Netherlands failed to prevent illegal cross-border adoptions, court rules
A court has found that the Dutch state and an adoption agency failed to do enough to prevent fraudulent adoptions from Sri Lanka.
The woman who brought the case, Dilani Butink, was adopted in 1992, but a falsified birth certificate meant that she has been unable to track down her biological parents.
Instead of relying on the Sri Lankan authorities, the state and the adoption agency should have carried out their own checks, not least because there had been signs of structural wrongdoing surrounding adoptions from the country at the time, the court said in its judgment.
In 2017 the Sri Lankan authorities admitted that ‘baby farms’ were set up in the eighties to supply children to couples in the west and that women impersonated mothers to pretend a child had been given up voluntarily.
Butink is the first person to sue the state for its role in the adoption scandal which erupted in 2021 following the publication of a highly critical report by the Joustra commission.
Tjibbe Joustra and his team looked at cross-border adoptions in the 30 years to 1997 following concerns about the illegal adoption of babies from Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s. The investigation found a wide range of abuses including corruption, forgery and child snatching.
Cross-border adoptions were subsequently halted and will only resume under the strict supervision of a government body to be created in the future.
Although Butink’s case fell under the statute of limitations the state chose to waive it. The adoption agency is still saying it can no longer be legally blamed, which the judge said was ‘unacceptable’.
‘This decision means such a lot to me. It is the recognition I have been waiting for,’ Butink told broadcaster NOS.
The verdict means that Butink can now start a civil procedure to be compensated for the money spent on her fruitless search for her parents. She also wants a dna data base for children adopted from Sri Lanka.
Other people who have been adopted from Sri Lanka will also benefit from the judge’s decision, Butink’s lawyer Lisa-Marie Komp said. ‘They will have to bring their own case because circumstances will differ but the court’s arguments covered a lot of ground. The state should not have relied on the Sri Lankan government to monitor the adoptions.’
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