Allegations of Sexual Assault Made Against British Citizens Working For The United Nations

Natasha Phillips made this Freedom of Information request to Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Automatic anti-spam measures are in place for this older request. Please let us know if a further response is expected or if you are having trouble responding.

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Natasha Phillips

Dear Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office,

Has the FCDO received a Note Verbale or any other communication from a United Nations (UN) body between January 2017 and March 2021 alerting the FCDO to any cases involving allegations of sexual assault made against a British citizen who has worked as a civilian employee of a United Nations peacekeeping mission?

And if so, to ask the FCDO to provide a copy of that communication from the UN, and a copy of the FCDO’s communication responding to the UN.

If the FCDO decides it is appropriate to withhold some information, I would expect this to be redacted from the communication, and the remainder of the communication to be provided.

Yours faithfully,
Natasha Phillips

Information Rights (Sensitive), Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

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Information Rights (Sensitive), Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Dear Natasha Phillips,

Thank you for your email. In order to assist our search for any information requested, would you be able to say whether you are referring to a specific peacekeeping mission or UN body?

Thank you,

Information Rights Unit
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

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Natasha Phillips

Dear Information Rights (Sensitive),

Thank you for your reply.

Has the FCDO received any communication outlined in the original FOI request with regard to the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO)?

Yours sincerely,

Natasha Phillips

Information Rights (Sensitive), Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Dear Natasha Phillips,

Thank you for your clarification. You should receive a formal acknowledgement and reference number imminently.

Kind regards,

Information Rights Unit
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

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Information Rights Unit,

Dear Natasha Phillips

Thank you for your FOI request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

We received your request on 17th March. It has been assigned a unique
reference number (above). We aim to respond by Friday, 16th April.

Please note, however, that reprioritisation of resources due to the
COVID-19 crisis, and measures we are required to take to prevent the
spread of the virus, continue to have an impact on our ability to respond
to all requests within the statutory deadline.

We have significantly reduced on-site working which will mean delays to
responses which require access to paper records.

We are endeavouring to process requests as quickly as possible, and
appreciate your patience at this time.

Yours sincerely,

Information Rights Unit

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Natasha Phillips

Dear Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office,

I hope you're well.

The response to my query set for today has not come through, so I'd be grateful if you could respond with the requested information as a matter of urgency.

Yours faithfully,

Natasha Phillips

Information Rights Unit,

1 Attachment

Dear Natasha Phillips

Please find attached an interim response to your request, FOI2021/06894,
with a new date that has been changed to 17th May.

Kind Regards

Information Rights Unit

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Natasha Phillips

Dear Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office,

This request is now in breach of the law, as the FCDO has not responded within the appropriate time.

I will now be asking for an internal review, and a full response to the request.

Yours faithfully,

Natasha Phillips

Information Rights Unit,

1 Attachment

Dear Natasha Phillips

Apologies. Please find attached an interim response to your request,
FOI2021/06894, with a new date that has been changed to 15th June.

Kind Regards

Information Rights Unit

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Matthew McCluskie (Sensitive), Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Dear Ms Phillips

Our response extending the deadline under the Public Interest test is fully in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

We will aim to provide a reply before a further PIT extension is required. However, it is not possible to request an Internal review until after the reply has issued.

regards

Information Rights Unit | Delivery, Parliament, Co-Ordination and Capability (DPCC) | DG Delivery | Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office| King Charles Street |London SWIA 2AH

On 2 September 2020, the Central FOI Unit (CFIOU) was renamed the Information Rights Unit (IRU.

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Richard Taylor left an annotation ()

Unfortunately there is no time limit for public interest tests, the time taken has to be "reasonable" though.
The Information Commissioner offers guidance:

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

The ICO say in that document:

"The Act does not define what might constitute a ‘reasonable’ extension of time. However, our view is that an authority should normally take no more than an additional 20 working days to consider the public interest, meaning that the total time spent dealing with the request should not exceed 40 working days.An extension beyond this should be exceptional. Examples of such circumstances could include extreme pressures placed on the public authority by a major incident or exceptional levels of complexity involving a number of external parties. Public authorities will need to demonstrate that the length of any time extension is justified. "
Based on that I suggest you might want to note the guidance and ask if there are exceptional circumstances, and if so, what they are.

