Prof. Andrew MacLeod, non-executive chairman of Griffin Law spoke from Melbourne, Australia

Griffin Law non-executive chairman, Prof. Andrew MacLeod, delivered a witness submission to the International Development Committee of the House of Commons on sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid industry. The Select Committee meeting was conducted by video conference as the participants are social distancing in countries affected by COVID-19.

The committee is following up on its 2018 work on the Oxfam Haiti scandal, which described the level of assistance afforded to victims of sex crimes as ‘complacency verging on complicity’. This follow-up report will be sent to the Foreign Office and it is hoped it will lead to tougher protections for the victims of sex crimes perpetrated by international aid workers and UN personnel. 

Andrew worked inside non-governmental agencies for many years and knows just how self-protecting they are. It was his disgust for the impunity with which men offended, and the lack of compassion for their victims, that led him to quit the NGO world and direct his focus to protecting the women and children hurt from the culture of abuse. He founded the charity, Hear Their Cries and has been fighting for this cause for ever since. We are proud of Andrew’s work and expertise, which have seen him called upon as an expert by the world’s media, to raise awareness, educate and address this little-known and deeply rooted problem.

Griffin Law’s Ethical Litigation Practice

In 2017 Griffin Law set up our Ethical Litigation Practice to encourage positive change for vulnerable people both nationally and internationally via various initiatives.

We offer charities a Child Protection Audit to help prevent future child abuse. This involves reviewing internal processes of charities; strengthening internal procedures; and advising on how to make preventative measures more robust.

Griffin Law joined forces with Hear Their Cries when Andrew showed our founder, Donal Blaney, the shocking statistics released by the United Nations Secretary General in March 2017. It was reported that in just one year, peace keepers and civilian staff of the United Nations had committed 145 offences of sexual exploitation and abuse against 311 victims. The statistics only account for reported incidences. There were no prosecutions.

When Griffin Law began advising Hear Their Cries on British extraterritorial law on child sex offences, the charity became the first organisation to publicly advocate for the application of s71-72 of the UK’s Sexual Offences Act to the Aid Industry.

As Andrew explained to the committee, children who result from aid workers having sex with women or under-age girls are considered forensic evidence and their DNA is used to identify the father. Once he has been identified, he is then taken to court in his home country and forced by prevailing local law to support that child. In the case of a child fathered by UK workers, the child additionally asserts their rights as a British national which they have unknowingly had since birth. 

There is a path to grow this programme through the joint auspices of Kings College, Griffin Law and Hear Their Cries which will ultimately lead to many more children being rightfully recognized by their father’s country as citizens. These children deserve more justice than the empty statements of ‘zero tolerance’ given by the UN for nearly 20 years. Our objective is to create a permanent – global – system of tracking fathers and holding them to account in their home jurisdictions.

While providing financial support for the child is a good outcome, it is not the main purpose of the tracking exercise. These children are the legal citizens of mostly western countries and they have rights which should be recognised and conferred.

To test the science and the practicality of the approach, we targeted a country where the children are more likely to be the result of a transaction with a sex tourist rather than a rape; the Philippines. We are currently working on behalf of five children whose fathers have been identified by DNA testing. The plan is to use this experience and replicate the process in a non-tourism country where there is 99.9% certainty that the child is the result of a rape or sexploitation by UN peace keepers or aid workers. Countries such as South Sudan or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

The witness statement to the Select Committee Andrew refers to in the video is included below. 

In the video below, Prof. Andrew MacLeod, Visiting Professor, Kings College London, Chairman Griffin Law, and Co-founder, Hear Their Cries; introduces himself at the beginning of the session.

Andrew has been fighting for this cause for nine years, long before the shocking revelations of the Oxfam aid worker sex scandal. He believes the depth of these atrocities goes deeper than aid agencies and is systemic throughout the United Nations. He argues that the UN lacks the ethical authenticity it has until recently been assumed to possess, and left when he realized how corrupt the organization has become and how dedicated it is to protecting its own reputation at the expense of innocent victims .

In the video Andrew is joining the other witnesses: Edward Flaherty, Founder and Senior Partner, Schwab, Flaherty & Associés; Sienna Merope-Synge. This Committee interview was chaired by Labour MP Sarah Champion, on 6 October 2020.

