UN agency that fights AIDS reopens sexual harassment case

The United Nations agency that fights AIDS has reopened a sexual harassment investigation of a top official who was cleared in an initial probe, saying Monday that additional allegations have emerged.

UNAIDS declined to specify the new allegations against Luiz Loures, the agency’s outgoing deputy executive director for programs. Loures faced sexual harassment and assault accusations from a lower-level employee, Martina Brostrom.

Brostrom alleged he forcibly kissed and grabbed her in a Bangkok hotel elevator in May 2015, claims that Loures has denied.

The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of sexual assault. Brostrom spoke to the news media after it emerged publicly this year that a World Health Organization office rejected the case in September, citing “insufficient evidence.”

Critics, including Brostrom, said the review process by WHO’s Office of Internal Oversight Services was badly flawed.

According to a UNAIDS statement emailed Monday to The Associated Press, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus has asked the U.N.’s internal oversight office to conduct another investigation.

UNAIDS declined to provide specifics about the new allegations against Loures. Agency spokesman Roman Levchenko said information needed to be withheld “to protect the integrity and confidentiality of the process.”

The original case centered on alleged sexual harassment and assault, and UNAIDS did not refer to sexual assault in its statement about the new investigation. The WHO media team did not immediately respond to an email seeking a clarification.

Monday was Loures’ last day at UNAIDS, Levchenko said.

In February, UNAIDS spokesman Mahesh Mahalingam told reporters in Geneva that Loures would leave his post by March 31.

Mahalingam said at the time that Loures’ departure had nothing to do with Brostrom’s allegations, but said the deputy executive-director felt “this is time for him to move on” after 22 years of “long and distinguished” service at UNAIDS.

In the statement emailed Monday, UNAIDS Director-General Michael Sidibe said the agency “has zero tolerance for sexual harassment” and will “cooperate fully with all aspects of the new investigation.”

Critics of the decision from the original investigation want an independent probe conducted outside the United Nations.