Three Oxfam workers threatened witness during Haiti investigation

Three Oxfam workers threatened witness during Haiti investigation

Three of the men involved in Oxfam’s sexual misconduct scandal in Haiti are believed to have physically threatened a witness during an investigation in 2011.


Oxfam has released their internal report due to public pressure on alleged abuse by some of their staff members. The 2011 report, Oxfam revealed “more needed” to be done to stop “problem staff” from working for other charities.


The report shows how three aid workers physically threatened a colleague sent to investigate misconduct claims.


The Prime Minister told BBC London that is it “absolutely horrific” that a witness during the 2011 investigation were physically intimidated.


The report also demonstrated that seven employees working for Oxfam left their job due to the behaviour  in Haiti following the earthquake.


Three employees resigned, and one employee was dismissed for using prostitutes on Oxfam grounds. Another two employees were dismissed for intimidating and bullying witnesses. One of these employees had downloaded pornography on Oxfam premises. One employee was sacked because he was unsuccessful in protecting staff members.


Ronald van Hauwermeiren, head of operations in Haiti for Oxfam, previously denied paying prostitutes for sex at a villa paid by the organisation. However, the report shows that he admitted to using prostitutes to the investigation team. It is still unaware of whether van Hauwermeiren was involved with physically threatening witnesses.


The “Latin America and Caribbean region” made staff members aware of an outbreak of potential code of conduct breaches via an email sent on 12th July 2011. The newly edited report highlighted offences involving “sexual exploitation, fraud, negligence, and nepotism”.


The leaking of an official report showed a witness was physically intimidated and threatened by three suspects. This later resulted in further charges of bullying and intimidation. The report concluded with: “none of the initial allegations concerning fraud, nepotism, or use of under-age prostitutes was substantiated during the investigation, although it cannot be ruled out that any of the prostitutes were underage”.


Policies and procedures

Policies and procedures are a vital part of any organisation. They help to ensure compliance with laws and regulations, streamline internal processes, and give guidance for decision making. Its essential employers ensure employees understand why policies and procedures exist.


Grievance procedures

Grievance procedures help to resolve disputes within the business. They can aid an organisation in identifying and addressing complaints made by employee, customers, suppliers, and/or competitors. Grievance procedures help companies to resolve the complaints before they reach litigation.


Employees should create a comfortable and open working environment where employees aren’t afraid to raise their concerns with them. It’s important employers don’t ignore any concerns that employees have. They must be addressed and dealt with promptly. All employees should be protected and it’s important all investigations are carried out. Employers must also ensure they keep all employee issues confidential.


In this case, Oxfam’s internal report shows three aid workers had been physically threatened and bullied. Oxfam failed to protect the workers and instead, ignored that the aid workers had been bullied, and didn’t follow their policies and procedures correctly. Bullying and harassment shouldn’t be tolerated in any workplace. It’s vital that employers carry out a thorough investigation.


If you have questions regarding this post, please contact a member of the HPC team:


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