The entire video can be seen here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/27850a50-4037-424c-962f-f6c4deec6654.

Watch as Andrew introduces himself. 

Griffin Law is committed to protecting the vulnerable

To help us better protect some of the world’s most vulnerable and defenceless victims and as partners in this project with Kings College and Hear Their Cries, we offer a four-step process to eradicate child abuse in the aid sector.

Prevention

We are currently offering aid charities everywhere a way to prevent future child abuse by providing a ‘Child Protection Audit‘. Griffin Law and Hear Their Cries review the internal processes and policies of those charities and advise how to make preventative measures more robust and supportive. This provides charities with an opportunity to strengthen their internal procedures; enhance due diligence; and will, hopefully, prevent child abuse in the aid sector.

Protection

We believe that the first step in protecting victims is to provide them with a way of reporting illegal activity to an independent body without consequence and in a safe, supportive, confidential environment. In many countries the victim puts themself in danger by merely reporting a problem with an official. This must end.

We are putting pressure on governments to protect whistle-blowers. We hosted a conference in Washington DC with representatives of the UK Embassy, the Australian Embassy and other organisations in order to collaborate a strategy for change. We facilitated discussion between US Ambassador Nikki Haley’s office and former Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, that resulted in the UK offering to host an international meeting in 2018 to create a new international whistleblowing mechanism. Andrew’s testimony to the International Development Committee of the House of Commons referred to above is a very important step in moving the seriousness of this problem up the international agenda through the international clout of the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Additionally, we have asked the British Government to increase resources to the National Crime Agency to ensure that officers within the NCA specifically target the Aid industry for examination. The Government has agreed. Equally, at the recent Safeguarding Summit, which our Chairman attended on behalf of Hear Their Cries, we initiated a suggestion, since agreed, for the NCA to brief all charities on the impacts of extra territorial law on child sex offenses and to specifically notify UK charity employees of how to report such crimes. In effect, the NCA will become another independent whistleblowing organisation.

Prosecution

In the long term, our aim is to make aid leaders accountable for “turning a blind eye”; to prosecute perpetrators for committing these crimes; and to obtain justice for victims.

Griffin Law advised Hear Their Cries on the aspects of British extra-territorial law on child sex offences contained in the Sexual Offences Act. As a result, Hear Their Cries, represented by our Chairman Andrew MacLeod, was the first organisation to publicly advocate for the application of sections 71 and 72 of the Sexual Offenses Act, to the Aid Industry.

Equally we are supporting the work of Hear Their Cries in reaching out to the former head of Public Prosecutions in Kenya to create a new protocol with the UN office in Kenya, to create  a new test case model for reporting and prosecuting of UN officials.

It is important to note that this work all went on before the Oxfam scandal unfolded.

Public awareness

We have been working to raise public awareness by lobbying the governments in the UK, the USA and Australia.

We are currently engaged in briefing several Senators in the US on how to strengthen the US extra-territorial law on child sex offences to make the laws applicable to the UN. We are working with former Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Australian Council for International Development to set up new whistleblowing mechanisms between Australian charities and the Australian Federal Police. Our Chairman, on behalf of Hear Their Cries, has made several appearances on Australian media as a result.

Griffin Law provided advice and draft speeches to then Secretary of State, Priti Patel, in preparation for the UN’s High Level meeting on Sexual Abuse that was held in the wings of the General Assembly meeting in 2017. This resulted in the creation of the new ‘Circle of Leadership’ created by the UN.

We, through our chairman, have been lobbying for greater transparency on sexual abuse in the Aid industry. While the UN had admitted to 145 cases involving 311 victims of peacekeeping operations just in 2016, we argued that the problem was bigger in the broader civilian and non-peacekeeping side of the UN. In September 2017 we achieved the public admission by the secretary-general that the ‘problem is bigger outside of peacekeeping’.

Our team is working relentlessly in order to bring about change and make people believe in the legal system. By working together with victims, witnesses, governments and NGOs we strive to bring about justice by hearing the cries of the victims and becoming their voice. 


Prof. Andrew MacLeod’s witness submission to the International Development Committee of the House of Commons on sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid industry.

Prof. Andrew MacLeod Submis… 

 

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