You could also seek an intervention from the Information Commissioner at this point.

Do keep the correspondence thread up to date via annotations if you write directly to the Commissioner.

Richard Taylor left an annotation ()

The ICO also has advice on the operation of the "International Relations" exemption at:

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/foi...

Section 27 seeks to protect:

* relations between the UK and other states
* relations between the UK and international organisations, including international courts;
* the interests of the UK abroad.

The authority must conduct a prejudice test to assess the likelihood of harm to the interests described, and that a causal link can be identified between such harm and the disclosure of the information. It must also use the public interest test to balance this perceived harm against the public good that would be done by its disclosure.
Keys to challenging this exemption may be:
Checking whether a prejudice test has been conducted, and if so, that the prejudice identified would be to the interests or relationships of the UK, and not just to the authority itself.
Checking that the public interest test has been conducted, and if so, whether you can make a strong argument that a different conclusion should have been arrived at.
Seeing whether you can make a strong argument that the prejudice test has overestimated the likelihood of harm, or the causal link to disclosure.
If Section 27(2) has been deployed, the information must have been obtained from another state, an international organisation or an international court, and it must be classified as confidential. If the information, or substantially similar information, is already in the public domain, the issue of confidentiality may have become null.
You can see more about all of these points in the ICO guidance.
Also note that the authority can only withhold those parts of the information to which the exemption applies. If they withhold remaining information, where there is no demonstrable prejudice to the interests or relationships of the UK, they must apply another exemption to that part.

[Guidance text from WDTK being prepared for the /help/unhappy page]
--
Richard - WhatDoTheyKnow.com volunteer

Natasha Phillips

Dear Matthew McCluskie (Sensitive),

I hope you're well.

As a response to my FOI request is now long overdue, I have had to lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner's Office.

Yours sincerely,

Natasha Phillips

Natasha Phillips left an annotation ()

A complaint has been lodged with the Information Commissioner's Office, as a result of the FCDO's ongoing delay in submitting the information it holds with regard to this request.

Information Rights Unit,

2 Attachments

Dear Natasha Phillips,

I am writing in response to your Freedom of Information request
FOI2021/06894, received 17th March. Please find our response attached.

Yours sincerely,

Information Rights Unit

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Natasha Phillips

Dear Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office's handling of my FOI request 'Allegations of Sexual Assault Made Against British Citizens Working For The United Nations'.

Following the FCDO's release of the Note Verbale as requested, the name of the alleged offender was redacted. I would like to request an internal review as to why the alleged offender's name was removed from the Note.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/a...

Yours faithfully,

Natasha Phillips

Natasha Phillips left an annotation ()

The following FOI requests have been made in connection with the above request:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/a...

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/d...

Information Rights Unit,

Dear Natasha Phillips,

Internal Review for FOI2021/06894

Thank you for your request for an internal review of our response to your
FOI Request Ref FOI2021/06894

We received your request on 26th July and it has been assigned a unique
reference number above. We will aim to respond by Monday, 23rd August.

Please note, however, that reprioritisation of resources due to the
COVID-19 crisis, and measures we are required to take to prevent the
spread of the virus, continue to have an impact on our ability to respond
to all requests within the statutory deadline.

We have significantly reduced on-site working which will mean delays to
responses which require access to paper records.

We are endeavouring to process requests as quickly as possible, and
appreciate your patience at this time.

Yours sincerely,

Information Rights Unit

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Information Rights Unit,

Dear Natasha Phillips

I am writing to advise you that we have been unable to complete the
response to the above request by the original deadline of 23 August. We
have extended the deadline by a further 20 working days (ie until 21
September) although we will aim to respond before then if possible.

Kind Regards

Information Rights Unit

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Information Rights Unit,

1 Attachment

Dear Natasha Phillips,

Please find our response to the above request, received on 26th July.

Yours sincerely,

Information Rights Unit

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office