UNITED NATIONS – An independent panel recommended Wednesday that 10 U.N. officials should face reprimands or disciplinary action because of security lapses before the deadly Dec. 11 bombing of U.N. headquarters in Algeria.
The car bombings at U.N. offices and another government building killed 17 U.N. staffers and injured 40 others. Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa claimed responsibility and called the U.N. offices "the headquarters of the international infidels' den." The other site targeted that day was Algeria's Constitutional Council.
A five-member panel headed by Ralph Zacklin, a former high-ranking U.N. attorney, cited broad weaknesses in the U.N.'s overall security operations, including "significant lapses in judgment and experience" by top personnel who were not named.
The bombings have added to the U.N.'s increasing worry that its staff and missions are becoming more of a target worldwide.
"Senior managers were preoccupied with Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia and Sudan. Algeria was not on the radar screen," says a four-page summary of the report prepared by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office.
The full 88-page report, which is based on interviews with 54 people and a review of thousands of pages of internal security documents, was not made public because of what U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas described as concerns about the safety and "due process" for personnel.
As the third in a series of internal probes into the bombing, the panel's report focused on assigning blame. It recommended a letter of reprimand or other possible "administrative measures" against six U.N. staff, and disciplinary proceedings that could lead to firing against four others, Zacklin said.
It was left up to Ban — who appointed the panel's members that also cleared the U.N. chief of any culpability in the security lapses — to decide on what actions to take against those U.N. staffers.
"He has a wide discretion under the staff rules," Zacklin said. "The secretary-general is not one of the individuals that we have been referring to here."
Panel members singled out for praise former U.N. security officer Babacar Ndiaye, who was killed in the attack. He had unsuccessfully pleaded with U.N. managers to raise the threat level and to exhort Algerian officials to erect concrete barriers and to install more surveillance outside U.N. offices in Algiers.
They emphasized that host countries bear "the primary responsibility for security of U.N. staff." Algerian officials have repeatedly said their government took steps to protect the United Nations.
The report also criticized the U.N.'s system of threat levels as flawed "since it tends to provide a false sense of security or the appearance of careful elaboration when in fact it is frequently inconsistent in its application from country to country."
Britain's David Veness offered to resign in June as U.N. security chief because of the bombing. Two earlier reports overseen by Veness and by Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran U.N. and Algerian diplomat, found that Algerian officials had some advance knowledge of a possible attack and that Ndiaye's warnings to U.N. officials went largely ignored.