Staff Editorial

Detained missionaries only victims of justice

In the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake, people from all over the world have provided an outpouring of support to the ravaged country.

A contingent of 10 American missionaries, however, is discovering that its intended charitable contribution may have gone too far for the Haitian government’s taste.

The group was detained after allegedly attempting to rescue 33 Haitian children by illegally taking them across the border into the Dominican Republic. After the Americans were held in custody for several days, Haitian authorities charged them with kidnapping Jan. 26.

Prosecutors accused the Americans of abducting the children — some of whom told police they had living parents — so they could be sold into child-trafficking rings.

In a speech to members of the press on Feb. 3, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the group’s decision was “unfortunate,” and that the U.S. would not interfere with Haiti’s investigation.

There isn’t much reason to believe the Americans’ actions weren’t on the up and up, but their intentions in this situation do not make a difference. They broke another country’s laws and deserve to be in jail for doing so.

It’s understandable that people would want to help Haitians in any way possible; with around 200,000 dead and another million or so left homeless, plenty of Haitians could use the assistance. But the missionaries apparently couldn’t figure out a better way to provide aid without breaking the law.

People condemning the U.S. government’s decision to not get directly involved in this case should try to imagine where they would stand if the shoe were on the other foot. What if it was Haitian missionaries who were in jail for attempting to smuggle American children out of the U.S.?

Haiti has the right to hold the missionaries accountable for their actions.

Laws always need to be followed — especially in a time of crisis.

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