LILONGWE (Reuters) - Malawi's High Court delayed on Thursday its ruling on whether U.S. pop diva Madonna may adopt a two-year-old Malawian boy, to allow it to review a new human rights report which says the move would be illegal.
The adoption has been controversial, with critics accusing the government of skirting laws that ban non-residents from adopting children in Malawi, which has been ravaged by an AIDS epidemic leaving more than one million orphans.
Malawi's government and toddler David Banda's father -- his only surviving parent -- have endorsed the adoption, and a local rights group that had opposed the case said earlier this week it was no longer interested in pursuing the matter.
But the new, non-binding report by the Human Rights Commission (HRC), which is set up by the government, could complicate the case.
"What we want is ... consideration of certain procedures that conform with international conventions on child rights and what our law says, otherwise, as it stands, everything is illegal and the person who wants to adopt the child does not qualify until the judge finds solutions to it," HRC Chairman Dorothy Nyasulu told Reuters.
Madonna's lawyer told reporters he was still confident his client's adoption bid would be successful.
"I'm confident that the adoption will go through because my client has met all the requirements and the government is satisfied that she qualifies," Alan Chinula said.
The HRC's report, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, said the law made clear a person had to be in Malawi for at least 18 months to qualify as a resident. Madonna has not spent that long in the southern African nation.
It also pointed to provisions in the international Convention on the Rights of the Child which say due regard should be paid to the child's ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background.
Malawi is in the process of amending its adoption laws to allow non-residents adoption rights. Parliament must still approve the amendments.
An exact date for next week's final ruling was not announced.
Madonna could not attend the court session on Thursday because she was too busy with other engagements, her lawyer said.
Madonna began adoption proceedings for David in 2006 and the boy has been living with her and her film director husband Guy Ritchie in their London home since then. She took David when he was 13 months old after his father had placed him in an orphanage following the death of his wife.
Writing by Caroline Drees; editing by Andrew Roche