The human rights group Licadho is expected to file an appeal today for custody of 11 babies and children at the center of a protracted legal dispute between the organization and an adoption agency that has been the target of trafficking investigations, the head of Licadho said.
The appeal comes three weeks after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court awarded permanent custody of the orphans to the Asian Orphans Association, where they have spent much of their lives. The human rights group will also appeal the court’s order to pay $1,282 in damages, said Licadho Director Naly Pilorge.
The case began Sept 3 when police, acting on a tip, raided the orphanage, located 30 km west of Phnom Penh, and arrested four people on charges of trafficking children.
The four were later released and all criminal charges dropped, leaving only the custody battle.
Police and rights workers said the raid was sparked by a woman’s complaint that she was tricked into giving her two children to the orphanage.
Licadho was awarded temporary custody of the 11 babies and children, but never removed them from the orphanage, as a separate custody bid was moving through the courts that eventually awarded permanent custody to AOA Director Puth Serey.
The case helped to start an investigation by the US government, among others, of trafficking for the purposes of adoption in Cambodia, leading to the US decision last December to suspend adoptions. US officials say adoptions are unlikely to resume until the Cambodian government passes a law bringing adoption practices in line with regulations set out by the Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoptions.
That legislation is not scheduled to come before the National Assembly until early next year.
Licadho will retain its usual lawyer for the appeal, Young Phanit, head of trafficking unit at the Cambodian Defender’s Project, Naly Pilorge said.