Deadlines in the New UN Justice System: Old is New



The old United Nations Administrative Tribunal (UNAT) may be gone, but the law it created is alive and well: a recent case from the United Nations Dispute Tribunal (UNDT) in Geneva involving a staff member who was challenging the decision not to renew his appointment explains. Judgment No. 2010-158.

The staff member filed his application to the UNDT 3 months too late – it was due 90 days after receipt of the management evaluation. The staff member argued that his case was exceptional justifying a waiver of the time limit since he was on a long sick leave. The Judge rejected this argument citing the old UNAT’s rule that “exceptional circumstances” can only be shown if the events were beyond the staff member’s control such that it prevented him/her from taking legal action. Based on this standard, waivers to the time limits will only be granted in the very rarest of cases. The new United Nations Appeals Tribunal has also approved of the old rule. Anyone who has read the rule will note that it refers to exceptional case and not exceptional circumstances. Judge Adams noted this and before his departure from the UNDT-New York argued for a more flexible and fairer approach to the question whether a waiver of the time limit would be proper – on the grounds that the new Tribunals were not bound by any interpretations the old system when it came to interpreting the new Tribunal statutes.

s the above case shows, Judge Adams efforts have not borne fruit and staff members are left with the old UNAT draconian rule on time limits. Advice: File the application of appeal within 90 days of receipt of the management evaluation.