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OTC International Team successful in three UNAT judgments

OTC International Team successful in three UNAT judgments

In early 2019, Alex Haines, assisted by Stephen Butler, was instructed in three cases before the United Nations Appeals Tribunal  (UNAT) in New York.  The UNAT is the UN’s highest court for institutional matters.  All three appeals were allowed in the UNAT’s last session of 2019.  The cases involved the reclassification of posts within the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), a UN specialised agency responsible for regulating shipping based in London.

In the cases of Sheffer v Secretary-General of the IMO, Judgment No. 2019-UNAT-949 and Dispert & Hoe v Secretary-General of the IMO, Judgment No. 2019-UNAT-958, the UNAT held that there were fundamental problems with the manner in which the IMO had dealt with the Appellants’ claim for reclassification.  A primary concern was that the internal ‘decisions’ appealed did not conform to the IMO’s jurisdictional requirements under Article XI of the IMO Staff Regulations and Rules.

Article XI of the IMO’s Staff Regulations and Rules is based on the terms of the Agreement between the UN and the IMO which took effect on 1 July 2009 extending the jurisdiction of the UNAT to the IMO and, in turn, to Article 2(10) of the Statute of the UNAT which governs its jurisdiction and powers.

The IMO’s first instance – the Staff Appeals Board (SAB) – only issues recommendations under the current system by advising the IMO’s Secretary-General who could not himself be regarded as a neutral part of the process, not least because he is both the employer’s representative and the original decision-maker at whom the appellants’ appeal were directed.

The UNAT was not satisfied that the essential elements were present to have constituted a ‘decision’ by the SAB.  Although the SAB appeared to have dealt with all aspects of the appeals and provided a written record with reasons, facts and law, it remained that the SAB did not issue a written decision but only a recommendation to the Secretary-General.

In order to ensure compliance with the jurisdictional requirements of the IMO’s Regulations and Rules, the case was remanded back to the SAB under Article 2(10) of this UNAT’s Statute in order that it issue a decision on the appeals against the original administrative decision issued by the Secretary-General.

The UNAT is the second and final instance of appeal within the UN internal system of justice.  The UNAT was established by the General Assembly in 2009 as part of the new UN internal justice system (replacing the old United Nations Administrative Tribunal).

As the second level appellate review tribunal within the UN’s justice system, the UNAT reviews (1) appeals against judgments rendered by the UN Dispute Tribunal (UNDT), (2) appeals against judgments rendered by the Dispute Tribunal of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWADT), as well as (3) appeals of decisions taken by the Standing Committee acting on behalf of the UN Joint Staff Pension Board (UNJSPB) and (4) appeals of decisions taken by organisations, agencies and entities that have accepted UNAT’s jurisdiction, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) and the IMO.

Members of OTC’s specialist international team are currently instructed in a number of cases involving several international organisations.

The team’s work ranges from advisory work to training, arbitration, litigation and advocacy before international courts and tribunals including the EU’s General Court, International Administrative Tribunals (e.g., the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Administrative Tribunal, the World Bank Administrative Tribunal and the African Union Administrative Tribunal) and LCIA arbitrations.

To find out more, please contact

News 21 Jan, 2020


Alex Haines

Call: 2007 (England & Wales); 2019 (New York); and 2020 (Ireland)

Stephen Butler

Call: 2014

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