Rokia Traoré has been arrested in Paris over a child custody dispute. She was arrested on Tuesday as she arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, in Paris.
The Malian is being held under a European arrest warrant issued by a Belgian court in a case involving the singer and her estranged Belgian partner over the custody of their daughter.
The Belgian court had ordered Traoré to hand over her 5-year-old child daughter to her former partner which the singer had not done. The Belgian arrest warrant accused her of kidnapping and hostage-taking.
Traoré’s lawyer told AFP news agency that his client was stopping in France on the way from Bamako to Brussels where she intended to appeal against the decision of the Belgian court to grant full custody to her former partner.
Mali’s government has issued a statement in support of Traoré, pointing out that she has a diplomatic passport. The statement said she was also on a mission for Mali’s ministry for cultural affairs for which she carried a diplomatic passport when she was arrested.
According to the newspaper Le Monde, she is on hunger strike in jail. A court hearing in France is due on Wednesday to examine the request for her extradition to Belgium.
A signature campaign has been launched by Collectif des Mères Veilleuses, a group of single mothers in Belgium, on change.org calling for the release of the singer. Critics of the Belgian court decision, granting full custody to the father of her daughter, say normally, mothers are naturally granted preference in similar cases in Europe.
“Belgian justice remains extremely sexist. Family law seeks at all costs and despite common sense to establish false equality between the two separated parents. We know that the vast majority of single-parent families are made up of single mothers with children. We also know that in very many cases, fathers claim custody only to harm the mother or to avoid payment of child support, without any real desire to care for the child,” the petition said.
“Belgian justice takes no account of the Malian court decision which grants custody to the mother or the living conditions of the child. Indeed, the latter has lived with her mother for four years in Mali. She takes care to offer him the best conditions of schooling and education despite the fact that the father explains in his file that he’s not able to contribute financially to the upkeep of his child.”