Ox­fam work­ers ‘had sex par­ties’

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD - SEAN O’NEILL THE TIMES

One of Bri­tain’s big­gest char­i­ties has cov­ered up the use of pros­ti­tutes by se­nior aid work­ers in earth­quake-torn Haiti.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion has found that Ox­fam, which re­ceives £300 mil­lion ($537m) a year in Bri­tish gov­ern­ment funds and pub­lic do­na­tions, al­lowed three men to re­sign and sacked four for gross mis­con­duct af­ter an in­quiry into sex­ual ex­ploita­tion, bul­ly­ing, in­tim­i­da­tion and the down­load­ing of pornog­ra­phy.

A con­fi­den­tial re­port by the char­ity said there had been “a cul­ture of im­punity” among some staff in Haiti and con­cluded chil­dren may have been among those sex­u­ally ex­ploited by aid work­ers. The 2011 re­port stated: “It can­not be ruled out that any of the pros­ti­tutes were un­der-aged.”

Ox­fam was part of a mas­sive in­ter­na­tional re­lief ef­fort in Haiti af­ter the earth­quake in Port-auPrince in 2010, which killed 220,000 peo­ple, in­jured 300,000 and left 1.5 mil­lion home­less.

One of the men al­lowed to re­sign without dis­ci­plinary ac­tion was Ox­fam’s coun­try di­rec­tor there, Roland van Hauw­er­meiren. The re­port says Mr Van Hauw­er­meiren, 68, ad­mit­ted us­ing pros­ti­tutes at the villa rented for him by Ox­fam with char­i­ta­ble funds.

De­spite the ad­mis­sion, the char­ity’s chief ex­ec­u­tive at the time, Bar­bara Stock­ing, of­fered the Bel­gian “a phased and dig­ni­fied exit” be­cause sack­ing him would have “po­ten­tially se­ri­ous im­pli­ca­tions” for the char­ity’s work and rep­u­ta­tion.

Af­ter the in­ter­nal in­quiry, two other man­agers were able to re­sign and four were dis­missed for gross mis­con­duct, in­clud­ing the use of pros­ti­tutes at the apart­ment block where Ox­fam housed them.

A num­ber of sources said they had con­cerns that some of the pros­ti­tutes were un­der age. One said men had in­vited groups of young pros­ti­tutes to their guest­house and held sex “par­ties”.

The source claimed to have seen footage from a night there that was “like a full-on Caligula orgy” with girls wear­ing Ox­fam T-shirts.

Pros­ti­tu­tion is il­le­gal in Haiti and the age of con­sent is 18. Pay­ing for sex is against Ox­fam’s staff code of con­duct and in breach of UN state­ments on the be­hav­iour of aid work­ers, to which the char­ity sub­scribes.

Ox­fam said it did not re­port any of the in­ci­dents to the Haitian author­i­ties be­cause “it was ex­tremely un­likely that any ac­tion would be taken”. None of those ac­cused was ar­rested or faced any crim­i­nal charges.

The char­ity said it dis­closed the sex­ual mis­con­duct to Bri­tain’s Char­ity Com­mis­sion but the reg­u­la­tor said it had never re­ceived the fi­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port and Ox­fam “did not de­tail the pre­cise al­le­ga­tions, nor did it make any in­di­ca­tion of po­ten­tial sex­ual crimes in­volv­ing mi­nors”.

The com­mis­sion said it was ask­ing Ox­fam to re­view what had hap­pened and “pro­vide us with as­sur­ance that it has learnt lessons from past in­ci­dents and is tak­ing all nec­es­sary steps to en­sure risks are min­imised”.

An ap­pen­dix to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port raised a list of man­age­ment con­cerns over the sit­u­a­tion in Haiti and asked: “How far back and why did the cul­ture of im­punity in Haiti de­velop? Were there sig­nals that could have been picked up ear­lier?”

The char­ity ac­knowl­edged that staff in Haiti had felt in­tim­i­dated and un­able to raise the alarm.

The char­ity said yes­ter­day: “Ox­fam treats any al­le­ga­tion of mis­con­duct ex­tremely se­ri­ously. As soon as we be­came aware of a range of al­le­ga­tions, in­clud­ing of sex­ual mis­con­duct, in Haiti in 2011 we launched an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was an­nounced pub­licly and staff mem­bers were sus­pended pend­ing the out­come.”

It said the al­le­ga­tions that un­der-age girls may have been in­volved were not proven.

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