The United Nations has temporarily suspended its work with the Central African Republic branch of Caritas Internationalis after it emerged that the director of the Catholic charity there was a convicted pedophile.
The decision by the UN comes a day after CNN reported that Father Luk Delft was appointed to a key role in Caritas despite a prior conviction for abusing children in Europe. He was only removed from his post after CNN revealed the new accusations against him to his superiors in the Salesians of Don Bosco, a religious order established specifically to protect children.
Jens Laerke, the UN’s Humanitarian agency deputy spokesperson, told CNN on Friday that work with the aid organisation in the CAR was on hold while investigations into Delft continued.
“The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) is aware of the serious allegations of abuse against minors by the former Caritas Director in CAR,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual exploitation and abuse by our own personnel, and our partners, against those we assist,” the statement went on.
“The HCT will not comment on allegations as long as investigations are ongoing. However, the HCT has decided to temporarily suspend all activities with Caritas Centrafrique until the ongoing investigations reach a clear outcome. The HCT continues to value the work done by Caritas across the country,” the statement added.
Separately, an investigation into Delft has been opened by authorities in the CAR. A source familiar with the probe told CNN it was opened 10 days ago by the Attorney General.
In a date yet to be specified, judicial police will travel to the town of Kaga-Bandoro to conduct necessary interviews. Two fathers told CNN that the 50-year-old Belgian priest sexually abused their sons while working there. Law enforcement and church authorities in Belgium have already started investigations into Delft.
“The government of the Central African Republic takes very seriously the allegations and will leave no place for impunity regarding this sensitive and horrific case – and has the willingness to co-operate fully with the Belgian authorities,” the source added.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Delft's first name.