Court rules Norway aid agency 'grossly negligent' over Kenya kidnap

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 25, 2015 4:12 PM

By Joseph D'Urso

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A court in Oslo ruled on Wednesday that the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) was guilty of gross negligence and should pay 4.4 million crowns ($507,000) in damages to a former employee who was abducted by gunmen from a Kenyan refugee camp in 2012.

Steve Dennis filed the lawsuit against the aid group after he and three colleagues were seized from Dadaab refugee camp and taken to neighboring Somalia, where they were held for four days before being rescued by Somali militia and Kenyan troops.

Dennis, a Canadian who had spent 10 years working in the field, said a leg injury and post traumatic stress disorder from the attack had limited his work options.

The Oslo District Court found the NRC, which provides humanitarian aid in 24 countries, grossly negligent in safeguarding staff during the visit to the camp.

One driver was killed and several people, including Dennis, suffered gunshot wounds in one of the most serious attacks in NRC's nearly 70-year-old history.

"We will now need time to evaluate all the aspects of the verdict before we decide whether to appeal the ruling," NRC's deputy secretary general, Geir Olav Lisle, said in a statement.

Last month the NRC admitted negligence, but denied gross negligence in the case.

It said a review had revealed weaknesses in how "information security" was managed in Dadaab before the incident, adding that all the key points from the review, which included about 130 recommendations for improving safety, had been implemented.

Lisle said NRC deeply regretted the loss and traumatic experience suffered by all NRC staff in Dadaab in June 2012.

"It has been important for us to learn from the incident and we will continue to learn from this in the time to come," Lisle said.

It was not immediately possible to contact Dennis for comment.

($1 = 8.6510 Norwegian crowns)

(Writing by Katie Nguyen, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)