What is Parental Child Abduction?


December 31, 2012

Parental child abduction occurs when a person who is connected to a child takes them away from their country of habitual residence, that is the country they normally reside in, without the permission of either those with parental responsibility or the courts.

child1

Most commonly, this takes place following a separation or divorce and is carried out by the parent who has not been awarded custody of the child.

Once a relatively rare phenomenon, an increase in cross-cultural marriages, higher divorce rates, changes in immigration laws and cheaper foreign travel have prompted a rise in international child custody disputes, some of which have resulted in parental child abduction as parents seek to take their children out of the country without permission.

Is It A Criminal Offence For A Parent To Abduct A Child?

Under the Child Abduction Act of 1984, it is a criminal offence for anyone connected with a child to take them out of the UK for more than 28 days without the consent of any other person who has parental responsibility for that child or a consenting order from the courts. A person is connected with the child if they are parent of the child, guardian or special guardian, anyone who has a residence order for the child or who has the child living with them.

Those required to give their consent would be the mother, the father (if he has parental responsibility), guardian, special guardian or anyone who has the child living with them or has permission from the court.

Also read: Expert: Parental abduction never in child’s best interest , Parental abduction

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Two abducted Fairfax kids believed to be in Tunisia


September 26, 2012

Source: Washington Examiner

Authorities are trying to recover two young Fairfax County children who were allegedly kidnapped by their father and taken to Tunisia.

Three-year-old Zainab Chebbi and 6-year-old Eslam Chebbi have been missing since Nov. 11, when prosecutors say their father, 39-year-old Faical Chebbi, flew with them to Tunisia.

Faical Chebbi called the children’s mother — his ex-wife — the next day and told her that he and the children would not be returning, according to court records. Chebbi was charged in federal court in Alexandria with international parental kidnapping.

Chebbi and Edeanna Johnson-Chebbi divorced in January, nearly a year after she obtained a protective order because he threatened to kill her, according to court documents. Johnson-Chebbi had sole custody of Zainab and Eslam; Chebbi absconded with the children after picking them up from their grandparents’ house in Prince George’s County for a scheduled visit, according to the court documents.

“At first, I was sort of in an action mode,” said Johnson-Chebbi, who created a Facebook page and online petitions about the case.

“What else are you going to do?” she told The Washington Examinerin December. “I won’t allow myself to imagine that this will pass. They will be home. I just don’t know how or when.”

But Johnson-Chebbi faces an uphill battle. There are no treaties or agreements between the United States and Tunisia regarding parental abduction cases.

This summer, Faical Chebbi was added to the FBI Washington Field Office’s Wanted Fugitives list.

Anyone with information on the case can contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 800-THE-LOST (843-5678).

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Images: 27 parents wanted for parental kidnapping


July 18, 2012

Source: wcvb.com

The FBI lists 27 parents on its Most Wanted list for parental kidnappings. See pictures and information on the parents and children involved in these cases. See more here

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Parental Abduction: Thailand Child Abduction Law


July 14, 2012

Source: Thailand Family Law Center

Child abduction or “child kidnapping” cases typically occur during a child custody dispute, when one parent flees a legal jurisdiction with a child to avoid the jurisdiction of a particular court. International law and Thailand family law may come into play when a child is abducted from a foreign country and taken to Thailand or when a child is taken from Thailand to a foreign country, or when a child is abducted by a parent within Thailand.

Q: What should I do if my child is abducted and taken to Thailand?

A: The first thing a parent must do if a child has been abducted is to contact a qualified Thailand family law attorney and make a police report. A qualified attorney will assist with filing the necessary complaints with legal authorities. Based on the circumstances of each case, a family attorney may file a police report with the relevant embassy in Thailand, or file a formal request pursuant to the Hague Treaty. A Thai Family Law Attorney can file a court complaint with the Thailand family court. If criminal charges are involved, a criminal complaint may also be required.

