Penny Mordaunt, Britain’s Secretary of State for International Development, announced a $13 million dollar (USD) humanitarian sex offenders registry at the International Safeguarding Summit in London this week. Slap-dash, with, apparently, little thought to how predators operate, this latest effort to safeguard the international aid sector was denounced as “rudimentary” and “haphazard” by Code Blue of Aids-Free World.

Although the Scottish police are already using Operation Soteria in their campaign against motorcycle theft, Mordaunt’s shop decided to give the humanitarian registry the same moniker. Launched with this branding glitch, Soteria will be managed by Interpol, the United Kingdom’s police Criminal Records Office and the charity Save the Children.

More dismal than sloppy marketing is the choice to place Save the Children in charge of “participating” non-governmental organizations. Supplemental to an open investigation of concealment of sexual misconduct and abuse of power by Save’s former management, Justin Forsyth and Brendan Cox, quite a few notable predators have been employed by Save and organizations the charity has acquired or funded.

These examples, alone, should disqualify Save from a supervisory role.

In 2009, Sohail Ayaz, grants monitor at Save the Children headquarters, was sentenced to four years in a British jail on child sexual assault charges. At the time of his arrest police found “thousands” of images/videos including of infants “tied up, blindfolded, suspended” tortured and raped. Ayaz was also wanted by Italian police in connection with a Romanian child sex ring. Judge Gregory Stone noted, during sentencing, a “disturbing” aspect of the case was how Ayaz sought and obtained work at Save the Children to gain access to vulnerable children.

Sentenced in February, Peter Newell, on five counts of child rape to nearly seven years in a British jail. Newell worked for the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, the Council of the Children’s Rights Development Unit and coordinator for Association for the Protection of All Children (ACORD) – an organization supported by Save the Children. Has Save requested a law enforcement investigation to determine if Newell (grant-recipient) and Ayaz (grants monitor) are connected?

Ravi Karkara, previously employed with Save the Children in Nepal, recently dismissed from UN Women after multiple reports that he traded access to the United Nations system, offering employment and visibility at high-profile events, for sexual abuse and exploitation – potentially including teenage boys. To my knowledge, Save has not contacted Nepal’s Criminal Bureau of Investigation (CIB) and offered to cooperate in an investigation of Karkara’s behavior during his time in Nepal.

Peter Dalglish, under arrest in Nepal since April on child sex abuse charges, was a co-founder of Street Kids International absorbed by Save the Children. Save has not, to my understanding, referred Dalglish for criminal investigation of his activities when he was the director of Street Kids. Allowed a “dignified exit” by Oxfam for sexually abusing and exploiting beneficiaries, including potentially children, in Haiti, Roland van Hauwermeiren, was also allowed to resign from Merlin after allegations he was sexually abusing and exploiting beneficiaries in Liberia. Save the Children also acquired Merlin. Has Save referred Hauwermeiren for criminal investigation in Liberia and opened Merlin records, they acquired, to Liberian law enforcement? Probably not.

Just a few predators, caught by chance rather than a routine oversight, associated with Save’s global network. Yet, perhaps Save’s history of harboring predators is irrelevant. Maybe pedophiles are no longer employed and Penny Mordaunt made an honest selection of Save as registry controller. If so, a little proof that Save is predator-free seems a reasonable request in exchange for the millions of taxpayers funds Mordaunt has committed to Operation Soteria.

If the British government wants Save the Children to supervise Soteria, a sweep of Save’s global electronic infrastructures by law enforcement must be required. Save should also comply with regular cyber-crime law enforcement monitoring in the UK and everywhere Save has offices. Five other safeguarding measures should also be obligatory. These are:

  • Law Enforcement Liaison – Allegations of suspect behavior by employees against; (1) other employees, (2) their dependents and (3) beneficiaries must be referred by the humanitarian law enforcement liaison to law enforcement where allegations are reported and where the alleged perpetrator is a citizen.
  • Mandatory Training on Grooming – Grooming is pre-requisite behavior in sexual abuse and exploitation. Mandatory staff training and identification of grooming techniques provides an understanding of how predators operate and serve as an institutional advance-warning mechanism.
  • Integrating Predator Data – Predators surface in new locations and professions establishing fresh supply-lines. Humanitarian data should be shared with organizations monitoring child sex abuse images and predators like the Internet Watch FoundationNetCleanThe Zero Abuse Project, and Callisto. Information from these organizations should help safeguard the aid sector.
  • SANE/SAFE Nurses Roster – Lack of forensic evidence is a barrier to prosecution. An emergency roster of Sexual Assault Forensic Nurses (SANE/SAFE) would enable the collection of forensic evidence necessary for prosecution and provide survivors with necessary medical support.
  • Protect Whistle-Blowers – An emphasis on prosecuting the predator and protecting the whistle-blower is essential. Early-warning of abuse by a whistleblower is, at best, overlooked. At worse, reporting abuse is “career suicide.” Predators employ threats, intimidation and smears to silence reporters. Whistle-blowers often endure harassment and character assassination destroying their careers and livelihoods while predators’ careers soar. Safeguarding will only be successful when whistle-blowers are protected.

Britain’s National Crimes Agency (NCA) recently conducted a week of action arresting 131 predators including teachers, former police officers and a children’s entertainer. One-hundred and sixty-four children were rescued. Minute sums in the global epidemic of child rape and sex trafficking. UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid told journalists one officer in the Child Exploitation Online Protection unit was “shocked by the scale of the threat… [and] the determination of the offenders.”

If charities were subject to similar police action, hundreds of humanitarian predators would be arrested. Many would be in positions of power and authority. Some might even work at Save the Children. A week of police action targeting the international aid sector would safeguard our profession far more effectively than a slap-dash one-day safeguarding summit in London.

If the British government declines to require Save the Children, as charity commander of Operation Soteria, to submit to a clean-sweep of electronic networks and certify they are predator-free, then Save should set an example, as the spearhead for Soteria, and volunteer for a week of police action.

If Save has met the bare minimum of securing its own workplace and no longer offers safe-harbor for predators, then, certainly, there would be no objection to law enforcement verification. After all, Save will be partnering with police in managing the humanitarian sex offender registry. The very least to be expected is that Save the Children authenticates predators and pedophiles are no longer in their employ.

A police-week for the charity sector with Save the Children taking the lead.

Imagine.

Safeguarding might start to be real.

For a $13 million-dollar humanitarian sex offender registry, real safeguarding, and not slap-dash one-day summits, is the least to be expected in the post-Oxfam environment by those purporting to serve the world’s most vulnerable and do-no-harm.

Header Image: Reuters

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Geopolitics.

Dr. Lori Handrahan has been a humanitarian and an academic for over twenty years. Her book Epidemic: America’s Trade in Child Rape  details how predators operate. She can be reached on her website www.LoriHandrahan.com and Twitter @LoriHandrahan2