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Alex Haines and Victoria Brown successful in OAS final hearing

International Organisations Law specialists, Alex Haines and Victoria Brown, successful in OAS final hearing

Alex Haines and Victoria Brown appeared in a final hearing before the OAS (Organisation of American States) Administrative Tribunal following their earlier preliminary success in respect of an access to justice issue.

Judgment No. 171 in Garry LaGuerre v. Secretary General of the Organization of American States was delivered on 15 December 2023 and can be found here.

The Complainant’s journey to final hearing

In 2022, Mr LaGuerre succeeded in two interim motions, discussed here. Those motions – brought by the Respondent – claimed that the case had no merit and accordingly the Complainant should be required to pay a bond. The Tribunal’s decision was an important bolster of access to justice.

The final hearing

Following a budgetary reduction in late 2020, the Inspector General was required to provide a subprogram distribution of personnel and non-personnel resources allocation complying with the reduction. The Inspector General recommended the elimination of the Complainant’s post.

On 10 and 11 May 2023, the Tribunal – composed of all six judges – heard evidence and submissions. Evidence came from the Complainant himself, the Inspector General, the Acting Director of Human Resources and the Director of Financial Services.

The Tribunal upheld the Complaint. For the second time, they recommended the applicable staff rule be clarified.

In respect of Mr LaGuerre’s termination, the Tribunal concluded that, prior to the Inspector General’s affidavit to the Tribunal, “the specific reasons for the OIG’s decision to terminate the Complainant were surrounded by a shroud of ambiguity. This absence of any readily-accessible and rational articulated analysis, coupled with supporting documentation that was produced in real-time of the decision-making was absent.” As such, the OAS could not demonstrate justification of termination for cause. As a result, the termination suggested “the appearance of arbitrariness and violation of due process”.

The Tribunal helpfully underscored the broader point of principle, noting that General Assembly resolutions (unless expressly provided to be so) “are not self-executing and therefore cannot independently effectuate specific employment terminations with no need for well-explained justifications for each employee affected.”

Further procedural errors were criticised by the Tribunal. One particularly telling matter was the Reconsideration Committee’s refusal to provide the Complainant with the rationale for its decision, which the Tribunal considered was “unacceptable and disrespectful”.

Organization of American States

The OAS brings together all 35 member states of the Americas and constitutes the main political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the hemisphere. In addition, it has granted permanent observer status to 69 states, as well as to the EU.

As with most international organisations, the OAS has set up an administrative tribunal that acts as the final appellate body for institutional disputes. The OAS Administrative Tribunal is an autonomous organ competent to hear those cases in which members of the staff of the General Secretariat of the OAS allege non-observance of the conditions established in their respective appointments or contracts or violation of the General Standards for the operation of the General Secretariat or other applicable provisions, including those concerning the Retirement and Pension Plan of the General Secretariat.

In 2022, the Tribunal celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.

Find out more

Alex Haines is called to both the English and Irish Bars and is a US-qualified attorney admitted to the NY Bar. He is a dual national, fluent in French and Spanish, specialist in international law and sanctions with rare expertise in international organisations law. He was appointed to the Attorney General’s Panel in 2019 and as Sanctions Officer at the Caribbean Development Bank in 2020. The cases he has been instructed in have involved more than 40 International Organisations including the World Bank Group, IMF, OAS and UN (including its specialised agencies and funds). He is ranked in Chambers and Partners for Sanctions and Legal 500 for Business and Regulatory Crime (including global investigations).

To find out more about Alex, contact Sam Carter on +44 (0)203 989 6669 or George Bennett on +44 (0)207 427 0807.

Victoria Brown is a civil and chancery practitioner with a particular focus on pensions and employment. Victoria also has significant international experience, and has appeared before the World Bank Administrative Tribunal, the Organisation of American States Administrative Tribunal and the Islamic Development Bank Group Administrative Tribunal. She has run cases in the Islamic Development Bank AT, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development AT, and International Labour Organisation AT. Victoria was appointed to the Attorney General’s C Panel of Civil Counsel in October 2020 and is recognised by both Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500.

To find out more about Victoria, contact Matt Sale on +44 (0)20 7427 4910 or Lexie Johnson on + 44 (0) 207 427 0801.

News 8 Jan, 2024


Alex Haines

Call: 2007 (England & Wales); 2019 (New York); 2020 (Ireland); and 2024 (District of Columbia)

Victoria Brown

Call: 2014

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