By: Adam Dubin
Pace International Law Review, Junior Associate
Ten U.S. citizens are being held in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for attempting to remove over thirty-three children from the earthquake-ravaged nation and are suspected of child trafficking.
The detainees are members of a U.S.-based Baptist charity known as New Life Children’s Refuge. The group included members of the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, and the East Side Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho. The group was stopped at the Haiti/Dominican Republic border and detained when it was discovered that the group did not have the proper documentation from the Haitian government allowing the taking of the children. The group members were sent back to Port-au-Prince and the children were taken to temporary children’s home.
Yves Christallin, Haiti’s Social Affairs Minister considers the group’s conduct abduction and had indicated that, in order for the children to leave the country, the group had to obtain the approval of the Ministry of Social Affairs. The “Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission” was to be a means of helping children who had lost their families. Human rights groups and some of the children in the group, however, indicated that their parents were still alive. For a number of parents in Haiti, giving their children up for adoption was a means of helping their children survive in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Currently Haitian officials are discussing with American diplomats about the prospect of sending the group members to the U.S. for trial. The attorney representing the group has indicated that the group is being kept in substandard conditions with limited access to medical care, and officials in the Dominican Republic claim that the group is being held in a small room in Haiti’s judicial police headquarters.