Q: Can the Hague Convention on Child Abduction be used in Thailand?

A: The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides a procedure for parents who have had their children abducted by the other parent. The Hague Treaty on Child Abduction is executed through the governments of treaty member countries, but normally requires an attorney to file the appropriate documents with the government authority responsible for the retrieval of the child.

Thailand has formally acceded to the convention; however, at this time the proper procedures for acting upon the convention have not been codified into Thai law. This means that the convention, falls into an ambiguous area of Thailand law. In certain cases of child abduction originating in Thailand, wherein the child has been taken to a different that is a Hague connection signatory, a Hague Convention action may be filed through the relevant government authorities of the country. However, in cases where a child has been abducted and taken to Thailand, the aggrieved parents’ remedy may be through obtaining a court order from the Thai family court. Cases need to be examined individually.

Q: What is the procedure for retrieving a child who has been taken to Thailand?

A: In order to retrieve a child that has been abducted by a parent in Thailand, the parent who is seeking the return of the child must established custody rights of the child in Thailand Family Courts. A court order of sole custody can then be used by the aggrieved parent to obtain the return of the child. Such action can be enforced by Thailand court and police officials. Depending on the circumstances, a police complaint may also be necessary.

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Four Sisters Abducted By Their Australian Mother From Italy Back in Court


July 10, 2012

Source: fathersforequality

four-sunshine-coast-sisters

THE four girls at the centre of an international custody dispute will be released from foster care to live with their mother pending a High Court hearing in August.

In emotional scenes in the Family Court this afternoon, Justice Peter Murphy ruled the girls be placed in their mother’s care after considering submissions, including that at least one of the sisters had made comments about self harming while in state care.

He said although he was reluctant to make the order, “on balance” returning the sisters to their mother was the better option, citing concerns for their welfare.

He added that it was not the purpose of the hearing to determine whether the mother had a role in the girls’ disappearance in May, when they breached a court order ordering that they return to Italy.

The Department of Communities had opposed the mother’s application, arguing that remaining in foster care was “the lesser of two evils” in the circumstances. The girls’s father had also argued against the release arguing the mother would further “alienate” his daughters from him.

The conditions of the release from foster care are being determined now.

The girls’ mother applied to have the children, aged 9 to 14, released from foster care pending High Court proceedings in August.

Earlier, a teenager at the centre of an international custody dispute has penned an emotional plea, begging to be allowed to live with her mother in Australia. The letter was read out in the Family Court in Brisbane on Friday, where the mother is attempting to regain custody of her four daughters, who are in foster care. It was written by the eldest girl.

“If you ask me there is nothing in the whole world I want more than just to be home with my mum and back at school with my friends again,” the teenager wrote, adding that she wished for “a miracle from God” that it could happen.

The girls have been trying to avoid a Family Court order to return to Italy with their father.

They are not attending school while they await the High Court challenge in August.

The mother’s barrister Dr Jacoba Brash said evidence provided by the girls’ own Department of Communities case workers say the sisters are feeling “nauseous, anxious and dizzy”.

She urged the judge to consider “the reality of the children’s situation” and return them to their mother.

But the Department of Communities said there was a risk the children could go back into hiding if they were placed in the care of their mother.

Earlier this year they hid for more than a week before police found them on the Sunshine Coast.

Barrister James Linklater-Steele said the mother was also poisoning the children’s relationship with their father.

The relationship between he and the girls had improved since they were placed in foster care, he said.

He argued that to return them to the “uncontrolled environment” of their mother’s care would “severely risk the advances that have been made to date”.

Earlier, the Family Court justice dismissed an application to have the girls’ great-aunt appointed legal guardian, noting the sisters had “a voice” in the submissions before him.

However, he ruled the great-aunt, as a potential carer – should the application to have them released prove successful – had the right to be legally represented as an individual at the hearing.

This morning the girls’ mother applied to have the children, aged 9 to 14, released from foster care pending High Court proceedings in August.

