Our Battle Against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in the International Aid Sector Moves to the Next Stage
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.
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