Open Letter to Trump: Legalized Racial Discrimination at The World Bank

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World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Photo: World Bank collection-Flickr

[Commentary: Open Letter to President Trump]

President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Dear Mr. President,

In 2014, an Obama appointee and Hillary Clinton ally, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, defended legalizing racial discrimination in a precedent-setting case, capitalizing on the World Bank’s immunity from U.S laws.

The gross human rights violation was covered up by the Obama administration. The fact that the staff whose case set established a precedent was discriminated against was documented by the Bank’s own report that found it a “blatant and virulent case of racism.” The Kim administration’s argument was that the World Bank Administrative Tribunal had justified it by “business rationales” and therefore it would stand unchallenged.

I write this open letter with confidence and high hopes that your administration will repeal the legalized discriminatory act and hold the Kim administration accountable.

In 2014, twenty-four members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) signed a petition calling for judicial accountability. Sadly, they withdrew their signatures under political pressure from the CBC Political Action Committee. Reverend Jesse Jackson, published an open letter to President Obama to intervene. He, too, faced political pressure to back off. He dutifully obliged.

In June 2016, Current U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, made a Clarion call to hold the World Bank accountable. In July, Breitbart News reported that Kim’s action “prompted Congress to pass a law [Appropriations Act]” requiring the U.S. to stop funding the World Bank until it agrees to use external arbitration for employment disputes. Kim used his political connections to block the enforcement of the law.

In September 2016, Dr. Carson expressed outrage, once again, condemning the “lack of humanity” on the part of Kim and his political allies. His condemnation reflected frustration with the Obama administration’s failure to intervene, despite pleas from U.S. lawmakers and leaders of over 500 religious organizations.

In October 2016, current U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, appealed to the Obama administration to enforce the Appropriations Act, citing "overwhelming evidence” that the World Bank “uses different judicial standards for black and white complainants.” The Obama administration rejected the Senator’s request.

The victim whose case has sparked an unprecedented outrage is Yonas Biru, an Ethiopian national and a permanent resident of the U.S. Senator Van Hollen’s 2016 report highlighted:

"While serving as Deputy Global Manager, Dr. Biru applied for promotion to Global Manager. In response, he was told he could not be promoted because 'Europeans are not used to seeing black man in a position of power.’"

“To justify the denied promotion, Dr. Biru asserts, that the World Bank retrospectively downgraded his past performance evaluations and official employment record and deleted his name and leadership roles from its publications and websites."

The Senator “enclosed copies of Dr. Biru’s original performance record and the redacted version, as well as a list of the damaging citations that remain on the Bank's website that contradicts his official record."

Since the Bank is immune from U.S. courts, Biru filed a complaint with the World Bank Administrative Tribunal, alleging that the Bank degraded his personnel record to disqualify him from becoming global manager. In a confidential memo that Biru was copied inadvertently, the Tribunal characterized the Bank’s actions as “dishonest.” However, in its judgment, it sanctioned them as legally justified by “business rationales.”

One of the Tribunal judges sent Biru a note “in confidence” suggesting his “rights were trampled without legal remedy.” He said he “did not find it fit to dissent” because “he was not ready for such a momentous step” of presumably challenging the Bank’s hierarchical racial status quo.

To top it off, the Bank terminated Biru. The Tribunal found his termination “unlawful,” but ruled not to reinstate him because “He had criticized his managers” during his racial discrimination proceedings.

As Senator Van Hollen noted, long after it defended itself using perjured evidence, “the World Bank internally restored Biru’s original, correct personnel record." Nonetheless, it refused to correct the record on its publications and websites.

Biru filed an appeal to reopen the Tribunal’s judgment on his racial discrimination case, contending: (1) the above-quoted Judge’s note signified a violation of due process, and (2) the Bank’s decision to restore his record internally amounted to an admission that his record was misrepresented.

The Tribunal reopened the case and asked the Bank to respond. Biru’s appeal coincided with the Bank’s confidential diversity report that found his case to be a “blatant and virulent case of racism.” The Tribunal’s decision to reopen the case gave Kim an opportunity to settle the case. Instead, his General Counsel filed a motion to dismiss the appeal.

Bluntly put, the General Counsel’s argument was that the Tribunal was aware of the Bank’s perjury of Biru’s record when it justified it by “business rationales.” She went as far as reminding the Tribunal that it had in its possession a document titled “serial perjury committed by the World Bank and its institutional witnesses” that documented the Bank’s perjury in great detail. She argued that the Tribunal has willfully sanctioned the Bank’s actions as legal and binding. Therefore, it has no jurisdiction to reopen it.

Biru’s case became the first legally sanctioned racial discrimination case in the U.S. in the 21st century. As to his allegation of due process violation, the General Counsel asserted: “Allegations of due process violations by the World Bank Tribunal are not cognizable” under the World Bank jurisprudence.

Biru’s second appeal was to restore his title and leadership role in the Bank’s publications and remove the defamatory remarks from its website. Staff Rule 2.01 requires the Bank to disclose aggrieved Staff’s official record to correct false or misleading personnel information in the public arena.

Nonetheless, the Bank argued that it will not honor the Staff Rule in Biru’s case because his official record is “hagiographic” - too-good-to-be-true – for a black man. Adding insult to injury, it asserted that the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to hear his defamation and disenfranchisement claims against the Bank.

Justice demands addressing two independent issues.

First, the Bank’s defense of racial discrimination on the grounds of “business rationales” after its own investigation found the case as a “blatant and virulent case of racism” is legally indefensible and morally repugnant.

Second, the Tribunal’s refusal to review the merits of Biru’s defamation and disenfranchisement claims for lack of jurisdiction has left him without access to justice. This issue stands independent of the Tribunal’s judgment on Biru’s discrimination claim and does not necessarily require to negate it. The Bank has no legal ground to maintain false and defamatory record on its website after it corrected the record internally.

Justice and humanity demand a swift action to enforce the law of the land that the Obama administration refused to enforce.

Dr. Steve Parson is a member of the Advisory Board for National Diversity Coalition for Trump.

He may be reached at drsteveparson@gmail.com

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