Shelly Atkinson is an internationally recruited staff member of the United Nations Political Office headquartered in Damascus, Syria. She was recruited as an Arabic Interpreter in May 2014 on a one-year fixed term appointment. Five months after being recruited to the post in Damascus, she was reassigned to Beirut, Lebanon for security reasons. On 21 January 2015, Ms. Atkinson was asked to return to Damascus as her services were urgently needed during the high level peace talks brokered by the UN Envoy for Syria. On 30 January 2015, the Syrian Government rejected the UN’s application for a visa for Ms. Atkinson. Despite repeated requests from the UN, the Syrian Government refused to provide the reasons for its rejection of the UN’s visa application for Ms. Atkinson. However, on 31 April 2015, the Syrian Government sent a Note Verbale to the UN stating that Ms. Atkinson is barred from entering Syria on the grounds of her failure to abide by the laws of Syria.
On 1 May 2015, Ms. Atkinson received a memorandum from the Chief of Personnel, Mr. Marcus Pino, that her fixed-term appointment will not be renewed beyond 31 May 2015 because the Syrian Government refused to grant a visa to work at her designated duty station i.e., Damascus. On 2 May 2015, Mr. Pino informed Ms. Atkinson by phone that he was very sorry for her situation and that, unfortunately, she would have to separate from service on 31 May 2015 because there are no suitable vacant positions in any other mission to which she could be laterally transferred. Ms. Atkinson pleaded to Mr. Pino to conduct a thorough investigation into the Syrian Government declaring her persona non grata since she had done nothing wrong. On 15 May 2015, Mr. Pino informed Ms. Atkinson that his hands were tied and reiterating that the decision to not renew her appointment remained unchanged.
On 16 May 2015, Ms. Atkinson sought assistance from the Office of the Ombudsperson in resolving the issue that her appointment was not being renewed. On 18 May 2015, the Regional Ombudsman, Mr. Frank Brown, also based in Beirut, sent an email to Mr. Pino requesting a meeting to discuss Ms. Atkinson’s issue. However, he immediately received an out-of-office message from Mr. Pino stating that he was on leave until 10 June 2015.
On 11 June 2015, Mr. Pino returned from leave and agreed to have a meeting with Mr. Brown, the Regional Ombudsman. On 15 June 2015, the parties met and Mr. Pino informed Mr. Brown that Ms. Atkinson’s case had already been fully considered among the mission’s senior management and that there was no room for an informal resolution of the matter given the absence of any suitable position to which Ms. Atkinson could be transferred. He also told Mr. Brown that the UN has no control over the decisions taken by the Syrian Government. On 20 June 2015, Mr. Brown notified Ms. Atkinson of the outcome of his meeting with Mr. Pino.
Under protest, Ms. Atkinson had separated from service on 31 May 2015. On 14 July 2015, she requested management evaluation of the decision to not renew her appointment beyond 31 May 2015. Ms. Atkinson receives a letter from the Management Evaluation Unit on 15 August 2015. On 30 November 2015, Ms. Atkinson files an application with the United Nations Dispute Tribunal challenging the decision to not renew her appointment, arguing that it violated the terms and conditions of her appointment given that she had at all times acted in conformity with the laws of Syria.
Question 1 - Directions
As a legal officer in the Legal Section in the Office of Human Resources, you have been asked to draft a memorandum to the Chief of the Appeals Unit addressing the question of whether:
a) Ms. Atkinson’s application before the Dispute Tribunal is receivable under the Staff Regulations and Rules and the Dispute Tribunal’s Statute; and
b) the Organization has a viable defence against Ms. Atkinson’s claims.
In preparing the draft memorandum, you may rely on the relevant parts of the documentation provided to you with the written test.