WWF-funded guards ‘raped and tortured pregnant women’, leaked report says

12 Jul 2019 News

A leaked report commissioned by WWF International shows that park rangers funded by the charity abused four women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the news website Buzzfeed.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF International), which is associated with WWF UK, said in a statement that it launched an investigation in June last year in response to allegations of violent crimes at Salonga National Park.

This investigation was soon expanded to include allegations supplied by Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) between May and November 2018 of six violent crimes and was concluded in February this year.

The charity referred all six cases investigated to the Auditeur militaire, the relevant authority to initiate legal proceedings in the country.

The Congolese government suspended all eco-guards suspected to be involved in the incidents, pending prosecution.

And the charity said an additional independent investigation will take place next month to further examine allegations raised recently by RFUK.

Details of crimes revealed

The charity said its report remained confidential “out of concern for the health and safety of the victims and the victims’ communities and in order not to interfere with due process, including criminal investigations against alleged perpetrators”.

However, draft copies were sent to donors to the project and RFUK and yesterday news site Buzzfeed published some of its findings.

According to the news site, the report includes testimony that rangers from Salonga National Park whipped and raped four women carrying fish by a river. Two of the women were pregnant and one later had a miscarriage.

It also said the draft report found evidence that rangers from the park had killed one villager and tortured others by tying their penises with fishing lines.

‘Pull the plug’

Campaigning group Survival International, which has previously accused WWF of human rights abuses, called on donors to stop funding the organisation.

Director Stephen Corry said: “More shocks about WWF, more proof that the abuses being committed by WWF-funded rangers are even worse than already reported. 

“And that they will go on and on until WWF’s funders finally pull the plug on this corrupt and totally discredited organisation.

“If anyone still harboured any hopes that WWF was serious about actually changing its ways, this should comprehensively demolish them.”

Ongoing investigation

In April, WWF International announced that Navi Pillay, former UN high commissioner for human rights, would chair an independent review into the charity after previous a year-long Buzzfeed investigation reported alleged human rights abuses by the charity’s field staff in Asia and Africa.

The charity is also working across its network of charities to update its global safeguarding framework.

It said: “All of these efforts, including the Independent Review, are part of our broader commitment to ensure a future where people and nature thrive together.”

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