Sierra Leone opens probe into child trafficking by NGO
The Sierra Leonean government has ordered the police to reopen the case of the so-called adoptions of 29 children, who were said to have been trafficked to the United States in 1997 by a local non-governmental organization, Help A Needy Child International ( HANCI).
According a to a statement signed over the weekend by the Attorney-general and Minister of Justice, Frank Kargbo, the government gave the police ‘liberty to prefer criminal charges against any person responsible for the plight of the children especially their movement from Sierra Leone to a foreign territory.
The police are given the mandate to access all documents’ used by the state-appointed Justice Showers Commission ‘to help them conclude their investigations within a six-week period,’ said the statement that is contained in a government White Paper.
The ministries of children’s affairs and finance have been directed to immediately suspend the activities of the NGO as well as the U.S.-based agency, Marine Adoption and Placement Services (MAPS),
while at the same time the government has instructed that an independent audit be set up to examine the books of HANCI and MAPS and that both organizations shall pay for the cost of the audit. The two
groups have reportedly facilitated the so-called adoption of the
children without the knowledge of their parents, but they denied the claim.
“The adoption of the 29 minors, which compelled the government to place a temporary ban on adoption in Sierra Leone while awaiting the enactment of a new adoption law, is now rescinded taking into consideration the imminent passing into law of a new adoption policy,” the white paper stated. “The Ministries of Children’s Affairs and Foreign Affairs are to undertake bilateral contacts with the relevant authorities and government in which the children currently reside with the hope of facilitating the necessary contact in an effort to establish a relationship between the adopted children and their
biological parents,” the paper concluded.
Parents and relatives of the children in a plea to the government-appointed commission contended that they never had full knowledge and understanding of the adoption process and did not willingly to give up their children for the purpose. According to the commission’s report, ‘’the adoption process was fundamentally flawed as the process of interviewing parents in accordance with the law to ensure that they understood the nature and effect of adoption prior to the parents giving their consent was not done.”
‘’The High Court gave approval for the adoption of some of the children in the mistaken belief that the requirement was followed,” the commission added. “I cannot sleep in peace and not tormented by the fear that I have lost my children forever,” Single parent Iye Koroma, who said that three of her children were sent abroad without her consent, told the media. “The white paper gives me hope that I now have at least the chance to see my children even if I can’t have full claims to them,” she added.