Chad: French Court Rejects Chad Demand for Kidnap Compensation

A French court has rejected Chad's demand for compensation in the Arche de Zoé (Zoe's ark) affair in which a French NGO was found guilty of trying to kidnap 103 children.

The Chadian authorities were demanding Philippe Van Winkelberg, a doctor with the charity, pay damages to the children's families.

In March 2008 Chadian President Idris Déby allowed six Arche de Zoé members who were serving seven years' hard labour to serve the rest of their sentence in France, where hard labour is no longer part of the penal code.

But the question of compensation remained open.

Van Winkelberg was the only member who appeared creditworthy enough to pay the 6.3-million-euro fine.

The damages were meant to go to families of the 103 children that the convicted people had tried to smuggle out of Chad and into France.

But the French courts said the trial in N'djamena in 2007 made no mention of an individual plaintiff and dismissed the Chadian authorities' demands.

"During the hearing and the verdict returned in N'djamena there was no individual plaintiff," Van Winkelberg's lawyer, Françoise Davideau, told RFI. "The court ordered damages to be paid in a global way, without linking this to any named individual."

The verdict from a trial that opened in France in December is due on 12 February.

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