Sex abuse complaint rejected

The Charity Commission has rejected a complaint against Christian Aid for publishing claims that Israeli settlers had sexually abused Palestinian children in Hebron.

Christian Aid apologised "unreservedly" after sending out a press release which mistakenly made the false claim and said it should have described the alleged incidents as having involved "verbal sexual abuse".

The episode came after social worker Miranda Pinch travelled to the West Bank town to "monitor human rights abuses" as part of an accompaniment programme part-funded by the
charity.

Jonathan Hoffman, joint vice-chairman of the Zionist Federation, referred the matter to the Charity Commission, saying Christian Aid was legally obliged to verify the material it sent out.

He complained that after apologising for the original error, the charity had offered no proof of its claims of verbal harassment.

Steve Barnett, of the Charity Commission, said: "We have concluded that, in repeating Miranda Pinch's allegation… the charity's position is within the range of reasonable positions which the charity could take.

"We are satisfied that Christian Aid has taken reasonable steps to verify the accuracy of the 'verbal sexual harassment' claim and has demonstrated that it could support this claim with a reasoned evidence base."

He said that in light of the charity's verification efforts, "no further regulatory action is required".

In May, Christian Aid said that the mistake had been "unwitting and unintentional" and there had been no intention to "smear" Israeli soldiers or settlers. The mistake was blamed on a "staff error".

    Last updated: 1:39pm, July 8 2010