The hearing continues.

Miranda Forster, Andrew Macdonald

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The Hague Convention is not enough to recover your child


July 8, 2012

Many left-behind parents are told that the Hague Convention will bring about the return of their abducted children. Some authorities say that if your child is abducted, you should follow procedures outlined by the Hague, but this is a flawed system that does not work.

Until 1980, there was no international system in place to help parents recover abducted children who had been taken to other nations. The Hague Convention attempted to create one, but it doesn’t work. If you take the time to read the well-intentioned text of the Hague, you’ll see its many flaws.

In our opinion, it’s not worth the large amounts of money, time and trouble to hire an attorney to try using the Hague Convention to get your child back. You aren’t likely to get him or her back — and even worse, the abducting parent could be “legitimized” by the courts in another nation.

Under the Hague Convention, a case must be filed in the country where the abductor has taken the child. The courts of that country tend to render their decisions in favor of their countrymen, as the Hague Convention focuses on residency, not citizenship. There is little concern for the fact that the child is a citizen of the country from which he or she was abducted, or for the possible detrimental effect on the child.

Even if the child was born in your country, if that child is found to be a “habitual resident” by the courts in another country, the child may be ordered to be returned to that country.

This underscores the need to act quickly.

Few, if any, of the Hague signatory countries are going to send anyone out to physically recover your child for you. Embassy officials will check on the child’s welfare, if it is known where the child is and if the abducting parent lets them.

As soon as abducting parents are aware that that they’ve been located, they’ll usually disappear with the children again.

And about hiring lawyers

You need to be aware that a great amount of money has been spent on lawyers in foreign abduction cases. The unfortunate fact is that they, most often, can’t practice in the foreign courts and are required to hire associate lawyers in the foreign country.

Note: they often have no qualifications or experience working with child abduction cases.

More money…

Educate yourself

Many resources are available to help you learn about parental child abduction. If you’re dealing with an abduction, the better informed you are, the better equipped you’ll be to cope.

Recover your child

Time is of the essence. Parentally abducted children are helpless on their own and confused by the irrational and sometimes abusive acts of non-custodial parents who are supposed to have their best interests in mind. ABP World Group Ltd. has the manpower and the know-how to rigorously cover all avenues, and bring your child home.

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Cyprus/Italy -Abducted child returned by airline


June 28, 2012

Source: CyprusMail

POLICE yesterday confirmed that on Tuesday a Ryanair flight from Paphos bound for Bergamo airport in Italy was forced to return an hour after take off, following information that one of the passengers had been kidnapped.

Police informed the pilot that the mother of a 10-year-old girl of Pontian origin had reported that her daughter had boarded the flight, with her father, against her will.

Once the complaint had been filed, police sought to prevent the flight from taking off by informing the control tower of the situation, but the flight had already left the runway.

The control tower informed the aircraft’s pilot of the situation, as according to International regulations, the pilot is solely responsible for any decisions taken during the flight.

The pilot confirmed that the named passengers were on board by checking the flight list and subsequently returned to Paphos airport.

On landing, the girl’s father was taken to the offices of Paphos airport police, while the girl was handed back to her mother.

Hermes airport spokesman Adam Aspris declined to comment on the matter only saying, “This is a security matter but I can confirm that the Ryanair flight in question had to return to Paphos airport, taking off again later.”

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INTERNATIONAL MARRIAGE: Changing Japan as a safe haven for parental abductions


June 10, 2012

Source: Asahi.com

In February, 61-year-old Masahiro Yoshida was arrested for “abducting” his 7-year-old daughter from her elementary school in Ehime Prefecture the month before.

It marked the second time that Yoshida, a former professional jazz drummer, was driven to desperation and snatched his daughter, since his ex-wife has parental custody over his daughter, and he is not allowed to have any contact with her.

In Japan, courts do not recognize shared custody, and mothers retain custody in about 90 percent of court-mediated divorces involving minors.

