The World Health Organization said Wednesday it has singled out a major scientist for sexual misconduct. Dane Peter Ben Mubarak is best known for his role as head of an international mission in China to investigate the origins of Covid-19.
The United Nations agency said Mubarak was sacked from his post last year. In a response to Reuters, he said he had appealed the harassment charge and the sentence. He will be able to contest his removal in the internal UN system.
WHO spokeswoman Marcia Ball said, “Peter Ben Mubarak was sacked last year after the discovery of sexual misconduct that he was subjected to was proven through investigations and corresponding disciplinary measures.”
Paul said the cases that led to the dismissals occurred in 2015 and 2017 and were first reported to the agency in 2018. No further details were provided about the misconduct allegations.
Embarek said one incident in 2017 was “resolved immediately amicably” and that he could not comment further because the process is confidential until resolved.
“I am not aware of any other complaints and I have not been informed of any other complaints,” Mubarak said via a digital message. “I object to the classification of harassment and I am quite optimistic about defending my rights.”
Ben Mubarak is the most senior WHO official known to have been sacked since the UN agency launched a series of initiatives to improve the response to allegations of sexual misconduct.
The WHO chief representative was on a trip to China in 2021 with the aim of investigating the source of Covid-19. The team made global headlines with their conclusion that bats were likely the initial hosts that led to the pandemic in humans. They also determined that the virus leaked from a laboratory in China was “extremely unlikely”, despite pleas from many scientists to investigate the possibility.
Ben Mubarak later said that there was some political pressure on the team, including from outside China, but that nothing in the report had changed as a result. He did not specify the source of this pressure. Previously, he also led the One Health initiative on diseases transmitted from animals to humans.
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