UN employee says top official `forced himself` on her

UN employee says top official `forced himself` on her A United Nations employee who says she was sexually assaulted by a top UN official has spoken publicly for the first time, alleging she was offered a promotion if she accepted an apology from the man and claiming that the organization failed to take her complaint seriously.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Martina Brostrom accused a UN assistant secretary general, Dr. Luiz Loures, of grabbing her in a hotel elevator, forcibly kissing her and trying to drag her to his room during a conference in 2015. He denies the allegations.

"I was pleading with him, and I was just bracing with all that I could just to not leave the elevator," Brostrom, a policy advisor at UNAIDS, the United Nations' global AIDS program, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

Loures told CNN he co-operated fully with a 14-month investigation, which concluded that her claims were unsubstantiated. But Brostrom criticized the investigation as "deeply flawed."

Loures, who was also the deputy executive director of UNAIDS, is leaving the UN at the end of his contract this week; the UN says it was his decision to leave. A spokesman for UNAIDS told CNN that the investigation into Brostrom's allegations followed "due process" and she is welcome to appeal.

Brostrom is one of three women to describe similar encounters with Loures. Another, Malayah Harper, told CNN that Loures assaulted her in a strikingly similar way at a hotel in 2014. A third told CNN of an assault a few years ago; she spoke on condition anonymity because of her current job.

Several people close to the head of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, say that they warned him about Loures over a period of at least three years.

At a staff meeting at the end of February, audio of which has been obtained by CNN, Sidibé denied being warned. He also praised Loures' decision to leave the UN as "courageous" and attacked employees who spoke publicly about sexual harassment claims at the UN, saying "they don't have [a] moral approach."

The allegations point to a deep irony: While the UN's HIV/AIDS program has long promoted the empowerment of women as crucial to ending the epidemic, multiple activists and former UN employees tell CNN that the organization has also long protected an executive dogged by claims of sexual harassment.

Those critics of the UN say it has failed to take allegations of sexual assault seriously, prioritizing the reputation of the organization over its obligations to protect employees. The UN says it is redoubling its efforts to combat harassment, encourage reporting, and protect accusers from retaliation.

Stephen Lewis, a former senior official at UNICEF who now co-runs an NGO that works on AIDS policy, says UN officials hold to a view that its reputation is sacrosanct. "There is an understanding that under no circumstances can you put the UN at risk," says Lewis, who has advocated on Brostrom's behalf.

Bangkok conference By the time Martina Brostrom arrived in Bangkok, Thailand for a conference in May 2015, she says she already knew to be wary of Luiz Loures.

He would "let his hand slide, you know, over your hair and sort of hold you behind the neck," she recalled of a typically unwelcome interaction. At that Bangkok conference, following what she described as a reluctant work chat after a reception, they got into the hotel elevator. Then, she said, he lunged at her.

"I'm pushed towards the wall," she told Amanpour. "He starts shoving his tongue into my mouth, trying to kiss me. And he is groping my body, including my breasts. The elevator door opens and he tries to forcefully pull me out of the elevator -- drag me towards the corridor of his room."

"He says, 'Come, come in my room.'" She managed to hold him off, she said, escaping back into the elevator and to her own room.

A colleague with whom she spoke on the night of the alleged incident confirmed to CNN the story Brostrom relayed at the time, saying she had been "absolutely distraught." Her mother, supervisor and two other coworkers who say they saw or spoke to her that night gave investigators similar descriptions of her demeanor -- "upset, crying, and distressed," as the investigation put it.

Brostrom did not immediately file a formal complaint. She said she feared that her allegations would be disregarded, or that she could face retaliation. A year later she said she made Sidibé aware informally, a claim he denies.

Several months later -- about a year and a half after the alleged assault -- she says it became clear to her that a reorganization could make Loures one of her direct supervisors, with only a "weak manager" -- whom she says was unaware of the alleged assault -- separating the two.

She asked Sidibé to open an investigation, which he did. Brostrom said she has been on paid sick leave more or less continuously since April last year. According to a medical evaluation from June that she provided to CNN, she is suffering from post-traumatic stress from an incident in May 2015. "What has happened to me, how the situation has been mishandled -- it mustn't happen to any other woman," she told Amanpour.

Confidential investigation CNN has obtained a copy of the confidential inquiry that cleared Loures, as well as transcripts of interviews conducted by investigators. In interviews with investigators, Loures vehemently denied that an assault took place, calling it "a false story."

He at first suggested to investigators that she had had too much to drink, then told him something he briefly suggested could be subject to doctor-patient confidentiality. Loures suggested that Brostrom had spoken about "how she behaves sexually" and told him "you could never handle me." Loures also raised the fact that Brostrom is now in a relationship with her then supervisor, who also spoke with investigators.

She told CNN she was not drunk, has never been Loures' patient, and had "absolutely not" spoken with him about her sexual preferences. She called Loures' reference to her current relationship as an attempt to "draw attention from what really matters," and said the romance "evolved as a consequence of what has happened to me" and the support her partner offered.

Similar allegation Malayah Harper, who used to run UNAIDS' programs in Uganda and Kenya, told CNN that she nearly fell off her chair when she first heard of Brostrom's account. That's because Harper says Loures assaulted her in an almost identical way, a year earlier, also at a hotel.

"He got into the lift with me, and then kind of lunged forward to -- you could call it -- kiss me, but I thought a kiss had to be consensual."A third woman, who still works in the UN system and wished to remain anonymous, described a very similar incident with Loures…

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