Canadian Ex-U.N. Official Convicted of Child Abuse in Nepal

In this Monday, July 8, 2019 photo, Canadian aid worker Peter Dalglish, center wearing red cap, is brought to appear before the Kavre District Court in Nepal. Dalglish was Monday sentenced to nine years in prison in Nepal for sexually abusing two boys who were found at his home. (AP …
Janak Raj Sapkota/AP Photo

Peter John Dalglish, 62, of Canada, formerly a noted humanitarian activist and United Nations official, was convicted of child abuse in Nepal and sentenced on Tuesday to terms of seven and nine years in jail for two cases of child abuse.

He was also ordered to pay the equivalent of $4,550 in compensation to each victim.

“The judge is yet to decide whether he should serve a total of 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,” a court official said.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) noted that Dalglish’s fall from grace was steep indeed, as he was once a much-honored and highly-respected humanitarian:

The aid worker, who in 2016 was awarded the Order of Canada – the country’s second-highest civilian honor – made his name as a humanitarian worker advocating for street children, child laborers, and those affected by war.

He co-founded Street Kids International in the 1980s which merged with Save the Children.

In the last decade, Dalglish held key positions in UN agencies, including a chief for UN Habitat in Afghanistan in 2015.

In Nepal, Dalglish was an advisor in a child program for the International Labor Organization in the early 2000s.

Dalglish denied the charges against him and insisted through his lawyer that “due process has not been fulfilled during the investigation in the case.” He plans to appeal his conviction.

Dalglish was arrested in April 2018 by the Nepalese Central Investigation Bureau, a national police force that invests much of its time in combating organized crime and human trafficking. He was accused of sexually assaulting two boys, aged 12 and 14 at the time, who were reportedly present at the house near Kathmandu where he was taken into custody. Investigators said they found photographs of naked children when they searched his home.

The New York Times reported Dalglish was well-liked in the Nepalese mountain community where he settled and his neighbors were shocked and horrified by his arrest. Dalglish donated a great deal of his time and money to the community and employed a number of them. One of his alleged victims was the son of the caretaker he hired for his house. 

“We trusted him. He treated us so well. We never knew what was inside his mind,” said a man who was given hundreds of dollars by Dalglish to help pay for his child’s education.

Nepal has been cracking down on sexual abuse after years of complaints that enforcement against such crimes was exceptionally weak and that the country had become a haven for predators, many of them entering the region as humanitarian aid workers. 

Concerned humanitarian agencies formed an oversight group styled after the #MeToo movement called #AidToo to raise awareness of the problem. The United Nations is also concerned about sexual harassment and abuse flourishing in its aid offices and peacekeeping operations.

A previous high-profile arrest in January saw a British national accused of luring poor children to his apartment in Kathmandu and abusing them. A year before that, a German who ran a charity organization that fed lunch to hundreds of children a day was accused of pedophilia. An American was arrested in 2017 for preying on children from his hotel room in a Kathmandu tourist area with the aid of a local resident.

The New York Times quoted humanitarian aid worker Lori Handrahan describing Dalglish’s jail sentence as “an alarm bell for the humanitarian community” to address the “pervasive problem of predators in our humanitarian workplace.”

“Peter was an influential person. The ruling has given a clear message to child abusers that Nepal is not a safe haven for them,” former Nepalese human rights commissioner Gauri Pradhan told the Times.


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