UN suspends key witness in sexual assault probe

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Brussels, April 30 (IANS) A key witness in a sexual assault investigation involving a UN assistant secretary general has been suspended from her job, the media reported on Monday.

Miriam Maluwa, who has worked for the UN for more than 25 years, was placed on administrative leave from her post as country director for UNAids in Ethiopia on March 27, reports the Guardian.

Last year, Maluwa was a key witness in an investigation into a sexual assault and harassment allegations involving the UNAids deputy director, Luiz Loures, who was alleged to have assaulted a colleague in a hotel lift.

Loures, who denies the allegations, was not suspended during the investigation.

In a letter from the agency she was told this action did not amount to disciplinary measures, but that UNAids would be conducting a management and operational review of the country’s office during her absence.

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The agency added that Maluwa, one of the most senior women within UNAids, was not allowed to enter the office or access the agency’s servers or documents without supervision.

The following week, an email was sent to key partners, embassies and government ministries announcing that an interim country director had been appointed to her position.

Campaign group Code Blue, which is supporting Maluwa, said the agency had not explained the reasons for its actions and was not following the correct processes.

“The standard procedure if there’s going to be an administrative and management review is that you tell the staff member why, tell them what the claims are against them, and you give them the opportunity to respond to those claims,” Paula Donovan, co-director of Code Blue, told the Guardian.

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The agency’s director, Michel Sidibe, has faced widespread criticism over attempts to interfere with the inquiry.

UNAids said in a statement that it could not comment on its actions relating to Maluwa.

“We cannot provide specific information about the review to protect the integrity and confidentiality of the process. However, we can confirm that it is not related to the recent case of sexual harassment.”

–IANS

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