The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is keeping evidence of brutal crimes under wraps — including the gang rape and torture of pregnant women by rangers backed by the charity at a national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This is Part 4 of a BuzzFeed News investigation.
Part 1: WWF Funds Guards Who Have Tortured And Killed People
Part 2: Leaked Report Shows WWF Was Warned Years Ago Of “Frightening” Abuses
Part 3: WWF Says Indigenous People Want This Park — But An Internal Report Reveals Fears Of Ranger “Repression.”
A confidential report commissioned by the global megacharity and the Congolese government, and obtained by BuzzFeed News, includes testimony that rangers from Salonga National Park whipped and raped four women carrying fish by a river. Two of the women were pregnant and one later had a miscarriage.
The draft report also found evidence that rangers from the park — which is funded by the US and German governments — had killed one villager and tortured others by tying their penises with fishing lines.
The findings were submitted in March this year but have not been made public, and two legal experts who worked on the report said their investigation was cut short and that they were prevented from looking into other alleged crimes.
One investigator had to flee the park after rangers threatened to kill him in revenge for his work, documents and witness interviews show. He accused the WWF of suppressing his findings and called the investigation “a parody of justice.”
This March, BuzzFeed News revealed that the world’s leading conservation charity funds, equips, and works directly with anti-poaching forces that have beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted, and killed people living near wildlife parks across Asia and Africa. In response, the WWF launched an independent investigation led by the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. But the charity insisted that “many of BuzzFeed’s assertions do not match our understanding of events.”
It has now emerged that, just days before providing that response, the WWF was closing the separate inquiry into gang rape and torture by the guards in Salonga.
A draft of the report was provided to the NGO that first raised the alarm about abuses and the park’s German government funders — but documents seen by BuzzFeed News show the WWF asked them to treat all details of the investigation and its findings in a “non-public fashion.”
The WWF said in a statement that all the rangers implicated in the abuses had been suspended on the charity’s recommendation following the report’s findings. It said it chose not to publicly release the report because of concerns over victim confidentiality and due process, including criminal investigations against alleged perpetrators.