Regulator rejects complaint about 'charity worker' who allegedly posed with weapons

Hand in Hand for Syria says the man in question was not an employee at the time the photographs were taken and it is an attempt to discredit the charity

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

< This article has been amended; see final paragraph

The Charity Commission has said that photos allegedly showing an employee of an aid charity operating in Syria posing next to weapons do not raise sufficient regulatory concerns to require action.

The commission was responding to a complaint about Hand in Hand for Syria made by Robert Stuart, a development officer at another charity, who claimed an employee of the charity’s now-closed Atareb Hospital near Aleppo had posted photos of himself with mortars, rifles and tanks.

Hand in Hand for Syria has dismissed the complaint as an attempt to discredit the charity, saying the man in question did not work for the charity when the photos were taken.

Stuart submitted pictures of a man purporting to be a laundry technician at Atareb Hospital posing with the weapons and said the photos were evidence that Hand in Hand for Syria was "celebrating or supporting violence".

In its reply, which Stuart has posted as part of a blog about the complaint, the commission said it had assessed the information and consulted the charity.

"Having reviewed all of the information provided, the commission is satisfied that the issues raised within your emails do not raise sufficient regulatory concern, or represent a significant or ongoing risk in relation to the charity that would support regulatory action or formal engagement with the charity," the response said.

"At this time, the commission does not consider that it would be reasonable or proportionate to further pursue the specific issues raised within this complaint."

The response said the commission had engaged with the trustees to provide "some general advice and guidance in relation to some of the wider issues that the complaint has raised".

A spokeswoman for the charity dismissed Stuart’s claims as "attempt to discredit our vital work on the ground in Syria".

She said the employee was no longer working for the charity at the time the photographs were taken.

"Even so, had he taken part in such activities while employed by the charity, it would have been impossible for us to monitor his activities outside his working hours and what he chose to share on his Facebook page.

"We have more than 400 members of staff on the ground in Syria, and monitoring their social media accounts is not our largest concern, nor is what they do during their private time."

She said the charity took all possible steps to vet and monitor staff to ensure they abided by its code of conduct.

A commission spokeswoman confirmed it had received the complaint.

She said: "Following assessment of this complaint and engagement with the charity, the commission provided the charity with regulatory advice and guidance. We have since closed our case."

< The opening sentence of this story has been changed to make it clear that the Charity Commission did review this complaint but decided that the matters raised were not of sufficient regulatory concern.

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