Press Release

IACHR grants protection measures to child J.M.V. in Trinidad and Tobago

December 13, 2019

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Washington, D.C. – On December 9th, 2019 the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued the Resolution 59/2019 granting precautionary measures to the Child J.M.V. in Trinidad and Tobago. According to the request, the beneficiary, who is a one-year-old child, was placed under the State’s custody shortly after he was born and has not had contact with his biological family until the present time.

The mother of J.M.V., who is a Venezuelan national, presented the request on his behalf alleging that she travelled to Trinidad and Tobago to meet a couple interested in adopting a newborn and then evaluate whether she wished to proceed with placing her child for adoption. J.M.V. was born in Trinidad and Tobago where his mother alleged that, under coercion, she gave the beneficiary for adoption to the interested couple. Upon her return to Venezuela, she contacted authorities in Trinidad and Tobago informing about J.M.V. situation. According to the request, in November 2018, the authorities sought the child and placed him in a childcare facility, while a decision on his custody is pending.

The applicants informed that to date, J.M.V.’s mother remains in Trinidad and Tobago, waiting for a judicial decision, and has not been allowed access to him for over a year, despite the motions filed on her behalf. Indeed, on December 18th, 2018, the court denied her interim custody, having allegedly not made any decision on visitation rights, although a favorable recommendation made by the State’s Children’s Authority was issued. The applicants argued that this decision has not been reassessed, even though a year has passed since the beneficiary was placed in State’s custody.

In the present matter, the Commission understands that the beneficiary is facing a situation of risk, given the fact that he has allegedly not had any contact with his mother for more than a year, despite the existence of judicial proceedings and being just one year old. As established in previous matters, the mere passage of time is a determinant factor in assessing whether children’s rights to personal integrity, identity and family life may be irreparably harmed. Indeed, the absence of any relationship with his biological family is susceptible of severely affecting his rights, considerably more given his age and the role of such interaction at this early age in the framing of his psychology and identity.

In evaluating the seriousness of the situation the IACHR took into consideration that, according to the applicants, the decision denying interim custody in favor of J.M.V.’s mother has not been reviewed to date, even though almost a year has passed since it entered into force. Moreover, based on the information provided by the applicants, no decision has been rendered concerning visitation rights. Considering the effects of time and States’ duty to “speed up” proceedings of this nature motu proprio, the Commission observes that serious implications may take place in relation to J.M.V.’s rights to personal integrity, identity and family.

The Commission regrets that no response has been received from the State, since it prevents further assessment of whether the applicants’ allegations may be rebutted, especially considering that the potential beneficiary is under the custody of the State and its special obligations to protect children.

Consequently, pursuant to Article 25 of its Rules of Procedure, the Commission requested that Trinidad and Tobago take the necessary measures to protect the rights to personal integrity, identity and family of J.M.V. In particular, by timely processing the proceedings and evaluating whether the measures dictated in his regard comply presently with his best interest as a child, according to the applicable international standards on the matter, as founded by updated pertinent technical assessment, in light of paragraphs 17, 19-21 of the Resolution 59/2019.

The fact that this precautionary measure has been granted and its adoption by the State do not entail a prejudgment on a potential petition that may be filed before the Inter-American system to allege violations of rights protected by the applicable instruments.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 323/19