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Charity boss urges victims to come forward

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Oxfam’s most senior figure is urging victims of abuse to come forward as she promised “justice” and announced an independent commission to “root out” sex offenders.

Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International’s executive director, offered an apology over a sex and prostitution scandal that she described as “a stain” on the charity.

A series of allegations, first published by The Times a week ago, has seen senior Oxfam workers accused of soliciting prostitutes while overseeing aid operations around the world.

The charity has also come under fire for its initial response after concerns about sexual exploitation were raised years ago, although it has denied covering up allegations in Haiti in 2011.

Posting on Twitter, Ms Byanyima said: “I am inviting anyone who has been a victim of abuse to come forward.

“My message to women who have suffered: I’m fighting this abuse. I’m with you. We are going to do justice.

“Oxfam will be a standard bearer of safety and dignity for all who interact with us.”

:: How Oxfam sexual misconduct scandal unfolded
:: How Oxfam makes and spends its millions

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Oxfam is ‘very hurt’, admitted Ms Byanyima

The charity chief has also announced a “high-level independent commission” made up of women’s rights experts, to “look into our culture and our practices and make recommendations to make us stronger at protecting our people”.

“We are going to root out, we are going to create a vetting system that will help us,” she told the BBC.

Ms Byanyima admitted Oxfam has “a problem” but said she “cannot know” how deep the problem of sexual exploitation is within the charity until the independent investigation is complete.

“I know that we have almost 10,000 staff around the world working in more than 90 countries,” she said.

“The majority of those are doing the right thing, are people of values who care about humanity, who are saving lives.

“We do have, I know, a porous system that has brought in people who do not share our values and that’s my challenge.”

Ms Byanyima said Oxfam was “very hurt” but insisted the charity would survive the scandal.

She said: “There is no way this organisation can die. The world needs it.”

A former member of Uganda’s parliament, Ms Byanyima also offered a guarantee British taxpayers’ money and cash from donations would continue to help the world’s poor.

“If you just look at the work Oxfam has been doing in the last four years alone, 90 million people we reach every year, and these are people who are desperate, who need help,” she said.


TIMES STILL roland van hauwermeiren



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Oxfam’s shamed ex-Haiti chief Roland van Hauwermeiren hits back at ‘lies’

Alongside the commission, which will be able to access charity records and interview staff around the world, Ms Byanyima announced a series of reforms within Oxfam.

This includes a new global database of accredited referees designed to end the use of forged, dishonest or unreliable references by past or current Oxfam staff.

The charity will not be issuing any references until this is in place.

Oxfam will also double the number of staff within its safeguarding processes and triple annual funding to more than $1m (£700,000).

Announcing the measures, Ms Byanyima said: “What happened in Haiti and afterwards is a stain on Oxfam that will shame us for years, and rightly so.

“In my language ‘Okuruga ahamutima gwangye, mutusaasire’. It means ‘From the bottom of my heart I am asking for forgiveness’.”

On Thursday, Roland van Hauwermeiren, the former Belgian aid worker at the centre of the Oxfam sex scandal, broke his silence to deny allegations he used prostitutes or held sex parties while working for the charity.

On Friday, The Times reported a different aid worker sacked over the Haiti allegations was rehired two months later to work on another relief operation.

Crisis-hit Oxfam is facing a statutory inquiry by the Charity Commission while the Government has threatened to remove the charity’s £31.7m annual funding.

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‘Terror motive’ investigated after eight hurt in stabbing attack in Sweden | World News

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Eight people have been injured in a Swedish town after a stabbing attack police say could be terror-related.

A man in his 20s attacked people in the town of Vetlanda, about 210 miles south of the capital Stockholm, on Wednesday afternoon.

Aftonbladet said the weapon used was a knife but the Associated Press reported it was an axe.

Police said people had been stabbed in at least five locations in the town of roughly 13,000 people, and some of the victims were in a serious condition.

The attacker’s motive was not clear but Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said terrorism was possible.

He said: “In the light of what has emerged so far in the police investigation, prosecutors have initiated a preliminary investigation into terrorist crimes.

“We confront such heinous acts with the combined force of our society.”

Sweden’s domestic security agency SAPO is also working on the case, he said, adding: “They continuously assess whether there are reasons to take security-enhancing measures and are prepared to do so if necessary.”

Regional police chief Malena Grann said: “We have started a preliminary investigation of attempted murder but there are details in the investigation that make us investigate possible terror motives.”

Asa Karlqvist owns a flower shop in the town and told local newspaper Vetlanda-Posten: “We heard a scream from the street.

“Then we saw a man enter the store, shouting that he had been stabbed.

“Blood was pouring from his shoulder, so we got towels and applied pressure on the wound.”

Meanwhile, the attacker is in hospital after being shot by police before he was arrested.

Local police chief Jonas Lindell said “it seems that the injuries are not life-threatening” but he did not give further details.

Police have not identified the attacker publicly but said he was previously known to them for minor crimes.

There is no indication that others were involved in the attack, they added.

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‘Virulent’ outbreak of equine herpes forces European equestrian events to be axed | World News

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A virulent outbreak of equine herpes in eastern Spain has forced European equestrian events to be cancelled across the continent.

The International Federation for Equestrian Sports said the move will see events axed in 10 European countries until 28 March.

The ban affects upcoming events in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Poland, Netherlands, Germany and Slovakia.

The federation’s general secretary, Sabrina Ibáñez, said an unspecified number of horses have already died from the outbreak.

“This was not an easy decision to block events in mainland Europe, particularly after the major disruption to the FEI Calendar caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But this EHV-1 outbreak is probably the most serious we have had in Europe for many decades.”

The outbreak appears to have originated in Valencia, Spain, and has been linked to subsequent outbreaks in three other European countries.

The federation is allowing horse jumping shows in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Belgium to go ahead as long as no new horses enter the events and no cases of the virus are detected.

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US police uncover ‘possible plot’ by militia group to breach Capitol on Thursday | US News

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Police say they have intelligence showing a “possible plot” by a militia group to breach the US Capitol on Thursday.

A US Capitol Police statement did not name the organisation but called it “an identified militia group”.

It follows an advisory sent to members of Congress by the acting House sergeant-at-arms earlier this week, saying Capitol Police had “no indication that groups will travel to Washington DC to protest or commit acts of violence”.

New footage emerges from US Capitol riot
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Thousands of supporters of Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol in a violent insurrection as Congress was voting to certify Joe Biden’s electoral win

“The United States Capitol Police Department is aware of and prepared for any potential threats towards members of Congress or towards the Capitol complex,” the agency said in a statement.

“We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday March 4.”

The statement said the agency was “taking the intelligence seriously” but provided no other specific details on the threat.

It comes at the same time the acting police chief is testifying before a House subcommittee.

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The riot on 6 January left five people dead. Pic: The New Yorker
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The riot on 6 January left five people dead. Pic: The New Yorker

The threat comes nearly two months after thousands of supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in a violent insurrection as Congress was voting to certify Joe Biden’s electoral win.

So far, around 300 people have been charged with federal crimes for their roles in the riot and five people, including Brian Sicknick a Capitol Police officer, died.

The threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory, mainly promoted by supporters of QAnon, that Trump will rise again to power on 4 March, which was the original presidential inauguration day, until 1933 when it was moved to 20 January.

Capitol Police say it had stepped up security around the complex since January’s insurrection, adding physical security measures such as fencing topped with razor wire and members of the National Guard, who remain at the complex.

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