red lines

Senate Republicans urge Red Cross not to hire ex-UNRWA head as director

Lawmakers said that past allegations against Pierre Krähenbühl and his leadership of UNRWA ‘disqualify him from leading the ICRC at this pivotal moment in history’

Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl speaks during a press conference at the Education Institute in Gaza City on December 11, 2018.

Sixteen Senate Republicans on Monday urged the International Committee of the Red Cross to reconsider its decision to select former United Nations Relief and Works Agency head Pierre Krähenbühl to serve as the ICRC’s director general.

Krähenbühl led UNRWA from 2014 to 2019, resigning amid allegations of mismanagement and ethical abuses from an internal U.N. probe, although he was mostly cleared of those allegations. He’s set to take over the Red Cross in April, and spent years in various roles at the ICRC before his move to UNRWA. Both the Red Cross and UNRWA have come under intense scrutiny from the U.S. and Israel amid the war in Gaza.

“It is our belief that the publicly reported ‘credible and corroborated’ allegations of mismanagement, ethical misconduct, and abuse of authority that prompted Mr. Krähenbühl’s resignation from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in 2019 disqualify him from leading the ICRC at this pivotal moment in history,” the lawmakers, led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-ID), said in a letter to the ICRC Assembly.

In addition to the allegations leveled in the U.N. investigation, including sexual misconduct, the lawmakers raised “serious concerns about the direction UNRWA took under his leadership,” including discoveries of Hamas weapons inside UNRWA facilities and UNRWA’s use of textbooks containing antisemitic and anti-Israel material.

“The failure to address these incidents can be seen as a pre-cursor to the October 7th massacre, which we now know included direct participation by UNRWA employees,” they continued.

The lawmakers said that Congress “cannot stand idly by as yet another international organization falls prey to anti-Semitism and violence, let alone gross mismanagement and moral corruption,” calling Krähenbühl’s hiring contrary to the ICRC’s “core humanitarian tenets.”

The letter was co-signed by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Eric Schmitt (R-MO), Rick Scott (R-FL), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), John Kennedy (R-LA), Mike Braun (R-IN), John Boozman (R-AR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Steve Daines (R-MT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Todd Young (R-IN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA).

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