Oxfam charity ‘hid Haiti sex abuse crimes’

Oxfam has vowed to co-operate with any further investigations into sexual misconduct allegations.Oxfam hid information about sexual misconduct from authorities in Haiti, a senior official in the Caribbean nation says, and he vowed to launch a wide-reaching investigation into charities operating there.

Oxfam officials on Monday met Haiti’s planning and external cooperation minister, Aviol Fleurant, in Port-au-Prince to hand over a copy of a 2011 internal report which states that the British charity’s former Haiti country director had admitted to using prostitutes during a relief mission following a devastating earthquake that hit the Caribbean island nation in early 2010.

It was the first meeting between Oxfam, one of the world’s biggest disaster relief charities, and the government in Haiti since a recent Times of London report that said some of Oxfam’s staff paid for sex, triggering a scandal that has seriously damaged the charity’s reputation in the UK and abroad.

“What hurt me at the end of the meeting is that they admitted that Haitian authorities had, at no time, been informed by Oxfam about the commission of such crimes,” Fleurant told Reuters.

“According to the law, someone who is aware of the perpetration of a crime is obliged to alert the nearest authorities,” the minister said.

Prostitution is illegal in Haiti. The minister also said he was looking into reports, denied by Oxfam, that one of the women was under age.

Former Judge Claudy Gassant said that under Haitian law it could be considered illegal to not report a crime to relevant authorities.

After the meeting, Simon Ticehurst, Oxfam International’s director general for Latin America and the Caribbean, said he apologised to Haiti’s government and people for what happened, and said the organisation was willing to collaborate “as much as we can” in further investigations.

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