Statement on allegations of child sexual abuse
Defence for Children International (DCI) has been made aware through international media by cases of sexual abuse of children and adolescents allegedly committed by several catholic priests, among them Jorge Vila Despujol, who died in 2012. These abuses are alleged to have taken place in a boarding school in Cochabamba, Bolivia, which was not related to DCI. However, Jorge Vila Despujol was the founder of the DCI National Section in Bolivia in 1985. The DCI Movement is grounded in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including Article 19 on the child’s right to freedom from all forms of violence and DCI unequivocally condemns all forms of violence or abuse against children. DCI’s current leadership was shocked to learn of these allegations concerning a DCI former representative and absolutely condemns all criminal and abusive acts against children.
DCI urges the authorities to carry out the necessary investigations of the victims’/survivors’ allegations diligently, and fully expose all crimes, so that the perpetrators can be brought to court, and survivors receive reparations and support, although nothing can compensate for a childhood destroyed by violence. DCI affirms its solidarity and unequivocal support with the survivors and their families. DCI encourages other potential victims or witnesses to contact the hotline and contribute their testimony to the judicial process to restore truth and justice. DCI-Bolivia strongly condemned the alleged crimes and declared its solidarity with the victims. They will, of course, facilitate the investigations regarding these allegations, open all relevant DCI archives and cooperate fully with the investigating team.
DCI-Bolivia also started reviewing its internal processes and policies to develop a safe environment for children and do whatever is possible to prevent all forms of violence. DCI has adopted at the Movement’s level a robust Child Safeguarding Policy and Principles in 2020 promoting an organisational policy of “zero-tolerance” to violence and abuse against children and building a strong culture of prevention. The DCI Safeguarding Code of Conduct has been signed by all the member organisations of the Movement. The recommendations of these key documents have been or are in the process of being implemented by all DCI National Sections who, as a membership criterion, are required to develop or update their own national child safeguarding policies according to the latest international standards tailored to their activities and to constantly assess and mitigate risks to children. Some DCI members also work to develop and roll out a child safeguarding culture in other sectors in their country.
DCI’s permanent review process helps to ensure transparency, facilitate human rights scrutiny, prevent cover-ups, and enable access to justice for children and young people, and ultimately helps to protect children from all forms of violence and ensure their wellbeing. Children’s safety and wellbeing have always been and remain DCI’s priority, especially in all 30 countries where DCI has activities.
Download the press release here.