Sexual harassment case continues to haunt former Dutch PM

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at

UN employee Cynthia Brzak has decided to pursue her case of sexual harassment against former Dutch prime minister Ruud Lubbers and asked the US Supreme Court to revoke his diplomatic immunity. Ms Brzak submitted the request together with a colleague.

She claims she was indecently assaulted by Mr Lubbers in December 2003 when he was UN High Commissioner for Refugees and she worked for the UNHCR personnel department. The then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan found against Ms Brzak but reprimanded Mr Lubbers for sending her a letter while the internal UN investigation was still taking place, warning her that her job could be at stake if she didn't withdraw her complaint.

Mr Lubbers resigned when this became public in February 2005. Ms Brzak's job at the UNHCR was abolished the same year. She claims Mr Lubbers worked behind the scenes to exact his revenge and she took her case to the US courts.

In March this year, a court of appeal in New York dismissed the case on the grounds that UN personnel enjoy diplomatic immunity. If the Supreme Court takes the case, a verdict is not expected until after the summer.

Mr Lubbers continues to insist that the alleged indecent assault was simply "a friendly gesture".