  Moreover, the statutes and procedures that create the committees, boards and tribunals that form the internal justice systems of many international organisations either do not permit those bodies to award costs against the organisation and in favour of the employee or, if they do, those costs can only be awarded at the very end of a case, which may take years to finalise.  Indeed, it would appear to be a tactic of some lawyers within certain organisations that we have encountered to delay intentionally in order to put the injured international civil servant to unnecessary expense and thereby starve him or her out of the litigation process.  One case in which Bretton Woods Law lawyers are involved is now in its third year due to ‘stalling tactics’ on the part of the organisation.  Other cases are delayed by an organisation taking novel and ultimately unsuccessful jurisdictional arguments (on this point see O Elias’ The Development and Effectiveness of International Administrative Law (2012) at page 339).  In one international organisation in which we operate it can take up to fifteen years before a judgement is actually rendered by its administrative tribunal, which is astonishing as much as it is troubling.  Put bluntly, many international civil servants simply cannot afford to engage lawyers to assist them at all or for the time required in order to navigate the labyrinth of laws implemented by international organisations.  This disparity of wealth and the manner in which it is exploited by some international organisations causes an ‘inequality of arms’ between the litigants that can taint the legitimacy of the internal process and render it unfair.  The solution to this all too prevalent problem is of course obvious: the organisation that cloaks itself in an immunity from legal suit and thereby compels its employees to use its internal justice system should provide for a legal aid scheme of some description or, alternatively, arrange for legal insurance to be available to all of its employees, in the same way that it provides for medical insurance.

If you are an international civil servant and in need of specialist employment advice, contact your nearest office.

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Bretton Woods Law launches IAL Centre of Excellence

By | Administrative Law, Centre of Excellence, Civil Servants, Employment Disputes, IAL, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

Bretton Woods Law is proud to announce the launch of the International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence, an exclusive members-only group whose main focus is to to assist in the global development and improvement of International Administrative Law. Click here for further details and to apply for your complimentary membership today

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Bretton Woods Law to speak at UNSU-ICTY seminar – Download Presentation

By | Administrative Law, Civil Servants, International, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

Download Presentation

Bretton Woods Law are proud to have been asked to speak on International Administrative Law at the UNSU-ICTY seminar on Wednesday 3rd October. We will be holding an open forum with senior Staff Association members, where the law’s shortfalls and possible improvements will be discussed.

Topics will include:

  • Equality of arms
  • Clarity of the law
  • Confidentiality of proceedings
  • Capping of Awards
  • Staff Associations – independence and industrial action
  • Executive Heads – reviewing the lawfulness of their own decisions
  • The roles and actions of lawyers for the organisation
  • Mandatory mediation
  • Ignoring the organisation’s internal law
  • Suspension of administrative decision

We hope that, what promises to be a lively and informative discussion, will help shape the much needed improvements and additions to this area of law.

If you are unable to attend the UNSU-ICTY seminar in person, but have a need for legal advice concerning an employment issue within an international organisation, please go to www.brettonwoodslaw.com/brettonwood_site to contact your nearest office.