Petition demands government support for Pierre Krähenbühl

Within a month, nearly 3,000 people signed the letter supporting the embattled diplomat. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

The Switzerland-Palestine Society has submitted a petition in favour of the former head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. The letter calls on the government to restore the public reputation of Pierre Krähenbühl.

This content was published on April 6, 2021 - 13:49

A delegation from the Switzerland-Palestine Society presented the petition in Bern on Tuesday. Nearly 3,000 people signed the letter within a month, including Stefan Trechsel, former President of the European Commission on Human Rights, former International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Cornelio Sommaruga and ex-diplomat and former parliamentarian Tim Guldimann.

The letter calls on the Swiss cabinet to urge UN Secretary-General António Guterres to ensure that the results of the UN’s final investigative report into Pierre Krähenbühl’s work are made transparent.

If the investigation does not contain any significant incriminating conclusions, Krähenbühl’s reputation should be publicly restored, say the petitioners, allowing him to continue his diplomatic career.

In the future, petitioners argue that the Swiss government and the UN should provide protection and support to their exposed cadre on sensitive missions if allegations become public. “Otherwise they will damage the credibility of Switzerland and the UN,” writes the Switzerland-Palestine Society.

Exonerated by internal investigation

Krähenbühl resigned as commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in November 2019 after allegations of mismanagement and abuse of power became public. Krähenbühl himself had always denied these allegations.

The preliminary findings of the investigation report exonerated Krähenbühl of allegations of fraud and misappropriation of funds. However, the UNRWA did state that there were “managerial issues that need to be addressed”.

Switzerland supports the UNRWA with CHF20 million ($21.3 million) per year, but temporarily suspended payments to the aid agency in 2019.

UNRWA was created in 1949 to support Palestinian refugees until the Middle East conflict was resolved. Today, the relief agency cares for some 5.5 million registered refugees. UNRWA mainly runs schools and hospitals.

In late March it was announced that Krähenbühl would be taking up a post with the ICRS as its President Peter Maurer’s envoy in China.

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