In response to mounting criticism that Japan is a safe haven for parental abductions, the government finally submitted a bill to ratify the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which provides for the return of unlawfully abducted children.

The legislation is unlikely to pass in the current Diet session, as deliberations of controversial bills to hike the consumption tax are taking center stage. But if enacted, the convention, which has 87 signatory countries, will mandate that Japan return children whom its nationals took from other countries in a divorce, unless it harms the child’s welfare.

The public’s perception in Japan is that such post-divorce disputes are taking place only between Japanese mothers and fathers from Western countries. But many Japanese parents now claim that the justice system here is equally tormenting those who lost custody over their children following a divorce.

The case involving Yoshida has much in common with the well-publicized arrest of an American man in 2009 after attempting to abduct his son and daughter and flee to the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka.

According to Yoshida’s mother, Michiko, an 87-year-old former liquor store operator in Yokohama, it was her daughter-in-law who “abducted” her grandchild five years ago in an attempt to gain parental custody.

Michiko’s son is currently on trial at the Matsuyama District Court.

As Masahiro is likely to be given a prison sentence this time, Michiko said there must be fundamental flaws in the country’s justice system, which made her son a “criminal for just wanting to see his daughter.”

IS “GAIATSU” LAST RESORT?

In a nearly identical case, former family court judge Masanori Watanabe, 53, was arrested for abducting his daughter, then an elementary school third-grader, from a train station in Fukuoka in October 2005.

Watanabe, then a Yokohama-based lawyer, was subsequently given a suspended three-year prison sentence, dismissed from the bar association and cannot practice law.

“I certainly knew the consequences, but I thought it was my last opportunity to persuade her to come back to me when she becomes old enough to make her own judgments,” Watanabe said.

While waging court battles to gain custody of or visitation rights to their children, Yoshida and Watanabe campaigned for the Hague Convention, which they thought would help their causes.

“The convention means Japan’s last chance to review its cruel tradition to completely dismiss one parent’s right over children after divorce,” Watanabe said. “It is also my last resort to clear my name as a kidnapper.”

While the convention does not directly affect Japan-based families, Japanese and foreign parents here who lost custody pin hopes on their hopeful “gaiatsu,” or foreign pressure, scenario.

Lawyer Mikiko Otani, a member of the Legislative Council of the Ministry of Justice on the Hague Convention, said ratification will bring positive changes to the family courts here, which will examine and rule whether to return a child in accordance with the convention.

The family courts will need to examine and rule on what types of child-taking are unlawful and what serves as the best interest of children in ways that are convincing to foreign authorities.

If the expatriation of children becomes a common practice, courts need to break free from traditional reluctance in using force in family conflict cases. It will discourage parents from simply taking away their children, even by force, as is widely occurring today, she added.

“Ultimately, Japan will need to approve a form of shared custody, which is the norm in most of the countries that are signatory to the convention,” Otani said.

But gaiatsu inevitably draws a backlash. To the relief of Japanese parents who flee with their children from overseas, the proposed domestic legislation to set court procedures for a child’s repatriation sets strict criteria for judges to do so.

The vaguest and most potentially controversial clause among the six requirements is that courts need to ensure there will be no possibility that the concerned child suffers “physical or psychological” abuse once returned.

“Can courts expatriate its nationals, minors, over public opinion? I don’t think that can happen,” said a Japanese mother who fought a lengthy, exhausting court battle in Australia with her ex-husband over custody of their two children.

BACKLASH FOR CHANGE

Interestingly, parties opposing the convention, and moves that can lead to the idea of shared custody, include both those from conservative and liberal camps.

Conservatives say that the single custody system is vital to maintaining the integrity of “koseki,” or Japan’s family registry system.

Kensuke Onuki, a lawyer who has represented Japanese mothers who have brought their children to Japan, agrees that one of the divorced parents must back away, in order to make a child’s new environment more stable.

