Administrative Tribunal › Frequently asked questions
1. Who can file an application with the Administrative Tribunal?
The Tribunal has the power to annul the Secretary-General’s decision which is the subject of the dispute and to award damages (for moral and/or material prejudice) to the applicant. Where the Secretary-General deems it impossible or inadvisable to take the steps that such annulment would imply (e.g. reinstatement), he can ask the Tribunal to fix instead an amount of compensation to be paid to the applicant as redress for any injury incurred. The Tribunal may also award the total or partial reimbursement of the applicant’s legal expenses.
You have the choice. Some people opt to go straight to the Tribunal - as being the only body which can issue decisions (judgments) that are binding on the Secretary-General - while others prefer first to try the less formal alternatives (mediator, Joint Advisory Board).
If you decide to go straight to the Tribunal, the first thing you have to do is submit a “prior written request” asking the Secretary-General to withdraw or modify his decision. You must do this within 2 months of being notified of the decision (4 months if you are a former official or a duly qualified claimant to the rights of serving or former members of staff). If the Secretary-General refuses your request or if, after 1 month, he still hasn’t replied, you then have 3 months in which to file your application with the Tribunal.
If you take your case first to the Joint Advisory Board (and there is no time bar on that), you must file your application with the Tribunal within 3 months of notification of the decision taken by the Secretary-General in the light of the opinion given by the Board.
The Registry of the Tribunal will answer any questions you may have about the procedures involved. The three officials serving on the Registry are:
These officials are strictly neutral however, answering only to the judges, and so cannot give advice or opinions on other matters (such as the advisability of bringing a case). If you are a member of the Staff Association, you may wish to contact them for advice of this type. The Association may indeed be willing to support you (and perhaps provide a lawyer) if your case is of general interest that may establish a precedent favourable to the staff, or is a case in which the assistance of the Association is justified.
You are entitled to act for yourself, or indeed to ask a friend or colleague to represent, or at least assist you. However, the great majority of applicants are represented by a lawyer.
If you engage a lawyer, you will have to pay his or her fees, but there are no other payments due. (If you are being supported by the Staff Association, they may be willing to pay all or part of the fees for you). Depending on the circumstances, the Tribunal may also decide that the Organisation shall reimburse some or all of the justified expenses you incurred in bringing your case.
The language in which you choose to submit your application (which has to be English or French) automatically becomes the language of the proceedings.
You can ask to call witnesses, giving the reasons why. The Registrar will be asked to cite them if the Chairman of the Tribunal thinks their evidence would be useful.
Yes, unless the Tribunal decides otherwise. It can do so on its own initiative or at the request of one of the parties, for example if the case is a particularly sensitive one. All cases involving disciplinary matters are held in camera.
No. Either party can ask the Tribunal to decide the matter without an oral hearing. This happens occasionally, for example when there is no dispute as to the facts, the question being a purely legal one.
This depends on various factors but normally you can expect to receive the Tribunal’s judgment within 6-8 months of filing your application.
There is no theoretical limit, but only such damages are awarded as are required to compensate the prejudice actually suffered.
There is no certainty in this regard since the awarding of legal expenses is entirely at the discretion of the Tribunal and depends on the circumstances of each case. In general, however, it is fair to say that you are more likely to have more of your expenses reimbursed if you win your case than if you lose.
There is no right of appeal in the sense of being able to ask another court to review a judgment of the Tribunal. An applicant may, however, ask the Tribunal itself to rectify, review or interpret the judgment it handed down, for instance if new evidence has come to light or if it is claimed that the judgment was vitiated by a material error or mistake.
The only people the Registry informs about a new case are the Secretary-General and five of his close collaborators (including the Director of Legal Affairs, who represents the Secretary-General in proceedings before the Tribunal). However, please note that most hearings are public and that the judgments are communicated by the Registrar to any person who so requests. It is therefore more than likely that your colleagues and supervisors will find out sooner or later that you have brought a case. Of course the Tribunal may decide that a judgment will not be communicated until the name of the applicant or any person mentioned therein has been deleted.
No. The Tribunal is a totally independent body, its members being appointed from outside the Organisation. Indeed, the guarantee it provides staff of due process and a fair hearing was recognised recently in a judgment handed down by the French Cour de Cassation.