Sexual assault at British Embassy in Iraq
Jess McCabe // 9 May 2008
Iraqi staff working at the British Embassy in Baghdad say that allegations of sexual harassment were brushed under the carpet, reports The Times.
I wish I could say this was unbelievable or surprising:
The middle-aged cleaner told The Times that a British contractor with KBR, the company hired to maintain the embassy’s premises, offered to double her daily pay if she would stay the night with him. When she refused, she said, her pay was cut and she was later dismissed.
The Iraqis accuse the embassy of leaving the abuse unchallenged and failing adequately to respond to complaints against several British managers for KBR. The company was allowed to conduct its own inquiry, an arrangement criticised as a very serious conflict of interest.
The complainants – the cleaner and two male cooks who worked in the embassy canteen – say that some KBR managers groped Iraqi staff regularly, paid or otherwise rewarded them for sex and dismissed those who refused or spoke out.
So, you’re an official at the British Embassy. Staff members tell you that managers working for a contractor are sexually assaulting and harassing them. You get the contractor to investigate?!
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We’ve discussed [the investigation] with KBR in detail and are satisfied.”
The Iraqi claimants say that they were never interviewed by KBR investigators. They told The Times that their KBR managers accused them of “poor work” and “lying”. The managers, who denied the charges, were reinstated after month-long suspensions with pay. There are no claims of wrongdoing against staff directly employed by the embassy.