“I don’t think many Japanese can stand the Western way of communication between children and their divorced parents, in which both parents participate in their children’s growing-up process,” Onuki said.

A head of a parents’ group seeking visitation rights said that even many of its group members, mostly fathers, will find it too burdening to fulfill shared custody, given the limited roles they played in child-rearing before their divorce.

Recalling his days on a family court bench in the mid-1990s, ex-judge Watanabe expressed regret that he and his colleagues had no doubts that it serves the interests of children to grant custody to their mothers.

He added that judges believe that courts must respect women’s parental rights, because it was historically denied to them and they had to gain them through postwar feminism.

“I also remember my boss telling me that the court should give men a ‘free hand’ to start a new life by eliminating responsibility to raise their children, and I really did not find much wrong with it,” Watanabe said.

“Now I know how painful, how cruel it is for a parent, regardless of the mother or father, to have their access denied.”

Watanabe added that he knows that the signing of the Hague Convention may be just the beginning of change for Japanese society.

“But I won’t give up, because this is the only way left for me to show my love for my daughter,” he said.

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Parental abduction : Children in a Legal Vacuum: International Child Abduction


Source: Huffington Post / Natasha Kuilak Mellersh

Many of us take on work or studies in a foreign country, and some of us end up having a family with someone of a different nationality. All great for international understanding? Well usually. But if the relationship breaks down, this type of globally mobile lifestyle brings new challenges for the family courts. Where do you file for a divorce? What about custody and visitation? What if the custody battle turns acrimonious?

With the increase in transnational marriages, international parental child abduction has become a serious problem that affects both individual states and the international community.  Parents who feel unfairly treated by the family courts may  “forum shop” taking the kids into a new legal jurisdiction that will be more likely to rule in their favour, thus sparking a re-run of their custody case. The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction is designed specifically to prevent this border-hopping between nations; signatory countries agree to accept decisions already made in another jurisdiction and to promptly return abducted children to their place of habitual residence.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child also obliges states to ensure that national borders are not used to prevent children from having contact with their family. Signatory states commit to ensuring the continuity of a child’s life when a substantial part of it resides in another country.

Yet it is one thing to accept that is in the child’s best interests to maintain contact with their family and promptly return home; it is another to actually carry this out.

While international legal conventions are designed to regulate cross-border disputes and harmonise legal proceedings, these are not always enforced with appropriate urgency and are frequently evaded or blatantly disregarded. Although parental abduction has been defined as amounting to child abuse, the rights of the child are sadly often ignored in international abduction cases, with nationalistic posturing taking precedence.

Families living abroad are away from the steadying influences of friends and extended family, and may also slip through society’s safety nets of schools, doctors, social workers and counsellors. Who is going to follow up on a family that has moved abroad? Who will bother to find out the background of a family newly arrived in a country? If you don’t speak the language, how can you seek advice and counselling? National laws governing family issues must be adapted to the changing international culture and to reflect the ease of international travel and the transnational nature of many modern families.

US-Italy-Russia

The recent case of the Grin/McIlwrath children highlights the numerous failings of the Russian authorities to work together with their Italian counterparts to protect the children involved. Grin, a Russian-born US citizen who was living in Italy, abducted her four children from their American custodial father in Florence. She travelled to Russia with the children despite Italian court rulings which removed her custody rights and indicated that the children were at risk if they remained with her. Her children have since been placed in Chabad-Lubavitch institutes/orphanages in St Petersburg at her request “for their own safety”.

The plight of the children, who are fluent in both English and Italian, has not even been acknowledged by the Russian authorities. It appears that the obligation of the state to ensure their safety and well being, and contact with their family and friends in Italy in the US, has been completely overlooked since they have been moved into a new jurisdiction, despite the fact that Italy, the US and Russia are all signatories to the Hague Convention.

Russian authorities have similarly done nothing to end the children’s isolation from family and friends, nor ensured they are safe from the risks identified in the Italian court proceedings.

