memorandum, by Ms Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold
Further to the various allegations
about traffic in newborn children, I made fact-finding visits to
Ukraine (29 August-1 September 2005) and Moldova (5-7 February 2007).
1 The situation in Ukraine
1. The question was whether Ukrainian
maternity clinics, in particular the one at hospital No. 6, Kharkov, were
involved in trafficking newborn children for illegal adoption.
2. In that connection I met four mothers who assured me that
they had given birth to babies who were in perfect health but had
been taken away from them immediately. They of course never saw
them again and were told that they had died shortly after birth.
None of the mothers was allowed to see the body, which, according
to the hospital authorities, had been buried by the hospital staff.
3. In one of the cases the chief medical officer had certified
that the child weighed only 870 grams. The mother is sure that it
weighed at least two kilos. Her general practitioner also told me
that her pregnancy had been normal and provided the results of prenatal
examinations as evidence.
4. The chief medical officer of the maternity clinic maintained
the opposite but was unable to answer the parliamentary delegation’s
questions. The same goes for the midwives.
5. Another mother informed the delegation that she had been shown
the body of a newborn baby that had been made out to be her own
but was actually much older than the one she had supposedly lost.
6. During my visit to Kyiv, I also heard testimony from a mother
who had given birth at hospital No. 5 in Kyiv. When attending the
hospital for a check-up she had been informed that the baby’s condition
was satisfactory. After forty-three weeks’ pregnancy she was admitted
to the hospital and told that she was too old and that there was
a risk of the child having problems. The doctor had even threatened
her, after which she had asked to be put on the table to have her
waters broken. A Caesarean section was performed and when she woke
up she was told that she had had a baby boy weighing 3.6 kg and
measuring 53 cm.
7. The medical staff installed her in a corridor and they did
not reply when she asked to see her baby.
8. After four days she was given a room and it was the young
ward assistant who told her that her baby had died two hours after
birth. She instinctively kept the baby’s identity tag and hid it
in her pillow. Her husband, who was not informed until the following
day, came to the hospital to see the body. He was refused permission on
the pretext that the sight would be too upsetting.
9. After she had been in hospital for seven days the management
asked them to sign a blank sheet of paper, which they refused to
do. Her husband went to the mortuary several times but on each occasion
they refused to hand over the baby’s body. There was also no record
of an autopsy.
10. They came to the conclusion that the child was possibly still
alive and had been exchanged at birth, as there was a discrepancy
in the medical records. The record they were given on leaving the
hospital stated that the baby’s head measured 35 cm and showed signs
of microcephaly whereas there had been no reference to this on the
11. They contacted the public prosecutor and then the Ministry
of Health, but without result.
12. The young mother consequently decided to take gynaecology
classes and worked in a hospital. Five years later she had a second
pregnancy and attended hospital No. 6, where the analyses produced
perfectly normal results. She gave birth by Caesarean on 29 December
1996 and on the fourth day was informed that the baby had died and
that she was not allowed to see it. When she left the hospital ten
days later she was given the body of a six-month old male baby whereas
she had given birth to a girl.
13. She has since filed several complaints and in 2005 the Kyiv
prosecutor’s office informed her that it had decided to exhume the
body in order to carry out DNA analyses.
14. She is personally convinced that her baby is alive and was
adopted by a relative of the hospital doctor.
15. In other conversations the parliamentary delegation heard
the same basic story. The mother had given birth and barely been
allowed a glimpse of her child, the hospital had refused to let
the family see it, and then the mother had been told the baby had
died. Because Ukrainians hold doctors in awe the parents, despite misgivings,
had given in and signed the papers authorising burial of their supposedly
16. In one of the most recent cases, in 2003, a young mother had
one of her twins taken from her. The baby boy was stated to be malformed
but the mother’s regular doctor was able to prove from ultrasound
scans that the twins had been viable and in good health.
Reaction and replies from the
17. When we talked to the mediator,
Ms Karpachova, she said that since 1994 Ukraine had been faced with a
problem of child trafficking covered up as international adoption.
There had been investigations and a number of officials had been
18. During our conversation the mediator suggested that the delegation
meet a mother whose daughter had given birth normally to twin girls
after a pregnancy of seven months. On the third day she saw only
one of the twins and was refused access to the nursery. A nurse
told her that one of the twins had died. She was not allowed to
see it and was not given it for burial. She also noticed that the
autopsy report gave the wrong date of birth. She complained to the
prosecutor’s office and had blood tests carried out, whose results
the prosecutor refused to register. She then turned to the Ministry
of Health, which refused to see her, and then to the chief prosecutor.
