Abduction and Trafficking of Children in Liberia

Monrovia, Liberia

9 June 2020

My distinguished Colleagues of DCI-Liberia, honorable Representatives of the Ministry of the Justice, Members of the Press, Ladies and Gentlemen. All Protocol is respectfully observed and sustained.

I send you warm greetings from the family of Defence for Children –Liberia located on Russell Avenue, Sinkor-Monrovia, Liberia.

The mandate of Defence for Children International – Liberia (DCI-Liberia) is to promote and protect the rights of children in Liberia, and to hold  the Government accountable in compliance with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Liberian Children Law.

Background of the alleged Abduction and Trafficking of Children.

DCI-Liberia  conducted a fact finding mission and a follow up visit to Todee in order to speak  to the parents of children victims of an allege abduction, smuggling and trafficking that took place more than ten years ago (2004-2009 but our mission was conducted during the Months of May 21-June 2020).

This emblematic case was brought to us by the Mother of one victim of a current trafficking case in Criminal court “B” at the Temple of Justice. She told us that she had been contacted by parents of children allegedly abducted, smuggled and trafficked during the course of the last decade.

She contacted us because these current victims of allege abduction, smuggling and trafficking have heard about her on-going legal battle in Criminal court “B”and was seeking her assistance in bringing the plight to the attention of the criminal Justice system of Liberia.

According to (Magdalene Johnson) since she knows DCI-Liberia to be a well-established Child Rights Advocacy group, she decided to bring it for the purpose of legal intervention and litigation.

For more information:

Foday M.Kawah

Executive Director DCI-Liberia

21st  Street Sinkor, Russell Avenue

Monrovia,Liberia

Email:dciliberia@gmail.com

Tele +231886407054/+231777407054

On May 21st, 2020 – June 2nd, 2020, DCI-Liberia led a delegation comprising of Two (2) staff , a representative  of the Press Union of Liberia,  a Lawyer, including  a Sr. Elder of  Dowee  Town  in District # 1; Todee  District. 

It was also inquired that these children were recruited from several communities in Todee such as: Zuana Town, Kpenibu Town, Dowee Town, Tokpalon Town, Gbeno Town, Juhag Town, Kaiyeah Town, Gbajah Town, Beabah Town, Nyehn town and Bona Fahn etc.

During our preliminary investigation conducted in the above communities, we interviewed 23 parents whom children have been allegedly victims of trafficking and established that Thirty Four (34) were allegedly abducted, smuggled and trafficked from them and was subsequently adopted without their informed consent by the West African Children Support Network(WACSN). Out of the total 34 children, there were 12 boys and 22 girls believed to be trafficked in the US or the rest of World.

The Parents/Guardians are appealing through us to the government and its development partners including Civil Society Organisations to help in the reunification of children with their families. They believe that the arrangement had not been in their best interest including their children. According to the parents/guardians, more needs to be done with the involvement of the government and the Adoption Agency.

DCI-Liberia however established that the entire adoption processes lacked transparency and had a trace of fraud and deception, as it relates to inter-country adoption.

 The Biological Parents are yet to establish the exact location of their children.

This gives DCI-Liberia the belief that they were trafficked out of Liberia. From our experience received from previous trafficking cases, we strongly believe that the perpetrators either deceived the Probate Court or the children were illegally adopted.

DCI-Liberia  is aware that Liberia is ranked as Tier 2 watch list country by the recent State Department Watch list on  Trafficking In Person ( TIP), and could be further downgraded to the bottom of  Tier 3 if adequate preventive and legal measures are not keenly taken into consideration by the Government of Liberia. This could lead to sanctions, if concrete actions are not taken by Government to demonstrate further seriousness in the campaign against TIP.

At international level, Liberia is also party to the main international instrument relating to children’s rights, namely the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC).

 Article 35 emphasizes the obligation of member states to protect children from child trafficking and similar practices and urges States parties to take all appropriate ‘national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent the abduction of, the sale of or trafficking of children for any purpose or in any form.’

In 2013, the Expert committee of the UNCRC recommended that, in all cases of adoption, the State party must ensure that the best interests of the child are of paramount consideration, and that the parents or legal guardians have given their informed consent for the adoption.

According to the Liberian Law, Consent can be withdrawn if:

Consent induced by fraud

  1. Parents were not properly educated, could not read and understand the documents presented to them.
  2. Consent gained through money payments
  3. If withdrawal is in child’s best interests.

 

Owing to the facts that Liberia has been placed on Tier 2 watch list in which DCI-Liberia is fully knowledgeable, we wish to recommend to the Government of Liberia through the Ministries of Justice and Labour the following:

  • That the Government of Liberia seek mutual legal assistance from Governments where these children are believed to be
  • That the Government of Liberia investigate at the level of the Probate Court to ascertain whether or not the biological parents of these children gave consent prior to adoption
  • That the Government of Liberia conducts an independent investigation at the level of the Probate Court to ascertain whether or not these children were adopted with their known names.
  • That the State party takes urgent measures to abolish informal adoptions and expedite the enactment of the Adoption Bill, as well as ratify the 1993 Hague Convention No. 33 on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption.
  • That there should be Proper implementation or enforcement of the Anti-Trafficking law.
  • That there shall be sustained awareness and sensitisation among Community dwellers, local stakeholders on child trafficking & child protection.
  • That there should be improved collaboration between joint security forces and the community dwellers at border points.

I wish to inform the Press and the Public that these Children’s detail information, Photographs as well as Video footage of their parents complaining and explaining their ordeals will be forwarded to the relevant Government Authorities for onward investigations.