Inquiry finds UK charity failed to safeguard aid worker killed in Syria


An inquiry by the Charity Commission has found the British charity that employed murdered aid worker Alan Henning, failed to properly safeguard him and other volunteers on convoys to war-torn Syria.

Henning, 47, a taxi driver, from Eccles in Greater Manchester was beheaded by the Islamic State militant known as Jihadi John after being held captive for nine months in Syria along with other western hostages in 2014.

He was volunteering for the Worcester-based charity Al-Fatiha Global when he was kidnapped soon after crossing the Turkish border into Syria in December 2013, according to an inquiry by the Charity Commission.

The Charity Commission is the non-ministerial government department that regulates registered charities in England and Wales and answers directly to the UK Parliament rather than to Government ministers.

Its report, published this week after a seven-year inquiry, said it had seen no evidence that the charity raised the alarm with UK authorities after Henning’s abduction.

The inquiry said the charity’s trustees initially claimed that Henning was not volunteering for their organisation but was instead working for another charity, Aid4Syria, when he was snatched.

However, the Charity Commission found that Henning was in fact a volunteer for Al-Fatiha Global at the time, according to police records.

The report said: “The fact that they did not know or regard him as a volunteer of the charity when he was, and his safety was in their custody whilst on the convoy was further evidence of lack of adequate oversight and management of the charity’s activities and risks arising from them.”

The commission said it found no evidence of any attempt by Al-Fatiha Global to assess the skills and suitability of volunteers, or carry out risk assessments or due diligence before undertaking extremely high-risk aid convoys through Turkey and into Syria.

It also found that volunteers on the convoys each carried with them between £2,000 and £3,000 of unattributed cash, despite the obvious risks in doing so.

The report added: “The trustees were unable to explain why they had not submitted a Serious Incident Report to the commission as soon as they had learned of the abduction. The inquiry also did not see any evidence of the expected liaison with the FCO and UK or local authorities.”

The Charity Commission said Al-Fatiha Global’s trustees failed to “properly safeguard their volunteers by failing to exercise any due diligence or risk management procedures, to provide any meaningful training, instructions and/or guidance to its volunteers”.

It said the trustees also failed to make sure its funds were only used to support, put in place adequate financial controls – despite its income rocketing from £4,000 to £1.2m between 2012 and 2013 – and failed to protect its volunteers, assets and property.

Al-Fatiha Global has been contacted for a response. (Source: The Guardian)