Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Members of French NGO charged with kidnapping

The Chadian government brought attempted kidnapping charges against six employees of a French NGO, three French journalists, seven members of the Spanish-based flight team and two Chadians who were allegedly involved in a plan to repatriate 103 orphans to France.

The French NGO, L’Arche de ZoĆ©, made news Thursday when they were detained in the city of Abeche in eastern Chad trying to fly the children to France. They claimed the children, mostly between three and four years old, were refugee orphans from the Darfur crisis.

This fact may be in dispute. According to the BBC: “[S]taff from the UN children's agency Unicef say many of the children, now being kept in an orphanage in Abeche, cry at night for their parents and say they are from villages in Chad.”

The nine French detainees will face charges of attempted child abduction, the BBC said. The seven Spaniards, members of the flight staff, will be charged as being accomplices. As will the two Chadians.

Reporters Without Borders called for the release of the three French journalists. The Paris-based journalist-rights group claimed the reporters were merely covering the event, not acting as accomplices.

The French government called the group’s actions illegal and unacceptable over the weekend. But one French opposition politician has begun closing rank around the NGO and claim the authorities in Chad are trying to exploit the case.

"I know some of these people who are working in Darfur, and they are very generous people, and probably they have made several mistakes - it's not easy to understand," said Jack Lang, a former Socialist minister told the BBC. "But now it appears that the Chadian government wants to create with France difficult relations."

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