There was no judicial inquiry and the hospital staff consistently
backed up the hospital’s account.
19. The Ukrainian authorities pointed out that the matters in
question occurred in 2002, and that at that time parents were legally
prohibited from seeing their dead babies. Since then the law has
been changed to allow the mother to see her baby and the father
to be present at the birth.
20. The Ukrainian authorities also pointed out the steadily rising
numbers of mothers opting not to keep their babies or having babies
in order to sell them.
21. They likewise informed the parliamentary delegation that since
2003 proceedings had been instituted for illegal adoption in several
cases in Ukraine and that the prosecutor’s office was conducting
enquiries in search of fresh evidence.
22. In the period from 1996 to 2004, 26 000 children had been
adopted in Ukraine and 13 000 abroad. Each case was examined by
the courts and the prosecutor’s office, but despite the rules there
were still too many illegal adoptions.
23. With specific regard to the disappearances of newborn children,
the Ukrainian authorities have set up an investigating committee
and have found cases where doctors committed irregularities in connection
with deliveries. An enquiry was instituted and Identikit pictures
24. Following the visit the parliamentary delegation was informed
that the Ukrainian justice authorities had announced the exhumation
of several newborn babies at Kharkov hospital. DNA tests are to
be carried out.
25. According to some NGOs the disappearances are not an isolated
instance and there have been similar occurrences in Moldova, Bulgaria,
Romania and many other countries.
Adoption and foster families
issues in Ukraine
26. The issue, which raises a lot
of disputes in Ukraine, is the necessity to ratify The Hague Convention
on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry
Adoption of 29 May 1993, which provides for inter-state co-operation
in adoption proceedings. This issue had been put to vote four times
at the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian
Parliament). However, the convention is still not ratified by Ukraine.
The “sticking point” is the possibility for “accredited bodies”
to deal with the adoption proceedings, provided for by the convention (Chapter
27. Opponents of the convention refer to Article 216 of the Family
Code of Ukraine which prohibits mediation and commercial activities
with regard to the adoption of children. However, it is obvious
that in any case a kind of “mediation” is necessary for international
adoption, as it is hard to imagine any foreign couple that comes
to Ukraine in order to adopt a child, neither speaking Ukrainian
nor knowing the domestic legal procedure, being capable of solving
all the legal issues on their own. In addition, staff at the adoption
department do not speak foreign languages either. So, mediators
have always existed, they are well-known both by the staff of the department
and by the couples. The convention will legalise their work and
therefore will control their possible abuses. Furthermore, Article
32 of the convention prevents improper gain, which is widespread
28. Ratification of the convention will make the work of the adoption
department and mediators transparent and controlled; will simplify
access to information on children available for adoption and couples
ready to adopt a child; will allow monitoring of the fate of adopted
children abroad; and, consequently, diminish the risk of trafficking.
29. Another common argument against the convention is its alleged
prohibition on national adoption. However, according to the preamble
to the convention, it recalls that each state should take, as a
matter of priority, appropriate measures to enable the child to
remain in the care of his or her family of origin; and recognises
that inter-country adoption may offer the advantage of a permanent
family to a child for whom a suitable family cannot be found in
his or her state of origin.
30. Existing procedures of international adoption and their lack
of transparency leave room for a variety of corruption schemes.
On 5 February 2007, the Ministry of Family, Youth and Sport of Ukraine
adopted Decree No. 313 on order and conditions of acceptance of
documents from foreigners who wish to adopt a child, which provides
for very restricted rules on the acceptance of documents. For instance,
the period of validity of the documents submitted by the potential
adoptive parents is only one year. At the same time, it takes at
least several months’ wait for the date of an interview. Furthermore,
during a visit, potential adoptive parents can meet only two children,
and in the case they do not establish contact with either of them,
the next visit is possible only after six months. Obviously, such
strict rules make a fertile ground for well-paid shadow mediators.
