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Terre des Hommes is not responsible for possible irregularities during adoption from Bangladesh in the 1970s

September 12th, 2023

A woman adopted from Bangladesh in the 1970s filed a lawsuit in 2019 against Wereldkinderen, Terre des Hommes Netherlands and the Dutch State. The woman accuses these parties of having acted unlawfully in her adoption. Like the court ruling in 2021, the court of appeal today concluded that the case has expired.

Terre des Hommes is not responsible for possible irregularities during adoption from Bangladesh in the 1970s

The court of appeal upholds the court's ruling

After the court ruling in 2021, the woman lodged an appeal. The court of appeal today confirmed the ruling of the court that the case has expired.

The court took into account, among other things, that Terre des Hommes was not an adoption organisation, that it has not been established that employees of Terre des Hommes would have induced the woman's biological mother to give her up under false pretences, and that the woman waited too long to hold Terre des Hommes liable.

Like the court, the court of appeal was therefore unable to establish that Terre des Hommes was involved in or responsible for the course of events surrounding the adoptions from Bangladesh.


Terre des Hommes Netherlands is not and was not an adoption organisation. We were charged because our country director in Bangladesh at the time had a double role. He was also a representative of an adoption organisation and in daily practice this may have caused confusion. 

Although we are pleased with this ruling, this case also confirms that intercountry adoption as a child protection measure often does not serve the interests of the children. Terre des Hommes has been trying to improve the living conditions of children in the countries where we work for almost 60 years. As a children's rights organisation, we recognise the irregularities that unfortunately often arise in intercountry adoptions; from paper to outright child trafficking. The Joustra Committee report also showed that adoption practice - especially in the 1970s - was characterised by good intentions and amateurism, with the interests of the children and their biological parents often becoming subordinate to the interests of the adoptive parents.

Media attention

In recent years, there has been regular media attention to irregularities surrounding the intercountry adoptions of children in recent decades. Terre des Hommes Netherlands has never carried out adoptions itself.

After an item in a Nieuwsuur (Dutch News TV programme) broadcast in 2017 about alleged irregularities in adoptions from Bangladesh and allegations against Terre des Hommes, we tried to answer all questions about the way in which our organisation became intertwined with adoptions from Bangladesh at the time. We have shared all the information and documentation we have about this with the interest groups of these adoptees, Shapla and SBA, and the Joustra Committee, which, on behalf of the minister, conducted research into past adoption practices in six countries, including Bangladesh.

Terre des Hommes understands the desire for truth-finding that exists in the adoptee community. For this reason, a lot of energy has been invested in recent years to uncover information. What Terre des Hommes knows has been shared. Unfortunately, the available information does not answer all questions.

Conditions in Bangladesh were difficult and complex in the 1970s after a war and subsequent famine. Humanitarian aid was desperately needed and not yet organised as professionally as it is today. Intercountry adoption was popular, motivated by good intentions and at the same time far from well organised. Terre des Hommes provided emergency aid and medical care in Bangladesh and was not involved in adoptions.

Responsibility and support

As an organisation, Terre des Hommes cannot take responsibility for abuses in which it had no role. Therefore, Terre des Hommes rejects legal claims. Both the regular court and the court of appeal agree with this.

However, Terre des Hommes has never rejected the request for support from the adoption community. Terre des Hommes feels involved with the people who came to the Netherlands from Bangladesh as children and have questions about their origins. That is why Terre des Hommes supports a program for the search for living relatives. As a children's rights organisation, Terre des Hommes understands how uncertainty about one's origin can have an impact throughout a person's life. 

Terre des Hommes is still active in Bangladesh to this day to prevent child exploitation and provide help to children who have ended up in situations of exploitation.

Read pressrelease

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