Spotlight on allegations of sexual assault, harassment and retaliation lodged against the UNFPA Representative to India, Diego Palacios, by a consultant working for an Indian civil society organization, Prashanti Tiwari - and how the United Nations is asserting immunity to shield Mr. Palacios and witnesses from Indian legal processes.
In May 2017, a senior UN official - the UNFPA Representative to India and Country Director for Bhutan, Diego Palacios - was accused of sexually harassing and assaulting a female employee of an Indian civil society organization, Prashanti Tiwari. Ms. Tiwari confronted him, and then went public with her accusations, filing a case of sexual harassment and associated criminal acts with the Bihar police in India in February 2018. Ms. Tiwari wrote to India's Ministry of External Affairs, asking that immunity be lifted to allow her legal case to proceed. When initially asked to comment, UNFPA simply asserted that immunity applied in order to shield Mr. Palacios and UN witnesses from any legal process.
UNFPA then opened its own internal administrative “investigation,” to which Ms. Tiwari was pressured to cooperate - despite this administrative process having no legal authority to establish the facts of the incident, and no authority to usurp the power of national courts in determining whether a crime has occurred. Following mounting pressure, UNFPA responded to a second formal request from the Ministry of External Affairs to comply with the ongoing police investigation. However, it has continued to assert immunity and has placed severe restrictions on the ability of police to interview UNFPA personnel.
The Code Blue Campaign has been providing support to Ms. Tiwari's efforts to seek justice. In July 2018, we wrote to the head of UNFPA, Natalia Kanem, calling on her to exercise leadership by reversing the actions taken by UNFPA staff who are shielding this alleged sexual assailant from police investigation and possible court action. Read our open letter here.
Code Blue Statements and open letters on UNFPA
Letter from Prashanti Tiwari to UN Secretary-General
A selection of news coverage related to the UNFPA case.
16 August 2018
By Hannah Summers
UN accused of hindering inquiry into alleged sexual assault by India official
16 June 2018
UNFPA sexual harassment case: US activists seek Akbaruddin's intervention
18 May 208
By Khushboo Kumari
'Victims Are Penalised': UN Is Failing Its Female Employees
14 March 2018
Investigation into the Prashanti Tiwari Case Comes to a Standstill after UNFPA Cites Immunity
Times of India
24 February 2018
By Debashish Karmakar
FIR lodged against top UNFPA official
Times of India
23 February 2018
Former UNFPA consultant accuse Country Head of sexual harassment (video)