31. Many specialists are concerned that the “foster families”
project in Ukraine has become a substitute for real adoption The
state does not pay anything to a couple that adopts a child, whereas
foster families receive essential financial support. Therefore,
in foster families with several children, the latter maintain such
a family, not the parents. Such ill-considered policy has led to
the situation where Ukrainian couples prefer to take a child as
a foster family instead of adopting him or her. However, children
living in foster care officially remain “orphans”, and their future
in such families is unclear – at any time they can be returned by
their foster parents. The worst thing is that such a project is
very favourable for those who do not strive to create a real family
for abandoned children, but who seek their own benefits. In the
“best” case scenario, we can speak only about the improvement in
the financial situation as in the case of a foster family that took
in nine children and bought a house on credit. Will the children
remain in this family when the credit is called in? On the other
hand, it is hard to imagine what could be the “worst” case, taking
into consideration that the foster parents’ consent is enough to
take a child abroad, and they need not ask for permission from the
relevant authorities. The same consent is necessary if someone wants
to adopt a child living in foster care. However, if foster parents
only took the child for financial reasons they will never agree
to part with their “golden goose”. Many abuses have already been
detected by the prosecutor’s office: 60 criminal cases were opened
with respect to foster families in 2007 alone, and about 800 legal
acts were quashed. In practice it is important that psychologists
work both with potential adoptive parents and foster parents.
32. In addition, it is necessary to mention that the state’s financial
encouragement for having children (8 500 hryvna – around €1 400),
apart from its real purpose – to increase the birth rate – has also
become a “titbit” for alcoholics and drug addicts. Therefore the
number of abandoned children has dramatically increased from 5 900
in 2003 to 9 300 in 2007.
2 The situation in Moldova
Cases of child trafficking
33. In the various meetings held
by Mrs Vermot-Mangold she pointed out that her visit was following
up information that organised selling of babies had been found as
well as newspaper advertisements inviting unmarried mothers to sell
their babies for around €3 000.
34. In 2006, 61 cases of child trafficking were prosecuted and
five cases were found of illegally taking children out of the country.
35. In 2006 Moldova had five cases of organ trafficking, organised
by a group whose leaders were arrested and imprisoned.
36. In our various talks it was stated that at present there was
no information about pressure being applied in maternity clinics.
In Chişinău there was co-operation between the maternity clinic
and the state services.
37. It was pointed out, however, that in 2007 12 000 children
had been abandoned and placed in institutions where conditions hindered
children’s mental development. Such children were found to have
great difficulty integrating into society.
38. In Moldova, according to staff of La Strada, illegal adoption
exists mainly among victims of prostitution. The women concerned
avoid giving birth in hospital and go abroad. Young women who abandon
their children are generally involved in networks whose ringleaders
allow the mothers no parental rights.
39. It is worth pointing out that in Moldova a mother is allowed
to arrange a temporary placement for her child for up to six months.
The position of the Moldovan
40. In a conversation we had with
the Speaker of the Moldovan Parliament he stressed that there was genuine
co-operation between civil society and international organisations
to combat abandonment and trafficking of children.
41. He made the particular point that Moldova was very vulnerable
to child trafficking because of the low standard of living. In addition,
Moldova was losing population to growing emigration. In that context
two laws had been passed: one on the prevention of trafficking,
and the other on combating trafficking. Moldova had been the first
country to ratify the Convention on Action against Trafficking in
Human Beings. The Moldovan Criminal Code contained penalties for
42. With particular regard to child trafficking, at the end of
2004, Moldova had set up a national adoption committee, the adoption
rules being based on the Family Code and on The Hague convention
on intercountry adoption. A special ministry for child and family
welfare had been established in 2006.
43. At present a child placement costs around €80 a month and
a single mother receives US$15 per month. In addition she receives
between US$3 and US$4 a month for a child aged 18 months to 18 years.
The average income, he pointed out, came to US$130 per month.
44. A mother receives US$80 when the baby is born and a single
mother receives care free of charge under an insurance scheme.
45. The most sensitive problems arise mainly from vulnerable groups,
essentially the Gypsies and Roma.
46. Various representatives of child welfare NGOs said that Moldova
has made great progress in combating child trafficking and abandonment.
47. Unfortunately, many children were still not registered at
birth because of mothers not completing the necessary formalities.
That was why children born in Moldova were found begging in the
48. It was necessary for the Moldovan authorities to take the
necessary measures to ensure that adoption agencies were officially
registered and strictly supervised.
49. The national adoption committee held regular meetings in the
districts to explain the trafficking-prevention arrangements to
mayors and school pupils.
50. The rapporteur stresses that the easy sale of babies in Moldova
is due to the fact that there is no law to punish the perpetrators
of such trafficking. In addition, given that parents are not obliged
to have a child’s birth recorded or declare it to the registry office,
it is very easy to take children across the borders, especially
as the attitude of the police is found to be very permissive.
3 The situation in other Council
of Europe member states
51. In the early 1990s Romania
was almost synonymous with international adoptions: thousands of
children left the country to be adopted in western Europe and North
America, sometimes in dubious circumstances. At around the same
time, Romanian children begging in the streets began to appear in
European Union countries, mainly Italy, Spain and France.
