A senior United Nations official is under investigation for allegedly trying to suppress a ‘food-for-sex’ scandal during a refugee crisis.
The deputy director with the UNHCR, Craig Sanders, has been accused of telling a female colleague not to report the alleged rape of a refugee by an aid worker in Chad in 2004 according to claims made to the select committee.
Former aid worker Lori Handrahan claims LEGAL ADD; to MP’s that Mr Sanders angrily told her that he ‘would not have a sex-for-food scandal on my watch’.
The 48-year-old has given evidence to to the House of Commons international development committee and The Times about the alleged abuse.
In written evidence to the Commons select committee, Dr Handrahan said: ‘Sanders threatened me and tried to prevent me from doing my job: acting to protect women refugees fleeing Farfur in the UNHCR managed camps.
The deputy director with the UNHCR, Craig Sanders, has been accused of telling a female colleague not to report the alleged rape of a refugee by an aid worker in Chad in 2004 (stock image)
‘Sexual abuse and exploitation of refugee women was occurring in the camps by humanitarians and others. When I reported one incident Sanders confronted me in anger, pointed his finger in my face, screamed at me and said I was not “going to discuss this at the co-ordination meeting” because a food-for-sex scandal was “not going to happen” on “his watch” and “ruin his career”.’
Dr Handrahan said she defied her boss and reported the rape to the UN meeting, but said felt she was ‘run out’ of the organisation. Her three-month contract was not renewed and said she had several job applications rejected.LEGAL ADD: The UN denies this and says that she has worked with them since.
Mr Sanders, who denies all the allegations, said to The Times he would be willing to co-operate with an ‘independent internal’ investigation carried out by the UN.
He said: ‘My priority is to address these allegations in the most forthright way possible. Independently establishing the facts and bringing to light truth through a legitimate review process is the best way forward.’
The Times has seen a redacted version of Dr Handrahan’s report from the rape she claims took place. The woman claims to have met the rapist, a locally hired aid worker, at a ‘food distribution’ point.
In her report, she added although it was the first time she had come across such an incident, she had ‘every reason to believe this case is not isolated’.
She was the first gender expert sent to an emergency after a 2002 report exposed widespread abuse and exploitation by UNHCR and other NGO staff in west Africa.
The author of the report, Asmita Naik, said the report had been met with resistance.
She said: ‘It was quite shocking that allegations which shocked the world raised such a lacklustre response from the UNHCR leadership.’
In a statement, the UNHCR said it ‘takes allegations of staff misconduct seriously’.