Norwegian Refugee Council admit negligence in aid worker duty of care Kenya kidnapping case


By Alex Whiting

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The Norwegian Refugee Council admitted negligence, but denied gross negligence, in the final day of a trial involving a former employee kidnapped from a refugee camp in Kenya in 2012.  Steve Dennis is suing the agency, known as the NRC, for gross negligence and damages after he and three colleagues were abducted by armed men in Dadaab refugee camp and taken to Somalia.  They were rescued four days later by Somali militia and Kenyan troops.  Dennis, a Canadian who had spent ten years working in the field, said a leg injury and post traumatic stress disorder from the attack have limited his work options.

The trial ended on Wednesday in Oslo District Court, and the judge’s verdict is expected next month.

“NRC does not believe the organisation is responsible for the abduction in Dadaab in 2012, nor was grossly negligent,” the agency said in a statement to its staff on Wednesday.

“However, (a review) of the incident revealed weaknesses in how information security was managed in Dadaab prior to the incident,” it said.

The review, carried out by NRC staff, provided about 130 recommendations for improving its safety and security work. NRC said all of the key points from the report have been implemented.

“NRC acknowledges that the lack of information security in Dadaab has been underpinned in the course of the court proceedings. NRC therefore has conceded that this constitutes negligence,” the statement said.

The attack is the most serious event in NRC’s history, the agency said.

Speaking by telephone on Thursday, Dennis said: “The key point is they admitted to negligence.”

“There’s a lot of errors that were made, and just to have an acknowledgement that that’s not acceptable, I guess that’s it,” he said, when asked what he hoped to achieve.

He said he still has costs related to his injuries and recovery from what he considers to have been “a preventable incident and a workplace incident.”

The trial began on Oct. 20 and the judge is expected to deliver the verdict within weeks.  The verdict will determine how much financial compensation Dennis will receive and whether NRC was guilty of negligence or gross negligence.  The NRC said it earlier offered Dennis a NOK4.5 million ($524,246) out of court settlement.