Madeleine Rees

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Madeleine Rees

Madeleine Rees (cropped).jpg
Rees at the London launch of Human Rights and Democracy: The 2012 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report, 15 April 2013
OccupationHuman rights advocate
EmployerWomen's International League for Peace and Freedom

Madeleine Selina Rees, OBE is a British lawyer and current Secretary General of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She has spoken out against human rights abuses in Bosnia by peacekeepers and others working for the United Nations.


Rees became a lawyer in 1990. She worked for a major British law firm, becoming a partner in 1994. There, she specialized in discrimination law, being particularly involved in the area of employment, and also specialized in public and administrative law. Rees worked on behalf of the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission where she helped to establish rights for individuals under domestic law.[1] Discrimination cases brought by Rees have been heard at both the European Court of Human Rights and European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

In 1998, Rees started working as Head of Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina and as gender expert for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.[1] She helped to expose human rights abuses related to the sex trade in Bosnia by testifying in support of Kathryn Bolkovac, a United Nations International Police Force monitor who was hired to help end sexual abuse and forced prostitution in Bosnia.[2] Bolkovac revealed use of prostitutes and participation in sex trafficking by members of the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[2][3]

Wrongful dismissal case[edit]

In 2009, Rees was demoted from her position, and then in March 2010 she was fired. A United Nations' administrative disputes tribunal ruled it as a wrongful dismissal. The office of the High Commissioner denied the charges, stating that Rees had at first been reassigned to a new position due to complaints by senior managers about her job performance, and that she then did not accept the new position she had been offered. However, dispute tribunal justice Judge Coral Shaw ruled that reassigning Rees to a new post was unlawful.[4]

She was portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave in the 2010 feature film The Whistleblower.[5]


Rees was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to human rights, particularly women's rights, and international peace and security.[6]


  1. ^ a b "WILPF | Madeleine Rees". Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  2. ^ a b Barnett, Antony; Hughes, Solomon (29 July 2001). "British firm accused in UN 'sex scandal' | World news". The Observer. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  3. ^ Staff writer (9 February 2003). "Bosnia sex trade shames UN - World". The Scotsman. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  4. ^ Lynch, Colum (16 September 2011). "U.N. sex crimes whistle-blower wrongfully dismissed". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  5. ^ MacFarquhar, Neil (7 September 2011). "Peacekeepers' Sex Scandals Linger, On Screen and Off". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  6. ^ "No. 60895". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2014. p. b27.