Panel points to international court failings in sex abuse allegations

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 20, 2013 12:17 PM

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Sexual assaults allegedly committed by an International Criminal Court staffer working in the Democratic Republic of Congo were made possible in part by serious management failings at the court, an independent panel said on Friday.

The review panel said the alleged crimes had been committed over a prolonged period by a member of staff in the court's victims and witnesses unit, whose responsibilities included protecting those who testify in court from reprisals.

The allegations are another embarrassing blow to the court, which has seen its attempts to administer justice stumble over its heavy reliance on witness testimony. The court has dealt with six cases from the DRC, four of which are still active.

The court made public the allegations in April, saying they had been made by four alleged victims of the staff member. It launched an internal inquiry and also requested the external review that reported on Friday.

Some officials at the court have already been disciplined as a result of the management failings, the court said in a statement. The review said other managers responsible were no longer working for the victims unit.

The court's lack of forensic expertise has meant its investigations have been strongly dependent on witness testimony, gathered by large field teams.

The review, chaired by Brenda Hollis, who led the successful international prosecution of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, criticized a recruitment process at the court which the panel said appeared to be "based on friendship" and had placed inexperienced people in positions of responsibility.

The panel also found that staff at the court's headquarters in The Hague had failed to recognize the seriousness of the allegations at the time, and said there had been "a reluctance to take ownership" of the case.

The ICC said it was assisting the authorities in the DRC with their investigation of the alleged assaults.

(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Rosalind Russell)