Intervention during 2022 Special Commission Meeting of Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption

Thank you, Madam Chair.

My name is Patrick Noordoven, I’m founder of Brazil Baby Affair. An international human rights NGO, defending the right to identity and access to origins for intercountry adoptees. We advocate for the implementation of the right to a birth certificate into the right to birth registration. Since the foundation, in 2014, of the NGO, which was named after criminal investigations into illegal intercountry adoption from Brazil to the Netherlands in the beginning of the 1980ies, I have been representing my NGO at the 2015 Special Commission Meetings in the Hague and the Committee on the Rights of the Child Meetings at the United Nations in Geneva, defending the right to identity and access to origins for intercountry adoptees.

First, I would like to congratulate the Permanent Bureau for progress being made concerning the legitimacy of the Convention. Let me elaborate: during the 2015 Special Commission Meetings, only 2 intercountry adoptee NGOs were present and attention for the consequences of illegal intercountry adoption, in my opinion, was minimum, just as attention for safeguarding the right to identity. This seems to be changing for the better.

Second, I would like to remember the participants, of the 2015 Special Commission Meetings – only Friday Morning’s session dealt with consequences of illegal intercountry adoption. And I also need to state the unfortunate fact that my country of origin, Brazil, didn’t attend this crucial session. Fortunately, attention to the consequences of illegal intercountry adoption seems to change for the better. Therefore, I welcome the fact that there is more attention for the consequences of illegal intercountry adoption, the right to identity and access to origins.

Third, I would like to remember the Secretary General of the 201[4] presentation I personally gave to him and other members of the Permanent Bureau at their offices in The Hague. My presentation was about two victims of illegal intercountry adoption – a mother and an intercountry adoptee. I believe this must have been a unique moment in the history of the Convention.

However, I am under the impression that the Secretary General failed to recognize the importance of considering the perspectives of original families and adoptees. It is my distinct impression that he felt no sense of urgency to act on the need to deal with the consequences of illicit practices, as the ones I presented all happened before the Convention entered into force. In this regard, I consider yesterday’s deliberations, concerning historic cases and retroactively dealing with them, a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, except for a brief mention during Monday’s opening session, it seems there was and there is no noticeable attention for the original mothers and the original families. I am convinced that a mere reference to the possibility of including original families into this forum, in the future, is inadequate in terms of stakeholder representation and, moreover, in terms of legitimacy of policies and practices deriving from the Convention.

Therefore, I would like to address following issues, all inherently regarding­- and directly deriving from- my 21 years of experience and efforts related to my search for origins:

The Convention and its decision-making practices need equal stakeholder representation of all 3 main stakeholders of intercountry adoption; being the original families, adoptees and adoptive parents.

As long as the right to birth registration doesn’t include the right to a birth certificate, based on veracious facts, the right to identity and access to origins inherently cannot be safeguarded through the Convention. This forum should therefore foresee future deprivation of the right to identity under the Convention and take action in order to prevent this from happening.

Application of the Convention is against the legal order of a Sates such as Brazil and a contravention of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and forms a violation of fundamental rights, such as the right to identity, enshrined in, inter alia, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Inter American Convention on Human Rights, as I successfully defended in my Masters of Law Thesis.

The role of the Central Authorities should encompass involving original families and intercountry adoptees; in their respective countries of origin and adoption: Furthermore, I am raising awareness to the Central Authorities for possible pressure, of Judges in favor of intercountry adoption, towards civil servants, such as social workers, who need to tick boxes to facilitate intercountry adoption.

The future of – as well as the justification for – the Convention should be dealing with the consequences of the – legal – deprivation of the right to identity, facilitating Human Rights Conventions protecting the fundamental rights of intercountry adoptees and their original families.

Finally, I would like to ask attention for the following facts regarding the Netherlands and I invite all participants to question themselves if following facts are in the spirit of the Convention and in line with the human rights scope to which it pertains:

In 2019, I have been invited by former Justice Minister in the Netherlands because my FOI requests resulted in the instigation of a committee investigating intercountry adoption in the past.

I congratulate the Netherlands for being the first to investigating intercountry adoption on such a scale.

However, based on the findings of the committee investigating intercountry adoption the past, I criticize the Netherlands to (i) continue intercountry adoption after a temporarily halt and the repeated and explicit advice from independent national experts to stop intercountry adoption.

Moreover, I would like to stress that the basis for the decision of the Netherlands to continue with intercountry adoption is to (ii) rely on foreign intercountry adoption judgements.

Whereas the Netherlands (iii) refuse to enforce national judgements of adult intercountry adoptees.

Allow me to explain: I condemn the Netherlands for being the first country in the world to take me, a victim of illegal intercountry adoption, to the Court of Appeals, notably after a national apology, and a personal apology from the former Justice Minister towards me, instead of enforcing a national judgement of a panel of judges which ruled that the State of the Netherlands acted unlawfully in respect to me by failing to ensure that I had access to correct ancestral information and information concerning my illegal intercountry adoption. Thereby, according to the Court, the State of the Netherlands has infringed upon my rights enshrined in article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The Court therefore has ordered the State to compensate me for the damages I have suffered as a result of the State’s failure to ensure my rights.

I believe that taking responsibility for illicit and illegal practises begins and ends with accepting and enforcing Court verdicts regarding intercountry adoption. Therefore, I welcome the support of the Netherlands for the application of the Toolkit in dealing with illicit practices arising from adoptions that occurred prior to the ratification of the Convention.

Consequently, I hereby I call upon the Netherlands and other State Parties to enforce Court rulings concerning victims of intercountry adoption, as a constructive way forwards to take on responsibility in respect of the rights of victims of intercountry adoption.

Thank you for your attention, Madam Chair, all delegates.