Thursday, February 04, 2010

Clinton terms Haiti child smuggling case 'unfortunate'

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday it was "unfortunate" that American Christians are suspected of smuggling children out of quake-hit Haiti even if their intentions were good.

Haitian prosecutors are due to decide Thursday whether to charge the 10 Christians, who have been held by authorities there since they attempted to sneak a group of 33 children out of the country.

"Trafficking of human beings, particularly of children is a problem across the world," Clinton said after holding talks in Washington on Wednesday about the problem of trafficking in persons worldwide.

"The Haitian nation acted to protect children who were being removed from their country without appropriate documentation," the chief US diplomat said.

"It was unfortunate that, whatever the motivation, this group of Americans took matters into their own hands," Clinton said.

"We are engaged in a discussion with the Haitian government about the appropriate disposition of their cases. They've been granted consular access," she said.

"We've been working through the questions the Haitian government has and we're looking for the best way forward... We take this very seriously," she said.

The children were picked up last week by members of an Idaho-based Baptist group called New Life Children's Refuge who tried to take them across the border to the Dominican Republic where they planned to establish an orphanage.

Mazar Fortil, interim prosecutor for the main Port-au-Prince court, told AFP on Monday that the group, which is yet to be formally charged, could be tried for kidnapping, child trafficking and a lesser charge of criminal conspiracy.

The case came to light as authorities in Port-au-Prince expressed concern that some Haitian children may have fallen prey to human traffickers or been misidentified as orphans in the chaos following the January 12 earthquake that leveled the city.

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