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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 March 2019

WWF launches review into claims of brutality in poaching war

Buzzfeed report alleges the conservation charity armed paramilitary forces who committed serious abuses

The World Wildlife Fund headquarters building in downtown Washington, also home to office space being rented out by former President Barack Obama, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
The World Wildlife Fund headquarters building in downtown Washington, also home to office space being rented out by former President Barack Obama, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has launched an independent review after the conservation charity was accused of funding and working with paramilitary forces who have abused, tortured and killed people in national parks in Asia and Africa.

The report published by Buzzfeed News on Monday after a year-long investigation alleged that the charity had supported anti-poaching units which had assaulted and killed villagers, and claimed that field staff had signed off on a proposal to kill trespassers by a brutal national park director.

The report claimed that WWF provided paramilitary forces with salaries, training and weapons.

“In one African country, it embroiled itself in a botched arms deal to buy assault rifles from a brutal army that has paraded the streets with the severed heads of alleged ‘criminals’,” the BuzzFeed report said.

WWF has launched an independent review into the allegations led by human rights specialists.

“We see it as our urgent responsibility to get to the bottom of the allegations BuzzFeed has made, and we recognise the importance of such scrutiny,” the charity said in a statement quoted by BuzzFeed.

“With this in mind, and while many of BuzzFeed’s assertions do not match our understanding of events, we have commissioned an independent review into the matters raised.”

In a further statement to the media, a spokesman for the charity said respect for human rights was “at the core of our mission”.

"WWF's work relies on deep community support, engagement and inclusion. We have stringent policies designed to ensure both we and our partners are safeguarding the rights and well-being of indigenous people and local communities in the places we work.

"Any breach of these policies is unacceptable to us and, should the review uncover any, we are committed to taking swift action."

The allegations come amid increased concern about the oversight over the work of international charities in developing countries.

Last year, Oxfam was accused of attempting to cover up an investigation into a sexual exploitation scandal in Haiti following the disastrous 2010 earthquake.

Updated: March 5, 2019 02:21 PM

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