Ombudsman: Zambia case raises many human rights, discrimination issues

NEWS 11.02.202312:36
Emica Elvedji/PIXSELL

Public reaction to the case of eight Croatians charged in Zambia with child trafficking has raised many human rights and discrimination issues, the human rights ombudsman said on Friday, adding that problems in the adoption procedure cannot be automatically considered human trafficking.

There is hate speech, racism and transphobia, and problems in the intercountry adoption procedure are being identified as human trafficking, although the difference between the two is big, ombudsman Tena Šimonović Einwalter said in a press release.

Such an atmosphere has a negative effect also on other citizens, notably when public figures contribute to it as their messages reach a larger number of people, she added.

Particularly worrisome is when citizens make an additional effort to point out to Zambia’s institutions, public and media that one of the Croatians is transgendered, thereby potentially bringing this person into danger, given that Zambia’s national institution for human rights also warns about the position of transgendered people in the country, said Šimonović Einwalter.

Besides information about the court proceedings concerning the eight Croatians in Zambia, their life circumstances have been made public for weeks now, and numerous comments on news websites and social media include racism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia, she said.

Such comments have a negative effect also on others living in Croatia, including children previously adopted via intercountry adoption and their adoptive parents, and can incite to their discrimination, she added.

That has been pointed out by parents who adopted children from Africa, who say that such messages cause them fear and insecurity, and they are also being stigmatised, which should be opposed, the ombudsman said, calling on citizens to refrain from comments which humiliate and incite stereotypes, discrimination, hate and violence.

The media have the duty to carry news in a way that acknowledges every person’s dignity as well as the obligation, under the Electronic Media Act, to take every measure to prevent the publication of content which incites to violence or hate, said Šimonović Einwalter.

In the case of the eight Croatians charged in Zambia, she said, the intercountry adoption procedure has proved to be lacking when a child’s country of origin is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

However, she said, citizens cannot be held accountable for the vagueness and shortcomings of procedures and regulations adopted by the state, including adoptive parents for procedures that were in force when they regulated the adoption.

The human rights ombudswoman is examining the actions of the relevant Croatian authorities in the case of the eight nationals and has written to Zambia’s independent Human Rights Commission, referring to its report on the situation in prisons, arbitrary arrests of and dangers to transgendered persons, and requesting assistance and protection of the Croatians’ human rights, the press release said.