Mud-slinging at the society for threatened peoples

It is about deselection and dismissal, about deportations and alleged embezzlement. The board and secretary-general heaped accusations on each other and took the matter to court.

A bitter dispute is currently raging in the "Society for Threatened Peoples" in Gottingen. "We are spending a third of our working time right now on a kind of internal civil war," Tilman Zulch, the founder and secretary general of the human rights organization, told Evangelischer Pressedienst . On the one hand, the Gottingen public prosecutor's office is investigating Zulch. The federal chairman of his association, Harald Klein, has denounced him for alleged embezzlement of salaries. Klein, in turn, is said to have been responsible for the deportation of several thousand refugees in the 1990s, causing outrage.

According to Zulch and the other staff members, they only learned of Klein's previous history after he was elected chairman in 2010. The current Freiburg lawyer Klein was responsible for the central foreigners authority of the Saxon Ministry of the Interior in Chemnitz from 1995 to 1998. According to information from the Ministry, during these years 6.898 refugees deported. Among them, according to information from the human rights organization, were numerous Bosnian refugees for whom it was working.

Although Klein declared in his inaugural speech that hundreds of individual fates had passed over his desk, employees who wish to remain anonymous say. But he had always indicated that he was working for the right of abode of those affected. When they realized that he was partly responsible for the deportations, they urgently asked him to resign, Zulch's colleagues emphasize.

"For me personally, it was terrible," says Zulch, describing the situation when he learned who the organization he founded had elected to its board of directors. In several meetings he had addressed Klein about it. Each time he had been "shouted down" by him. Klein could not be reached for comment in response to multiple requests from epd.

Communication only via lawyers
Since last summer, Klein and his deputy, the retired teacher James Albert, have only been communicating with the company through their lawyers. Appointments were cancelled, board meetings did not take place for months. Both have made the work "unbearably difficult" with their personal disputes, the staff explains.

At their annual general meeting last November, employees finally voted Klein and Albert off the board unanimously with 107 votes. However, this decision has not yet been legally recognized for formal reasons. Since then, there has been a stalemate on the board with two newly elected chairmen. Lawyers are hired by both sides on behalf of the society.

Klein and Albert apparently also take action against honorary members and volunteers. "The situation is grotesque," says Zuelch. The company, with an annual budget of 1.4 million euros, cannot yet estimate how high the legal costs will be. "Donations entrusted to us should go exclusively to our human rights work," employees demand.

After being voted out of office, Klein and Albert denounced Secretary General Zulch on behalf of the Society. He had two annual salaries of 70.000 euros wrongly drawn. In addition it had a transfer in the amount of 60.000 euros to Bosnia not countersigned. Klein and Albert ied an extraordinary dismissal against the 72-year-old Zulch. The workforce calls this a "destructive act of revenge".

Zulch has filed an action for protection against dismissal. The salaries were paid legitimately for his full-time work as secretary general, he says. In addition, according to him, two auditors independently check each donation posting. Both proceedings to be heard in May. The director of the labor court, Achim Schlesier, expects that a legally unchallenged board will also withdraw the charges by then
can: "The problem of the employer is that he is currently divided within himself."

Because of the substantive work, the aid organization has often neglected its legal structure, Zulch admits. This should change in the future. Finally, the Society has set itself the goal of protecting ethnic and religious minorities worldwide and "not being blind in any eye". Not even in the selection of its personnel.

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