Canada-Poland

In a parallel case two Canadian boys, Alexander and Christopher Watkins, were abducted by their Polish mother after her custody was revoked due to child-neglect. The boys were taken via the US and into Germany where the trail went cold. The Canadian authorities voiced serious concerns about the safety of the children and the ability of the mother to care for them, an Interpol red notice was issued and the mother was put on Canada’s most wanted list. When the children were finally located in Poland, the father immediately applied to have the boys returned home. At the December hearing in Poland the judge ruled that the children are now settled in Poland and should not be returned to Canada. This is despite the boys’ school in Poland independently suing the mother for child neglect. The appeal will be heard on 16 May 2012.

Leaving the children in the care of a demonstrably neglectful and potentially abusive parent is a clear breach of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Refusing to return the children to the custodial parent is a violation of the Hague Convention. That Poland as an EU member state is not being held accountable for the misapplication of these laws and agreements as well as blatantly ignoring Interpol red and yellow notices raises concerns for the quality of European law.

Although both cases have a non European element they both involve EU borders. The issues of cross-border problems arising from divorce or family problems should be tackled more effectively within the EU. While there is often talk of the unification of laws in the EU there is a clear lack of co-operation when it comes to family law. In a region in which members of EU states can move freely between and within numerous jurisdictions the legal tools must exist to deal with the resulting problems of this freedom of movement.

It’s not clear why the Hague Convention is largely ignored in many states, possibly it is perceived by the national judiciary as meddling from outside, maybe it’s just a sign of the general distrust of and reluctance to co-operate with another country’s legal systems, or it could just be plain nationalism: siding with the parent of the same nationality.

If the unification of laws in the corporate sector is moving ahead, why are the laws governing our private lives being left behind? The creation of networks such as Interpol, Europol and various UN initiatives have offered little assistance in addressing problems arising from transnational familial relationships, especially those involving children. While numerous national and international legal measures have been created to uphold the rights of the child, their application has been limited. The enforcement of existing laws and international agreements has not been enough to protect children from the dangers of international child abduction.

Immediate action is essential in cases of child abduction because of the age and vulnerability of the children compounded by the volatility of a parent who is putting their own child through the trauma of abduction. Yet both Poland and Russia have failed to act on these cases, posing a serious risk to the children involved. The person posing the greatest danger to an abducted child is the abductor.

Follow Natasha Kuilak Mellersh on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@tashalaws 

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Mother fled Italy for St. Petersburg, Russia with her four children


Source: Huffingtonpost

Russian Democracy Has a Pulse, Now It Needs a Heart

The Arab Spring was made possible by Facebook servers — sitting in one country affecting another. The ability of information in the form of electrons, to easily pass through borders designed to stop things in the form of atoms, forces us to update our ideas of sovereignty, and the seven billion pieces that give it form — citizenship.

The most simplistic reading of sovereignty is the ability to issue passports, to have a postal system, print money and field an army. But what is the point of a postal system when letters arrive in your inbox without needing stamps? And what is the point of government-issued currency, when we pull out a plastic card instead of paper bills every time we buy things? And what is the meaning of citizenship, when people who are born and live in one country carry passports issued in another? And what is the power of an army when dealing with non-state actors like Al-Qaeda?

Perhaps a way to understand the big picture is to look at the small picture.

My attention these days is focused on Russia — not for the obvious reasons of civil unrest due to election fraud that is currently in the news; the story that has got my attention is smaller but it, too, is a window into the health of Russian democracy.

It is the story of an Italian resident and American and Russian citizen, Marianne Grin, who fled Italy for St. Petersburg, Russia with her four children. My friendship with her family is how I initially learned about this story. The rest comes from Russian and Italian newspaper reports and court documents.

Ms. Grin has said she has fled to St. Petersburg, Russia to escape domestic violence where she claims to have close family. This is an odd claim as she has no family in Russia. Her mother, the children’s maternal grandmother lives in California, as do the children’s paternal grandparents.

