A Liberian lawyer defending group of young people has announced that a lawsuit against the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has been filed at the ECOWAS court in Nigeria.
Cllr. Sayma Serinius Cephus says his client is accusing the international body of alleged exploitation and deception of Liberian children following the production of a commercial film in 1997.
In a release issued yesterday, Cllr. Cephus said UNICEF decided to produce a commercial film, but out of an "insatiable greed" to maximum profit, they chose to hide the fact from the innocent actors, to avoid paying them the appropriate fees for their just labor, especially when the nefarious roles the children played in this film caused so much stigmatization and dejection for the children.
"The lawsuit we filed to the ECOWAS Court concerns a film that was produced by UNICEF in 1997, and subsequently put on sale world-wide, without providing just compensation for our client and other children/actors who took part in the film at the detriment of their lives and future," Cephus stressed in the release.
The lawyer argued that if the movie was a charity film as UNICEF had led the innocent children to believe, then there is no reason why the film should have been put on global commercial sale from which his client suspect hundreds of millions of dollars were realized.
Cllr. Cephus also argued that if the intent was to produce a commercial film, the actors should have been informed accordingly and paid the relevant talent fees that they deserved.
The lawyer disclosed that it was purely by an act of God that his client discovered the sales poster of this film last year with his photograph on the UNICEF web site where it had apparently been kept for more than 15 years.
Interestingly, the Liberian lawyer said when he wrote to UNICEF Liberia Office confronting them with this 'illegal' poster and inviting them to a meeting to discuss the matter, he added that they initially asked for a postponement to allow them consult with their headquarters in New York.
According to Cllr. Cephus, since then, they have ignored all subsequent communications, and instead of seeking an amicable solution, they (UNICEF Liberia office) chose to destroy evidence by having the poster removed from their website.
"We believe that we owe it to ourselves and posterity not to allow such a devastating fraud and deception to go unpunished. Considering the enormity of the crime committed by UNICEF, and the hundreds of millions of illegal profit raked by UNICEF on the backs of innocent children, it would seem that the US$25 million we are demanding in special damages for our client, may appear to be too small. However, we believe that the very idea of such a reputable organization to stand in the dock accused of exploiting the very children; it was mandated to protect and promote, is a punishment by itself," Cephus emphasized.