UN Watch accuses Albanese of taking payments from activist groups

U.N. envoy Francesca Albanese speaks at a U.N. Human Rights Council press conference, July 2023. Source: U.N. Human Rights Council/YouTube.

by Mike Wagenheim

(JNS) — The U.N. Watch NGO on May 30 accused the Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories of “gross violations of U.N. rules and professional ethics.”

In a complaint filed to U.N. Secretary General António Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, U.N. Watch alleges that Francesca Albanese accepted honorariums and payments from activist and advocacy groups, in violation of the U.N. code of conduct.

Albanese has a documented history of making antisemitic comments and justifying terrorism against Israel. Her denial that Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre was based on the terrorist group’s hatred of Jews was rebuked by the French government, which called the remarks “scandalous” and “a disgrace.” The German government called her comments “appalling.”

The U.N. Watch complaint demands a U.N. investigation into “serious and substantiated” allegations that Albanese and her staff have been requesting payments for her U.N.-related work, contrary to the Code of Conduct.

Albanese’s role of special rapporteur is a volunteer position technically independent of the United Nations, with expenses to be paid for out of a designated budget. Acceptance of payment, including for travel, and honorariums from “any governmental or non-governmental source” for “activities carried out in pursuit” of the special rapporteur’s mandate is prohibited.

The prohibition extends to staff in the office of the special rapporteur.

The complaint includes communications between one of Albanese’s volunteer assistants and a parody account on social media that goes by the name of Rabbi Linda Goldstein, the “chief rabbi of Gaza,” which claimed to be organizing an anti-Israel protest at Columbia University.

The assistant, said to be speaking on behalf of Albanese, requests that an offered honorarium be directed to an unnamed research institute that supports the work of Albanese’s office.

Another individual later attempted to claim the request had come from her rather than Albanese, contrary to what was stated in the communication from the volunteer assistant.

Australia and New Zealand

Additionally, the U.N. Watch complaint alleges that a Palestinian lobby group sponsored Albanese’s November 2023 trip to Australia, estimated to have cost more than $20,000. Travel for special rapporteurs is supposed to be paid for by the United Nations, and accepting sponsorship from lobby groups is prohibited.

The Australian Friends of Palestine Association claimed publicly that it had “sponsored” Albanese’s visit, while Free Palestine Melbourne, the Australian Palestinian Advocacy Network and Palestinian Christians in Australia, all claimed publicly that they had “supported” the trip.

All of the organizations conduct lobbying.

During the visit, Albanese participated in media and fundraising events, along with meetings with pro-Palestinian politicians and civil society members.

A connected trip to New Zealand included what U.N. Watch calls a meeting “to lobby a major New Zealand sovereign wealth fund to divest from Israel-related companies.”

The U.N. Watch complaint demands an investigation into the alleged violations, including responses and documentation from the United Nations regarding the sources of funding for Albanese’s travel as part of her mandate and a copy of any notes detailing any meetings Albanese and her office had during the visit to Australia and New Zealand.

The complaint notes that the trip does not appear in mandated U.N. disclosure forms, indicating that the United Nations did not pay for the travel costs.

“The disgraceful support for terrorism and promotion of antisemitism” by Albanese “casts a shadow upon the reputation of the United Nations as whole,” the complaint states. “This is now compounded by serious financial improprieties.”

The NGO urged the United Nations to “demonstrate its commitment to openness and transparency by responding forthwith to our requests concerning the grave matters outlined above.”