EP Resolution: On the illegal trafficking of babies coming from Guatemala

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Subject: EP Resolution: On the illegal trafficking of babies coming from Guatemala
From: Jyothi Kanics (jkanics@igc.org)
Date: Thu Jun 03 1999 - 10:13:42 EDT


http://www.covenanthouse.org/who/who_pre/who_pre_parliament.htm
January 1999
Full text of EP Resolution at end of email.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT COMES DOWN HARD ON
GUATEMALA OVER THE ILLEGAL TRAFFICKING OF
BABIES.

                           .....The resolution, voted upon last Friday,
paints a
                           damning picture of the international adoption
process in
                           Guatemala, stating that "in Guatemala over 2,000
                           international adoptions were carried out by a small
                           group of lawyers at an average cost of US$ 15,000-
                           20,000," in 1997 alone. In total the parliament
                           approved eight recommendations which acknowledged
                           the importance of legal international adoptions,
but
                           which criticized the State of Guatemala for
failing to
                           ratify the Hague Convention on Inter-Country
                           Adoption; failing to strengthen its
international adoption
                           laws and failing to put into effect the Juvenile
and
                           Adolescent Code which Guatemala must do in order to
                           meet its obligations under the UN Convention on the
                           Rights of the Child of which it is a signatory.

                           ....."Now the 15 countries that form the European
                           Union, Guatemala's second largest trading partner,
                           have unanimously stated their concern over
continuing
                           illegal adoptions in Guatemala. I hope that with
this
                           clear signal of anxiety, the Guatemalan Congress
will
                           finally assume its responsibility of passing a
strong
                           adoptions law and also the Juvenile Code. To do
                           anything less is to dangerously ignore the fact
that the
                           world is watching what is happening," commented
                           Bruce Harris Regional Director of Casa Alianza. The
                           agency, which has its regional headquarters in San
                           Jose, Costa Rica, along with its sister
organization -
                           New York based Covenant House - is the largest
                           provider of care to homeless and abandoned children
                           in the Americas.

                           .....In addition, amongst other recommendations,
the
                           European Parliament "calls on the Guatemalan
                           government and Member States to prosecute those
                           involved in the illegal trafficking of babies
and children,"
                           and requests the State of Guatemala "guarantee the
                           safety of those people" working to stop the illegal
                           trafficking of babies who are "subject to
threats and
                           intimidation."

                           .....In Guatemala the number of international
adoptions
                           have almost doubled in the last 12 months, a
situation
                           which the European Parliament states could become
                           worse given recent political and natural events.
                           "Whereas in the last few years, due to the internal
                           conflict and the recent disaster caused by
hurricane
                           Mitch, the number of orphaned and abandoned minors
                           and of people willing to give their children up for
                           adoption for economic reasons has increased,"
states
                           the resolution. The European Parliament
highlighted this
                           growth by contrasting it with Guatemala's poor
legal
                           infrastructure and ability to combat the
problem, "the
                           current Guatemalan penal code does not typify the
                           trafficking of children as a crime and ..the
theft of
                           children merely carries a one year suspended
sentence"
                           it added.

                           .....The Parliament also drew attention to the
                           defamation case against British born Bruce
Harris and
                           in a rare move named him in person and called on
the
                           European Commission and Member states to
                           investigate his case. Harris was accused of
defamation
                           by lawyer Susana Maria Luarca Saracho de Umaħa,
                           whose husband Ricardo Umaħa is a magistrate and
                           former president of the Guatemalan Supreme Court,
                           after he and the Attorney General alleged Mrs.
Umaħa
                           had been involved in the trafficking of
influence within
                           the country's international adoption process. Casa
                           Alianza and the Attorney General's office
presented 15
                                             criminal accusations against
                                             Guatemalan lawyers for
                                             illegalities in the international
                                             adoptions they have handled
                                             The British Minister of State
                                             for Latin America Mr. Tony
                                             Lloyd MP also spoke out
                                             recently over the case of
                                             Bruce Harris stating that the
                                             British government "continues
                                             to express concern over
                                             Harris' personal safety" and
                                             that the court case against him,
                                             "conforms to the human rights
                                             standards to which Guatemala
                                             is committed under its
                           domestic law and its international obligations."

