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  • Peter Dalglish, a Canadian former U.N. aid worker is jailed in Nepal for abusing two boys.

    Peter Dalglish, a Canadian former U.N. aid worker is jailed in Nepal for abusing two boys. | Photo: Handout

Published 9 July 2019
Opinion

The former U.N. aid worker Peter Dalglish, who abused two boys, had gained his fame in the name of fighting for children rights.

Nepal has sentenced a former United Nations official from Canada for sexually abusing two boys, a court official said Tuesday.

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Peter Dalglish, 62, a high-profile humanitarian worker, was arrested at his home near Kathmandu last year and was convicted in June of sexually abusing two boys aged 12 and 14. The boys were at his when police detained him. 

Investigators also found a box of photographs of naked children, some playing in pools. 

"He was sentenced to nine years in jail in one case and to seven years in the other," said Thakur Nath Trital, information officer at the court in Kavre district, 30 km (20 miles) east of Kathmandu. 

“The judge is yet to decide whether he should serve a total 16 years in jail or be released after nine years. In most cases of a similar nature, sentences get overlapped but it is upon the judge to decide,” Trital said.

A fine of 500,000 Nepalese rupees (US$4,559) has to be paid by Dalglish as compensation to each of the victims. He denied the allegations against him. 

Dalglish was awarded the Order of Canada in 2016, one of the highest civilian honor, for promoting rights of street children, children laborer, and children affected by war. He co-founded Street Kid International in the 1980s which merged Save the Children. 

The accused also played crucial roles in various U.N. agencies, including head of U.N. Habitat in Afghanistan in 2015. Dalglish was an adviser to the International Labour Organization in the early 2000s. He had been helping children from poor families in Nepal by providing financial support.

Activists said the sentence would help deter other possible offenders in a country with a poor record for crimes involving children.

"It will help break the belief that Nepal is not serious about child abuse," said Tarak Dhital, an independent activist campaigning for child rights.

“Peter was an influential person,” said Gauri Pradhan, a former member of Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission. “The ruling has given a clear message to child abusers that Nepal is not a safe haven for them.”

Nepal, due to the absence of strong laws and weak law enforcement, is infamous for widespread sexual abuse. The country, one of South Asia’s poorest, is also home to thousands of nongovernmental organizations which operate with limited oversight. 

However, in recent years, several arrests have been made, mostly of foreign aid workers for abusing children. Many of them lure poor children with the promise of food, clothes or money.  

A Canadian orphanage volunteer Ernest MacIntosh, 51, was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2015 for sexual abuse of a disabled 15-year-old boy. In 2010, a French charity worker, Jean-Jacques Haye was sentenced for raping 10 children at an orphanage. 

“Peter Dalglish’s sentencing is an alarm bell for the humanitarian community,” said Lori Handrahan, a veteran international aid worker and author, urging others “to tackle the pervasive problem of predators in our humanitarian workplace.”

In the recent past, inspired by the #MeToo movement, #AidToo movement started which urged humanitarian agencies to investigate themselves. 

Last year Oxfam, one of Britain’s largest charities acknowledges firing four workers for hiring prostitutes in Haiti. A report published by the U.K. last summer revealed that sexual abuse of women and girls is “endemic” in the aid sector with very few perpetrators held accountable.

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