Red Cross probes claim of sex-for-aid demand in former war zone

inquiryThe Red Cross in Sri Lanka said on Monday it was investigating a claim that one of its staff demanded sexual favours from a woman in return for providing her with a grant as part of an Indian government-sponsored scheme for war-displaced people.

Mahieash Johnney, senior manager for communications of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Sri Lanka, said the accused staff member had taken voluntary leave pending the outcome of the probe.

“We received a written complaint from a woman in Kilinochchi district in early October who claimed a Red Cross technical officer had asked for sexual favours in return for providing a cash grant to build a new house,” said Johnney.

“We take this incident very seriously. We have formed a panel from the IFRC and Sri Lankan Red Cross Society who are investigating the complaint. The inquiry should be completed by the end of the week,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

If any evidence is found to back up the complaint, the Red Cross will seek a criminal inquiry by the police, he added.

Tens of thousands of people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes during the Indian Ocean island’s 26-year civil war which ended in May 2009.

Thousands of government buildings, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and homes were destroyed during the fighting between Sri Lankan government forces and Tamil separatists.

Neighbouring India has been providing humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka, including funds to build 25,000 houses in the former war zone in the island’s north.

The funds, given in instalments to families displaced by the fighting, are managed by humanitarian agencies including the Sri Lanka Red Cross (SLRC), which is responsible for 17,500 homes.

Indian officials in Colombo said they were following the inquiry closely.

“The High Commission is actively involved with the investigation done by the IFRC and SLRC. We will monitor the on-going probe,” said an Indian embassy official, who did not want to be named. (Reuters)


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