                           .....Defamation in Guatemala is a criminal
offence rather
                           than a civil offence as in international law,
and 'truth' is
                           no defense in the eyes of Guatemalan law, again in
                           contrast to international law. Harris faces a 5
year jail
                           term if convicted.

                           .....For more information please contact Casa
Alianza
                           on at 506 253 5439 or media@casa-alianza.org. For
                           more background information on the illegal
trafficking
                           of babies within Guatemala and the defamation case
                           against Bruce Harris please visit our Web page at
                        
   http://www.casa-alianza.org/EN/human-rights/illegal

                           EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
                           FULL TEXT

                           European Parliament
                           13th January 1999

                           On the illegal trafficking of babies coming from
                           Guatemala

                           - having regard to the Universal Declaration of
Human
                           Rights,

                           - having regard to the United Nations Convention on
                           the Rights of the Child of 20 November 1989,

                           - having regard to the Hague Convention on
Protection
                           of Children and Co-operation in Respect of
                           Inter-Country Adoption of 29 May 1993,

                           - having regard to its resolution of 12 December
1996
                           on improving the law and co-operation between
                           Member States on the adoption of minors (OJ
                           C.20,20.1.1997, p176)

                           A. Whereas international adoptions when carried out
                           with proper procedures and guaranties for the
baby or
                           child often offers him/her an opportunity for
better
                           living conditions and whereas international
adoption is
                           also an important form of international
co-operation;

                           B. Whereas it is a matter of priority not to
penalize
                           international adoption as such but to provide this
                           process with transparent and balanced rules;

                           C. Whereas the UN Convention on the Rights of the
                           Child only recognizes inter-country adoption as an
                           alternative if the child can not be cared for in
a suitable
                           manner in his home country and that the Convention
                           states that all parties should take all appropriate
                           measures to ensure that inter-country adoption does
                           not result in improper financial gain;

                           D. Whereas in the last few years, due to the
internal
                           conflict and the recent disaster caused by
hurricane
                           Mitch, the number of orphaned and abandoned minors
                           and of people willing to give their children up for
                           adoption for economic reasons has increased;

                           E. Whereas in 1997 in Guatemala over 2,000
                           international adoptions were carried out by a small
                           group of lawyers at an average cost of US$
                           15,000-20,000;

                           F. Whereas international adoptions in Guatemala
have
                           almost doubled in the last 12 months;

                           G. Concerned by reports that illegal methods of
                           adoption are still common practice in Guatemala;

                           H. Whereas the current Guatemalan penal code does
                           not typify the trafficking of children as a
crime and
                           whereas the theft of children merely carries a
one year
                           suspended sentence;

                           I. Whereas Children's rights NGO's and those
working
                           on the item of illegal adoption of babies in
Guatemala
                           have been subject to acts of threats and
intimidation;

                           1. Recognizes the important role played by legal
                           international adoptions;

                           2. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to
                           bring sustained pressure to bear on the Guatemalan
                           government to promote national adoptions, to
ratify the
                           Hague Convention on Inter- Country Adoption, to
                           strengthen its international adoption laws and
to put
                           into effect the Juvenile and Adolescent Code
which will
                           reflect the Guatemalan obligations under the UN
                           Convention of the Rights of the Child;

                           3. Calls on the Guatemalan government and the
                           Member States to prosecute those involved in the
                           illegal trafficking of babies and children;

                           4. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to
                           provide financial assistance to the programs of the
                           Guatemalan Attorney General's Office aimed at
                           ensuring that the adoption procedures comply
with all
                           the national and international legal provisions;

                           5. Calls on the Member States to ensure that only
                           public bodies or organizations accredited by the
state
                           which are non-profit making are permitted to act as
                           intermediaries in adoption procedures;

                           6. Is seriously worried by the fact that those
working to
                           prevent the illegal trafficking of children a
subject to
                           threats and intimidation and calls on the
Guatemalan
                           government to guarantee the safety of those
people;

                           7. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to
                           especially investigate the case of the Latin
American
                           programs for Covenant House (Casa Alianza), British
                           born Bruce Harris, who has had charges of
defamation
                           placed against him after speaking out on the
                           international adoption process in Guatemala;

                           8. Instructs its President to forward this
resolution to
                           the European Commission, the EU Member States, the
                           government and congress of Guatemala, the United
                           Nations and UNICEF.

                          


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