Council of Europe official said Friday, Ukraine must investigate the disappearance of at least four newborn babies from a hospital in eastern Ukraine. She also said that the evidence of baby trafficking was shameful.
"Before I was not sure that these babies disappeared. Now I am," Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, from the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, told The Associated Press. "This is shameful."
Her four-day investigative mission to this ex-Soviet republic, which ended Thursday, was prompted by media reports that newborn babies had disappeared from hospital No. 6 in the eastern city of Kharkiv. According to the reports, the babies were allegedly stolen to be sold for adoption or to be harvested for organs. The parents were told they were dead, and their requests to see the bodies were denied.
Ukrainian activists say the number of newborns who disappeared from the city between 2001 and 2003 could be in the hundreds, and there are fears that the problem extends beyond Kharkiv. Ukrainians are often targeted by human traffickers because of their poverty and the country's location at the crossroads of Europe.
But the victims are more typically young women who work in the sex industry, and reports about newborns being seized shortly after delivery shocked this nation of 48 million.
Vermot-Mangold said she had personally received information about four cases, but feared that the numbers could grow.
She said, to the AP, the Council of Europe would insist that all cases are thoroughly investigated, and would monitor the situation. The Prosecutor General's Office confirmed its investigation into the reported cases in Kharkiv remains open, and Vermot-Mangold said prosecutors promised her that "every single case would be re-examined."
"I am delighted, words can't describe it," said Tetyana Zakharova, an activist who has tried to bring the cases to justice for three years. "This is the push the investigation needed, the push we've been waiting for."
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