Legal Aid attorney Janet Fink was misidentified in a story Sunday about a Zimbabwean boy allegedly beaten by his father, a diplomat. (Published 1/12/88)
Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun issued an order yesterday that temporarily barred the State Department from taking custody of a 9-year-old boy from Zimbabwe who allegedly was beaten repeatedly by his father, a diplomat.
Blackmun's order stayed a lower court ruling that would have delivered Terrence Karamba to the State Department at noon yesterday for eventual deportation.
Blackmun directed all parties to submit more information by Tuesday evening. He said the Supreme Court will take no further action until all briefs are reviewed.
The battle over the child's future stemmed from the fears of a New York child care agency that young Karamba would face more abuse if the State Department were permitted to return him to Zimbabwe, where his father went after being summoned home by his government. Floyd Karamba had been a member of Zimbabwe's delegation to the United Nations.
The State Department, backed by President Reagan and seconded by New York Mayor Edward I. Koch, has argued that principles of diplomatic immunity prevent the United States from keeping the child.
The department has contended that any breach in observance of the rules could erode the system that also protects U.S. diplomats from arbitrary treatment by other governments. It also has said that it intends to seek further assurances of his well-being if the boy is returned home.
Court documents in New York indicated that the boy had been beaten repeatedly by his father. The city's human resources agency originally sought a delay in Terrence's repatriation for more psychological evaluations, but changed its position when Terrence showed "extreme manifestations of fear on going back to Zimbabwe," a spokeswoman said.
Linda Fink, a Legal Aid attorney, said that Terrence "crawled into a cardboard box and rocked back and forth" when he was told of plans to remove him from the care of a foster family on Long Island and send him back to Africa.
Until his fate is decided, Terrence will remain in the care of St. Christopher-Ottile Services for Children, a foster care agency. "We weren't going to put him on a plane and just say goodbye," an official said.
Floyd Karamba, exempted by his diplomatic immunity from prosecution here, was recalled by his government last month. New York welfare officials had accused Karamba of binding the child and beating him while forcing Terrence's mother and two sisters to watch.
The State Department is expected to provide Blackmun with information about its belief that the boy will not be harmed if he is sent home. A department spokesman said yesterday that even if Blackmun had not intervened, the child would not have been returned without further assurances of his safety.
The spokesman told the Associated Press that the department wants to put the boy through further medical and psychological evaluations before sending him home. The department has cited assurances from Zimbabwean officials that Terrence will not be placed in his parents' custody.
"The important thing is the safety of the child. But we have maintained the same basic position. The courts do not have jurisdiction over this case," the spokesman said.