June 26, 2002
A United Nations policewoman who accused colleagues of being involved in the use of young Bosnian women as sex slaves was sacked as a direct result, a British employment court has been told.
Kathryn Bolkovac, who had been contracted by U.S. recruiting firm DynCorp to work for the U.N. in Bosnia, claims she was fired after sending an e-mail to a superior claiming U.N. police officers were turning a blind eye to human rights abuses and were actively involved in the trafficking of sex slaves.
The American policewoman, who has lodged a claim of unfair dismissal with a British employment tribunal, accused officers of using prostitutes and frequenting bars where women were raped and forced to perform sex acts.
The U.N. has denied Bolkovac's allegations saying investigations found they were without substance.
Madeleine Rees, head of the U.N. human rights office in Bosnia, told the tribunal in Southampton on Tuesday that officers working in Bosnia considered investigations into the use of prostitutes were "inhibiting their freedom".
"They almost always referred to the trafficked women as "whores seeking a free ride home," she told the tribunal. "I know of these opinions first hand since this was also the attitude of those in very senior positions."
Rees said the U.N failed to deal satisfactorily with officers who were sexually abusing women. Bolkovac was the only person confronting the issue and as a result she was removed from her post, she said. "I am in no doubt Kathy was taken out of the mission because she confronted the issue of trafficking," Rees said.
The hearing is taking place in Britain because DynCorp contracts state they are governed by British employment law.
Earlier, the tribunal was told that Bolkovac sent an e-mail to the head of the U.N. mission in Bosnia, Jacques Paul Klein, raising her concerns. Within days she was removed from the frontline of the operation and six months later was sacked for allegedly falsifying a time sheet - a charge she denies.
Rees described Bolkovac as having "absolute integrity" and said the e-mail in question "encapsulated the issues and attitudes very well". Bolkovac has said DynCorp feared its contract to supply U.N. missions would be jeopardised because of her allegations.
DynCorp, which has a branch in the English city of Salisbury, says the policewoman was dismissed for gross misconduct. The company is contracted by the U.S. State Department to supply American police officers to humanitarian and peacekeeping missions supported by the U.S. government.
The firm's European head, Spencer Wickham, has acknowledged a problem with officers' using prostitutes and said three had been sacked as a result -- one of whom had "purchased" a woman who he was supposed to be protecting from the sex trade.
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