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Haiti: Americans accused of child trafficking could be tried in US

Prime Minister Max Bellerive said Monday that Haiti is open to having the American Baptist group tried in US courts for child trafficking. Haiti's judicial system has been left in tatters by the Jan. 12 earthquake.

By Matthew ClarkStaff writer / February 1, 2010

Women, who are US citizens arrested for their involvement in a suspected illegal adoption scheme, talk to a journalist at a holding cell at the judicial police station in Port-au-Prince, Monday.

St-Felix Evens / Reuters

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Ten Americans from the New Life Children's Refuge – a Baptist charity in Idaho – waited all day Monday for word as to whether they would face charges of child trafficking in Haiti.

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The group was arrested Saturday after trying to take 33 Haitian children across the border with the Dominican Republic without paperwork. (For more on this, click here.)

As the members of New Life's "Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission" awaited their fate, however, many logistical questions began to emerge, such as: How can they be tried in Haiti when the Jan. 12 earthquake left the country's judicial system in tatters? And why should this matter distract the Haitian government from the enormous task of providing safety, food, and sanitation for the more than 1 million people left homeless by the quake?

For those reasons, Haitian officials, including Prime Minister Max Bellerive, said Haiti is open to having the group tried in US courts.

But Mr. Bellerive - who on Monday called the group "kidnappers" – said some legal system needs to determine whether the Americans were acting in good faith.

“It is clear now that they were trying to cross the border without papers. It is clear now that some of the children have live parents,” he told the Associated Press.
“And it is clear now that they knew what they were doing was wrong.”

The group's leader, Laura Silsby, earlier conceded that they had not obtained the proper Haitian documents, but said that they “just trying to do the right thing.”

--- For all stories and blogs on Haiti, visit the Monitor's Haiti page.

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