Saturday, February 18, 2006


Zerkalo, Baku
18 Feb 06

Excerpt from Ceyran's report by Azerbaijani newspaper Zerkalo on 18 February headlined "An Azerbaijani child costs 29,000 dollars" and subheaded "Rights campaigner Yusif Bakirov says that the lack of a moratorium on adoption creates conditions for child trafficking"

"Children in Azerbaijan have long been the victim of unscrupulous officials who use them as a source of wealth," said Yusif Bakirov, the head of the Children's Rights Defence League, at a press conference yesterday. The press conference was dedicated to problems of trafficking in children, to whose well-being a significant blow has been dealt thanks to problems in our country's legislation.

Azerbaijan joined the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and shouldered the relevant obligations more than 13 years ago.

But nevertheless, to this day the situation concerning the fulfilment of the convention in Azerbaijan is in a deplorable state.

As Bakirov told journalists, the given situation grew even worse after our parliament introduced a law allowing foreign citizens to adopt Azerbaijani children. As a rule, adoption is a very complex and thorny process, one that includes the Ministries of Health, Education, Justice and so on and ends with the Cabinet of Ministers.

But with all the complexity of this process in the country, there are no oversight mechanisms that would allow for its legal realization.

This is why, as Bakirov pointed out, the majority of adoptions proceed according to a covert scheme. And, in conclusion, he noted that from 2000 to 2004 there were 142 cases of foreigners adopting children from orphanages through illegal means.

"Someone has gained significantly from this business. It is a secret to no-one that the average price of an Azerbaijani child is 29,000 dollars. Multiply this figure by 142 and you get a monetary benefit of 4m dollars," he stressed. He said that above all the parties interested in the absence of a moratorium are traffickers and officials of various rank who seek material profit.

[Passage omitted]

No less troubling, Bakirov considers, is the fact that international organizations have shown particular indifference. One of them - UNICEF - is supposedly obligated to press the Azerbaijani government to codify these issues in legislative order. But UNICEF, unfortunately, prefers to remain silent as unscrupulous people continue to carry out their shady deeds.

"What it amounts to is that there is a law on adoption, but no relevant moratorium. Moreover, there is no strict measure of punishment for cases of illegal trafficking in children. Criminals can get away with administrative punishments. What is it to them to pay a fine of 100 dollars, when there are deals worth millions of dollars in
play?" laments the rights activist, adding that he may have to resort to a hunger strike. Maybe then his voice will finally be heard.

By the way, while answering journalists' questions, Bakirov presented curious facts about infant mortality in Azerbaijan. He said that our country ranks 48th among world nations in terms of infant mortality, whereas Armenia ranks 94th and Georgia - 98th. Maybe for this reason the government will seriously start to think about all these problems so that one fine day Azerbaijan is not faced with a demographic

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