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WWF accused of human rights violation

by Katherine Fernandez - Copy Editor
Thu, Mar 14th 2019 04:05 pm

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is an international wildlife conservation organization that seeks to combat the factors that threaten the stability and beauty of nature like deforestation, poaching, trophy hunting and pollution. While based in Switzerland,  WWF works in over 100 countries and boasts approximately five million members around the world. Despite claiming to work closely with the indigenous people whose land they wish to conserve, the organization is now at the center of an investigation into human rights violations inflicted upon natives at the hands of paramilitary forces funded by them.

Forest rangers that patrol Chitwan National Park in Nepal are being accused of “beating, torturing, sexually assaulting, and murdering scores of people,” according to an in-depth exposé published by Buzzfeed News on March 4. Most recently, farmer Shikharam Chaudhary was imprisoned under suspicions that he and his son buried a rhinoceros horn in their backyard. Although no evidence was found the rangers kept Chaudhary in jail, where they “beat him mercilessly and put saltwater in his nose and mouth,” Chaudhary’s wife, Hira said in a statement. Shikharam was pronounced dead after 11 days in prison. The brutal torment he suffered at the hands of the rangers were evident, his autopsy showed seven broken ribs and extensive bruising. As a result, three park officers were arrested and charged with Chaudhary’s murder.

WWF denounced the actions of the rangers and claimed to seek justice for Chaudhary, but after the Nepalese government dropped the charges the organization quickly resumed its business dealing with the rangers and rehired two of the three rangers who were arrested, one of whom had written a book that details his love of waterboarding as an interrogation tool. This is one of potentially thousands of cases in which WFF partners have been implicated. According to “more than 100 interviews and thousands of pages of documents, including confidential memos, internal budgets, and emails discussing weapons purchases,” acquired by Buzzfeed over the last year, WWF executives have been aware of the abuse for years.

A 2015 report by Diel Mochire Mwenge, an expert hired by the organization to report on its work in Lobéké National Park in Cameroon, revealed that vicious government military supported by the non-profit was engaging in raids on the indigenous people’s homes. These reports were continuously buried by officials. Rather than working in conjunction with the Baka people of Cameroon who know they lay of the land better than anybody, the militant forces in the country attack them. Budget reports show that the wildlife conservation charity supplied the infamously oppressive Cameroonian government with funds to train officers, supply them with equipment like vehicles and radios, pay their salaries and funneled a substantial amount of money into patrols and raids that were labeled as enforcement activities. Although the WWF has publicly denied collaborating with the Battalion d’Intervention Rapide (BIR), a merciless special forces team that has long been accused of human rights abuses, secret staff emails detail the relationship between the organization and the BIR.

Although the WWF declined to answer any detailed questions from Buzzfeed News, they did release an official statement in response to the allegations.

    “At the heart of WWF’s work are places and the people who live in them,” a WWF spokesperson said in response to Buzzfeed reports. “Respect for human rights is at the core of our mission. We take any allegations seriously and are commissioning an independent review to look into the cases raised in the story. We have asked BuzzFeed to share all evidence it has obtained to support these claims, to help inform and strengthen this review.”

    Since the release of Buzzfeed’s article, the Charity Commission and the United Kingdom government, particularly the Department for International Development (DFID),  have announced they will launch investigations into the dealings of WWF.

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