The controversy over Zoe’s Ark and the status of the children involved really is a condemnation of so much that is wrong on the fringes of humanitarianism. If the allegations are true, that the children being transported out of Chad were not Darfurian orphans but in fact Chadian children, many of whom had parents and, if it is also true that the agency involved sought to disguise the children with fake blood stains bandages and IV drips, then at the very least this is a case of kidnapping and human trafficking
I find it astonishing that some commentators are referring to the five individuals held on kidnapping charges as “misguided idealists, not criminals”. Would one attach such a label to Osama Bin Ladin, or to Radovan Karadzic? They would see themselves as Idealists I’m sure. Most would see them as misguided, but that in no way excuses their crimes.
There is sometimes an incredible arrogance accompanies humanitarian work. We are here to save them, and therefore have the right to act above the law and play God with their lives and rights. All is justified in the name of compassion and saving lives.
Well all is not justified. To flout local custom and culture may be excused by ignorance, but to flout local and international law can have no such excuse.
If humanitarians ever put themselves above the law they might as well pack up and go home. The very notions of humanity, independence and neutrality assume a universal respect for peoples rights and the laws that are in place to protect them.
Put ourselves above those laws and we are no better than the war criminals we condemn.