The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is appealing to the Government to protect the interests of a 15-month-old boy – the son of a Venezuelan woman.
The baby is in TT custody. He has been in a safe house for more than a year under the care of the Children's Authority, while two court cases related to custody continue between the mother and the alleged adoptive parents.
For more than a year, the mother has not had any contact with her child.
The Children's Court is due to rule on custody in January 2020, after the case has been postponed repeatedly.
The identities of the child and the mother cannot be revealed for legal reasons. It is being heard privately in the magistrates' court.
For this reason, the IACHR decided to grant precautionary measures in favour of the child, "considering that he is at serious risk after being separated from his mother – a victim of trafficking in persons in TT," according to resolution 59/2019, issued on December 9. The IACHR's resolution is not legally binding on the courts of TT.
The IACHR urged the government to take all necessary measures to protect the interests of the infant. It said, “Family separation must be temporary in any case, since each state must take measures to guarantee family reunification, as well as the possibility of establishing a visitation regime to maintain family ties with their mother.”
The Washington-based IACHR asked the government to preserve the family relationship and ensure the well-being of the child. The resolution said the Children's Authority had recommended that the mother should have access to the child, but this has not happened.
It also said the IACHR asked for information from TT on October 29, but did not get a response.
Simón Gómez, a Venezuelan lawyer in charge of taking the case to the IACHR, explained to Newsday by phone that this precautionary measure is a mechanism for the protection of fundamental human rights.
“The lack of contact of the child with his mother is a risk to his physical and psychological integrity,” said the lawyer.
According to reports, the mother, who gave birth in September 2018, allegedly sold her baby for US$20,000 to a Trinidadian couple.
The woman went back to Venezuela after collecting the cash, but then contacted the TT Embassy there to say she had been tricked into abandoning her baby and wanted to meet him.
She returned to TT and gave information to the anti-trafficking and child protection units and the couple was put under surveillance.
After weeks of investigation, on November 7, 2018, officers from the Anti-Trafficking Unit took the baby to the Children's Authority.
On December 18, 2018, the adoptive couple, two lawyers and another woman involved in the case were arrested.
The five were charged under the Child Adoption Act, 2000 Section 9: 2. This section states: "For the purposes of this act, a person who participates in the organisation of an adoption or in the management or control of a child body of persons other than the Board (of the Children's Authority) that exists totally or partially for the purpose of making arrangements for the adoption of children is responsible for a summary sentence to a fine of $ 10,000 or imprisonment for two years."
With the cases ongoing for almost a year, the human rights organisation Defiende Venezuela asked the IACHR to help the mother.
With reporting by Azard Ali