UNAIDS deputy chief, accused of sex assault, to step down

GENEVA, Switzerland – The deputy head of UNAIDS, accused of sexually assaulting a female colleague but cleared of wrongdoing by an internal United Nations probe, announced his decision to step down on Friday, February 23. 

Luiz Loures "has communicated his wish to the UNAIDS executive director not to seek the renewal of his position," the agency said in a statement. 

Loures, a Brazilian national, "will end his term as deputy executive director at the end of March 2018," it added. 

UNAIDS spokesman Mahesh Mahalingam told reporters in Geneva that Loures's decision had no connection to the allegations against him, noting the findings of the internal UN probe. 

"Dr. Loures has had a long and distinguished service of 22 years at UNAIDS," Mahalingam said. "He clearly feels that this is the time for him to move on."

A junior female colleague filed a formal complaint alleging that Loures sexually harassed her beginning in 2011 and sexually assaulted her in a lift at a Bangkok hotel in 2015, where UNAIDS was hosting a major conference. 

The internal probe conducted by the World Health Organization's Office of Internal Oversight Services (IOS) said there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations. 

But activists and a legal expert have questioned the credibility of the investigation, insisting that important circumstantial evidence was not taken into account. 

The complainant reported the alleged incident to her mother, a close friend and her supervisor immediately after it occurred, while several UNAIDS colleagues confirmed seeing her in a state of severe distress that night. 

Loures also told IOS that he had a graphic sexual conversation with his accuser on the night in question, a claim category rejected by the woman and one that investigators also queried, according the IOS findings seen by AFP. 

UNAIDS chief Michel Sidibe also was faulted by the IOS for trying to settle the dispute quietly while an official probe was underway. 

Loures's decision to step down comes a day after UNICEF's deputy director Justin Forsyth resigned from the UN children's agency following complaints of inappropriate behaviour towards female staff in his previous post as head of British charity Save The Children. – Rappler.com