In Sierra Leone, Investigation on ‘Missing Children’ Begins
By Aruna Turay
The Commission of Inquiry, which was set up to investigate the children adoption brouhaha of a non-governmental organisation called Help A Needy Child International (HANCI), has commenced sittings at the Miatta Conference Hall in Freetown on Tuesday 1st March February 2011.
The Justice Eliza Ade Showers Commission of Inquiry was set up by the Government of Sierra Leone following allegations that HANCI has failed to accordingly update parents on the status of children adopted by the organisation.
Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry, Justice Eliza Ade Showers, iterated that the Commission was finding answers to questions of alleged mass adoption of children by HANCI. Most of the said children were taken to the United States of America (USA), the Chairperson said.
HANCI, she continued, is a non-governmental organization established in Sierra Leone for the purposes of offering free education, food, shelter and clothing *to vulnerable children.
She explained that during the height of the civil war in the country, HANCI adopted a good number of children registered with them and later took them to the USA through an American based adoption agency called Main Adoption Basement Service (MABS).
After giving a background of the issue under review, Justice Showers went on to explain the terms of reference of the Commission, which, according to her, include thorough investigation to ascertain whether the parents of the adopted children had full knowledge of the adoption process.
The Commission, she continued, is also tasked with ascertaining whether or not the adoption process met international standards.
The transparency aspect of the process would also be looked into, the Chairperson said; adding that to determine whether or not the process was done in accordance with the laws of Sierra Leone is part of the Commission’s assignment.
According to her, the Commission will also evaluate whether or not standards of the Convention on Inter-Country Adoption were met.
The Commission will at the end of the day forward recommendations to the government for ratification and actions.
According to Justice Ade Showers, under the provisions of the Commission of Inquiry Act, Cap 64 of the laws of Sierra Leone, “any person whose conduct is the subject of enquiry or who is anyway duplicated or conspired in the matter under enquiry, is entitled to be represented by a lawyer at the hold of the enquiry.”
She urged all those who may be called upon by the Commission to testify at the hearings to comply, while imploring the affected parties to exercise restraint and fully cooperate with the Commission.
Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Dr. Denis Sandy, called on the relatives and parents of the children adopted to have one hundred percent trust that the Commission will provide the answers they require.
He called on them to fully support the Commission so as to put a final end to the long standing brouhaha.
The Commission of Inquiry is presided by Justice Eliza Ade Showers, Mr. Albert Kanu and Mr. Mustapha Rogers. The Commission sits three times a week, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.