[JURIST] A top official with the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) [official website] said Sunday that an unsuccessful bid by a French charity to fly 103 children out of Chad [ZA backgrounder, in French] late last month violated international law. UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman [official profile] was quoted by Reuters as saying that it was simply unacceptable to see children taken out of their home countries without complying with national and international laws and that the airlift was not consistent with international norms or practices or laws. Chadian authorities foiled an attempt by French group Zoe's Ark [advocacy website, in French; BBC backgrounder] to fly the children - alleged to be orphans from Sudan's Darfur region - from Chad to Europe for anticipated placement with French families and arrested 17 people allegedly associated with the effort. Six French nationals have been charged with kidnapping [JURIST report] and face five to 20 years in prison if convicted. Three members of a Barcelona-based flight crew, along with a Belgian pilot, were charged with complicity in the alleged kidnapping. The other seven Europeans were released [JURIST report] Sunday following a meeting between visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chadian leader Idriss Deby.
Zoe's Ark maintains that its intentions were purely humanitarian. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has ordered an investigation into the charity. Reuters has more.