High-profile French political scientist accused of sexually abusing stepson

By Kim Willsher

Olivier Duhamel, one of France’s most high-profile political scientists and media commentators, has resigned from his academic and media posts after he was accused of sexually abusing his stepson.

The constitutional expert’s stepdaughter – the alleged victim’s twin – says the abuse happened in the 1980s when she and her brother were 14 and was well known to many members of the family and friends.

Camille Kouchner revealed the alleged abuse, which she said was an “omerta” among those in Parisian political and media circles, in her book, la Familia grande, which is due to be published on Thursday but has been serialised in L’Obs magazine and Le Monde.

Duhamel, 70, has resigned from his job at the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, which oversees and finances the prestigious Sciences Po grande école, and deleted his Twitter account, but has made no comment on the allegations.

Kouchner and her twin are the children of Bernard Kouchner, a former health and foreign affairs minister and the founder of the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières, and Evelyne Pisier, a historian and writer, who died in 2017.

Kouchner and Pisier had three children, Julien and the twins Camille and Antoine, before separating in 1980. Afterwards Pisier had a four-year affair with the Cuban leader Fidel Castro before marrying Duhamel.

In the book, Camille Kouchner gives her twin Antoine the name “Victor”. She writes that the abuse continued for at least two years and that Pisier was told but preferred to protect her husband, as did family friends, to “avoid a scandal”. She says her brother begged her to keep the secret, telling her: “If you speak, I will die. I’m too ashamed. Help me tell him no, please.”

“I was 14 and I let it happen … I was 14 and I knew and I said nothing,” Kouchner, 45, writes. “Why does he have the right to live outside this reality when it haunts me.”

Kouchner, a legal specialist, adds that the “incest” – as it has been described in the French media – happened more than once and was an open secret among friends and family, who were asked not to say anything.

“My book recounts just how many people were aware,” she told Le Nouvel Observateur website L’Obs. “Of course I thought my life could be seen as offensive because my family is so well known, then I told myself, that’s exactly why I have to do this.”

She added: “I chose to write because I could no longer keep quiet. This book is born of a necessity: to bear witness to incest, to show that it went on for years and that it is very, very difficult to break the silence. I did not write it in the name of my brother, but for the sisters, the nieces, all those affected by incest. The omerta in a family weights on everyone.”

Her father, Bernard Kouchner, issued a statement through his lawyer. “A heavy secret that has weighed on us for so long has been lifted. I admire the courage of my daughter, Camille,” he wrote.

The FNSP sent an internal message to staff, seen by AFP, saying it had accepted Duhamel’s resignation “for personal reasons”. The foundation’s director, Frédéric Mion, said he had been “shocked” to read the allegations.

Duhamel, a former MEP and author of the much-studied constitutional work The Left and the 5th Republic, is also president of Le Siècle, an influential men’s club whose members include leading political, economic, cultural and media figures. He is the son of Jacques Duhamel, who was a minister under president Georges Pompidou.

Duhamel told Le Monde and L’Obs he had “nothing to say” in response to the allegations. On Monday, he tweeted he had resigned from “the institutions for which I work” after being the subject of “personal attacks”. He then deleted his account.

There can be no legal action as the accusations are beyond the time limit for prosecution.

Alexandre Kouchner, Camille and Antoine’s stepbrother, supported his siblings in a Twitter message after the revelations of abuse.

“I love my brothers and my sister. I admire their courage and support their choice of breaking the silence. We must always listen, hear and protect those who have suffered and suffer. For the rest, I suggest you read the book,” Alexandre wrote.