Once in Russia she re-invented herself as a persecuted “Russian mother” playing to cultural xenophobic fears. She appeared on TV, gave interviews, and started a blog drawing attention to herself — leaving out the fact that she owns property in both Russia and Italy and has a law degree from Harvard University from her new narrative.

She has also claimed that the U.S. Consulate tried to break into her apartment and kidnap her children. This seems more like a cry for a help than a serious accusation against the State Department.

While the weakness of Russian democracy can be seen through the lens of a recent fraudulent election, another way to get a pulse of this democracy is by looking at the integrity of the press corps. In Russia, it seems as if it is on life support. The transition from a top down authoritarian system under communism that told the press what to write, to the independent investigative system that is essential for a healthy democracy has not gone well.

In fact, it has gone terribly. While the high-profile brutal murders of journalists Anna Stepanovna PolitkovskayaPaul Klebnikov, Khadzhimurad Kamalov are well known, what is less known, but horrifying, is the murder of 213 Russian journalists in the last decade.  With so many journalists killed one can conclude that in order for a reporter to survive it’s better not to ask questions. This makes doing one’s job as a journalist impossible.  Perhaps, this why none of the reporters verified Ms. Grin’s story by talking to the father, family members, or the Italian authorities before publishing it in Russia.

When the story was told in Italy, it was radically different than the story told in Russia. According to the leading Italian national newspaper, La Repubblica, Ms. Grin had lost custody after the court-appointed psychologist concluded that she had a severely disturbed personality and posed a danger to her own children. It’s not easy for a mother to lose custody in Italy as the Italian courts strongly favor “Mamma” in custody disputes and fathers are awarded exclusive custody in only 1.6 percent of cases.

The Italian newspapers also reported there had been no domestic violence by the father and others that Ms. Grin had accused of violence.

It appears that Ms. Grin was not escaping domestic violence — rather she was escaping a court judgment that she didn’t like.

Why does any of this matter? 

I think this case redefines how we can think about the bigger ideas of citizenship and sovereignty and is a window into the state of democracy in Russia.

Let’s talk about citizenship first. What does it mean to be a citizen in a world of global employment hop-scotching? There are four children involved here. Three of them were born in Italy, one in the U.S. The children have Russian and U.S. passports, but that’s a legal status. What does that mean to a child?  To these kids the only home they have ever known is Florence, Italy. This is where they have been growing up. It’s where their schools are and where their friends live. It’s their state of mind, and their state of place, until now.

Now, through no fault of their own, it seems the children are stateless. The mechanism for protecting children is established. It’s called the Hague International Convention Against Child Abduction. The Convention provides for the immediate return of children abducted from their “habitual place of domicile.” In July of 2011, Russia joined the convention. This is the first case to come up in Russia after the convention came into force in October 2011. So far it seems that the Russian Foreign Ministry is supporting international child abduction instead of honoring the treaty it signed and has turned a blind eye to the human rights at stake here. The father, family and friends have been denied access to the children; the children’s education has been interrupted, and that’s cruel.

The safety of the children needs to be made a priority.

Given the Italian courts’ allegations against Ms. Grin of mental instability, all of this took on a sense of urgency on Nov. 21, 2011 when, in a parallel story, Elke Mellersh left her husband with her two children and fled from England to Turkey, where she also claimed to be protecting them from the father.  She, too, found refuge in local Turkish media, which sensationalized rather than verified her story. The story ends with Elke taking her delusions of protection to the extreme, killing herself and the two small children.

Do laws in countries matter? Do laws between countries matter? I would argue that they do now with the new permeability of borders caused by a shift from the analog to the digital more than ever. So while the concept of citizenship remains blurry to me, one thing that would make it clear, and would also be a sign of healthy democracy would be if the children were returned to their home in Italy and reunited with their father, friends, family and classmates in accordance with Italian law, Russian law, and international treaty.

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