A sophisticated bugging device has been found in a room used for high-level meetings at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), the world body’s largest duty station outside its New York Headquarters, but it is not known who was responsible for this latest reported tapping of UN premises, a UN spokesperson said today.
The device was discovered during renovations between the summer and autumn to the Salon Français, which has hosted such sessions as Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s trilateral meeting with Presidents Jacques Chirac of France and Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in March this year. The salon is also used for video teleconferences with the New York Headquarters.
When media reports in February alleged that Mr. Annan’s conversations in his 38th floor New York office were tapped by British intelligence, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said such activities “would undermine the integrity and confidential nature of diplomatic exchanges. Those who speak to the Secretary-General are entitled to assume that their exchanges are confidential,” he added.
He said then that the UN would step up routine technical measures aimed at guarding against such invasions of privacy, noting that its premises are inviolable under international law “and we expect all Member States to respect their commitment. We’re throwing down a red flag and saying, ‘If this is true, please stop it,’” he stressed.
Earlier this week Mr. Eckhard refused to comment on media reports that the United States administration had dozens of intercepts of phone calls by Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA), the UN watchdog entrusted with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. The calls were said to have been with Iranian diplomats over that country’s nuclear programme.
Confirming the Geneva case, the Director of the Information Service there, Marie Heuzé, told a news briefing: “UN technical workmen found what is considered to be a sophisticated listening device. An investigation has failed to determine who could have planted the device.”
UNOG has more than 1,600 staff, provides critical support to the Organization’s efforts, and services over 8,000 meetings every year, making it one of the busiest intergovernmental conference centres in the world and a focal point for multilateral diplomacy.
“Together, we strive to strengthen our contribution towards realizing the vision of the United Nations for a more stable, secure and prosperous world for all,” it says in its mission statement.