52. Before 1989, international adoption was uncommon in Romania
and needed the approval of the president.
53. Against that background, a law was passed in 1990 relaxing
the requirements for international adoption and large numbers of
people went to Romania in search of children to adopt. Traffic in
children began to appear after 1990. A large number of children
have left the country to be adopted abroad.
54. It was not until June 2001 that the Romanian Government suspended
international adoptions, and since 2004 international adoption has
no longer been possible other than in exceptional cases. Indeed,
under the terms of the law enacted in 2004, international adoption
of a child resident in Romania is possible only if the adopter or
one spouse of the adopting family, resident abroad, is the grandparent
of the child in respect of whom a national adoption procedure has
been instituted. In this way, according to national statistics,
10 938 international adoptions were authorised between 1997 and
2007. At present, Romania applies the legal arrangements applicable
to international adoptions, which are founded on Article 21.b of the United Nations Convention
on the Rights of the Child.
55. The Romanian Government’s efforts are thus concentrated principally
on keeping the child in its family and, where that is not possible,
on finding family care alternatives in the state of origin. To achieve
this, services to prevent children from being separated from their
families, mothers’ centres, services in support of the birth family
and services for the protection of children temporarily or permanently
separated from their parents, have been developed. In addition,
a network of professional mother’s helpers and of childcare services
on a family model has been set up.
56. Where Bulgaria is concerned,
the rapporteur wishes to recall the court case in 2006 implicating
a family of Gypsy origin who had purchased babies from young Bulgarian
women. This traffic was discovered by criminal investigators in
the Paris region as a result of an investigation of trafficking
57. The young Bulgarian women had become pregnant after coming
to France to engage in prostitution. Not wishing to have abortions,
they decided to sell their babies. Families of Gypsy origin were
interested. In this instance, the people implicated were not criminals
but, owing to their foreign origin, could not avail themselves of
the French social services to adopt a child. The baby girls had
been sold for €5 000, the baby boys for €6 000. The biological mothers
had received between €400 and €2 000 each. This case nevertheless
had a positive impact in Bulgaria as a law was recently promulgated,
clarifying the criteria to be fulfilled for adopting a child.
58. It should nevertheless be pointed out that heads of this type
of network usually locate young pregnant women from poor families
in Moldova or other reputedly “poor” countries, and bring them to
59. The mothers-to-be go to hospital to give birth as last-minute
emergencies, either under the name of the “adoptive” mother or under
their own names, and the buyer declares the baby as his own at the
local town hall.
4 The special situation of
60. The rapporteur would like to
take this opportunity to alert the international community to the
very special situation of children born as a result of rape, child
victims of natural disasters, and “street children”.
61. Except where they are victims of natural disasters, most of
the children, whether born as a result of rape or living in the
street, have been either abandoned in institutions, or sold by their
parents, or have fallen prey to rings that force them into begging
on the streets or even prostitution.
With more specific reference to the case of children who are
victims of natural disasters, the rapporteur would recall the recommendations
made in Assembly Resolution
, in which the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee
considered that children made orphans as a result of a natural disaster
should receive stronger protection and that child sponsorships should
be encouraged and established in order to spare them other traumas,
in accordance with the terms of Recommendation 1443 (2000)
, where it was pointed out that international adoption
should constitute the last option of all.
63. The rapporteur also wishes to draw the attention of the public
authorities to the very special situation of children living in
the street who, in most cases, are compelled to beg or resort to
prostitution, although this state of affairs is not at all directly
related to the adoption issue. She nevertheless wishes to mention
it so that the member states take all necessary steps to ensure
that these children are speedily taken in by day or night aid centres
or placed with host families, according to the principles set out
in Recommendation No. R (87) 6 of the Committee of Ministers to
member states on foster families.
64. Lastly, she wants the member states to take the same attitude
to children born as a result of rape and children born in circumstances
such that they are very often abandoned or sold and exploited by
In the light of the foregoing,
the Assembly wishes the Committee of Ministers to request that governments
of member states:
- sign and
ratify the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized
Crime and its accompanying Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish
Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, as well as
the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography;
- revise the European Convention on the Adoption of Children
bearing in mind the child’s interests and rights in order to achieve
harmonisation in this field and more flexibility in the rules on
- strengthen their co-operation by all available means in
combating trafficking in children and eradicating organised criminal
or illicit networks, and irrevocably condemn the abuses committed
in the field of international adoption;
- take the necessary measures for setting up bilateral agreements
on international adoption;
- satisfy themselves as to the adoptive capacity of candidates
for international adoption, provide them with suitable compulsory
training, and ensure support especially of a psychological nature
for adopted foreign children and a monitoring system of regular
- lay down strict rules on the setting up of specialist
child adoption agencies;
- take the necessary measures to ensure that adopted children
are entitled to know about their origin not later than on reaching
the age of majority;
- take whatever measures are necessary to prohibit street
begging of any kind by children;
- set up family planning services available to all;
- establish day and night aid centres.
