Statement from Mr. Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to UNHCR staff, Geneva, 24 February 2005

I resign as High Commissioner for Refugees as communicated in a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 20 February.

On 21 February the Secretary-General wrote a respectful letter to all UNHCR staff, saying of me: "I also wish to stress that he has not been found guilty of any offence. My decision to accept his resignation should not be interpreted as a finding of guilt."

The Secretary-General wrote further on of the controversy which prompted my departure. I note here simply that the media pressure was caused by allowing the Office of Internal Oversight Services to breach confidentiality and even leak confidential information from beginning to end. At the same time, I could not defend myself. My response and the analysis by Max van der Stoel of these unfounded allegations had to remain sealed and were not to be made public in any way.

Also on 21 February, the Senior Management of UNHCR sent an impressive message of support for me to the Secretary-General.

On 23 February, an unprecedented open letter of concern and dismay at the lack of due process was sent to the Secretary-General by a large number of UNHCR staff all over the world.

We must now turn the page.

A new High Commissioner has to be appointed as soon as possible. Therefore, in close consultation with the Secretary-General, I have decided to leave the Office today and the Deputy High Commissioner will be in charge in close collaboration with the Assistant High Commissioner.

Ruud Lubbers
24 February 2005