The Assembly specifically asks the Ukrainian authorities to:
- reopen the files concerning
disappearances of newborn children;
- investigate with the assistance of neutral western specialists
the question of the disappearances of newborn children.
The Assembly asks that all states not yet having done so:
- take all steps to make it compulsory
for births to be declared at the registry office;
- in all cases allow the father and/or close family to be
present at the baby’s delivery;
- provide for the mother’s right to withdraw her consent
to adoption, within a reasonable time, while safeguarding the child’s
68. In the light of the foregoing, the Assembly also wishes to
reconsider this question in the near future in order to carry out
an evaluation of the changes made.
Reporting committee: Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee.
Reference to committee: Doc. 11100 and Reference No. 3301 of 22 January 2007.
Draft recommendation adopted by the committee on 8 November
Members of the committee: Mrs Lajla Pernaska (Chair),
Mrs Christine McCafferty (1st
Vice-Chair), Mr Cezar Florin Preda (2nd Vice-Chair), Mr Michael Hancock (3rd Vice-Chair), Mr Farkhad
Akhmedov, Mr Vicenç Alay Ferrer, Mrs Sirpa Asko-Seljavaara, Mr Jorodd
Asphjell, Mr Zigmantas Balčytis, Mr Miguel Barceló Pérez, Mr Andris
Bērzinš, Mr Jaime Blanco García, Mr Roland Blum,
Mrs Raisa Bohatyryova, Mrs Monika Brüning, Mr Igor Chernyshenko,
Mrs Minodora Cliveti, Mr Imre
Czinege, Mrs Helen D’Amato, Mr Dirk Dees, Mr Karl Donabauer, Mr Ioannis
Dragassakis, Mrs Daniela Filipiová, Mr Ilija Filipović, Mr Paul Flynn, Mrs Doris Frommelt, Mr Renato
Galeazzi, Mr Stepan Glăvan (alternate: Mr Ioan Ţundrea), Mr Marcel Glesener, Mrs Claude
Greff, Mr Tony Gregory, Mr Ali Riza Gülçiçek, Mr Jean-Marie Happart
(alternate: Mr Luc Goutry), Mrs Olha
Herasym’yuk, Mr Vahe Hovhannisyan, Mr Ali Huseynov, Mr Fazail İbrahimlı,
Mr Mustafa Ilicali, Mrs Halide Incekara, Mr Denis Jacquat, Mrs Corien
W.A. Jonker, Mrs Krinio Kanellopoulou, Mrs Marietta Karamanli (alternate:
Mr Laurent Béteille), Mr Marek
Kawa, Mr András Kelemen, Baroness Knight of Collingtree, Mr Slaven
Letica, Mr Jan Filip Libicki, Mr Gadzhy Makhachev, Mr Andrija Mandić,
Mr Bernard Marquet, Mr Ruzhdi Matoshi, Mr Philippe Monfils, Mr Donato
Mosella, Mrs Maia Nadiradzé, Mrs Carina Ohlsson, Mrs Vera Oskina,
Mrs Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin, Mrs Adoración Quesada (alternate:
Mrs Blanca Fernández-Capel),
Mr Kamal Qureshi, Mrs Vjerica Radeta, Mr Walter Riester, Mr Andrea
Rigoni, Mr Ricardo Rodrigues, Mrs Maria de
Belém Roseira, Mr Alessandro Rossi, Mrs Marlene Rupprecht,
Mr Indrek Saar, Mr Fidias Sarikas, Mr Andreas Schieder, Mr Walter Schmied, Mr Ellert Schram, Mr Gianpaolo
Silvestri, Mrs Michaela Šojdrová,
Mrs Darinka Stantcheva, Mrs Ewa Tomaszewska, Mr Oleg Ţulea, Mr Alexander Ulrich,
Mr Milan Urbáni, Mrs Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold,
Mrs Nataša Vučković, Mr Victor Yanukovych (alternate: Mr Ivan Popescu), Mrs Barbara Žgajner-Tavš.
NB: The names of those members present at the meeting are
printed in bold.
See 7th Sitting, 24 January 2008 (adoption of the draft recommendation,
as amended); and Recommendation 1828.