The European Court of Human Rights ordered Hungary to pay a father €32,000 for the abduction of his child. Read about it here (Caboodle.hu, 8/25/11).
An Irish man and his wife living in France had a daughter in 2000, but divorced in 2005. The French court awarded them joint custody, but in 2007, the girl’s mother took her to Hungary and enrolled her in school, planning never to return.
The father went to court in Hungary, presumably asserting his rights under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, to which Hungary is a signatory nation. It took six months, but the Hungarian court ruled that the mother had to return the child to France.
Here’s how the article describes what happened next:
Hungarian authorities unsuccessfully tried to get the mother to oblige.
I love that. Here’s a sovereign nation with a ruling by one of its courts ordering the return to France of a child unlawfully abducted by her mother. That of course means that she’s under court order to take or send the child back to her father. Refusal to do so is a violation of a court order that the court is empowered to punish by incarceration or other sanctions. In short, Hungary had the power to force the mother to do what she was legally obligated to do or jail her and return the child itself.
So the fact that the country merely “tried to get the mother to oblige,” I find… quaint. The fact that its efforts were unsuccessful is beyond belief. I see a picture of Hungarian judges and police asking the mother very nicely to please follow their orders, her shaking her head and them turning away with a shrug that means “what can we do?”
But Dad wasn’t finished. He got a criminal warrant from a French court to have Mom arrested. He also got an award of sole custody.
Pursuant to the warrant, the Hungarian police finally got around to arresting the mother, but released her the next day. She then promptly disappeared with the child and hasn’t been found. That was over two years ago.
It would be hard to imagine what else a nation could do to abet parental kidnapping than what Hungary did in this case. I suppose they could have given her written instructions on how to avoid her legal obligations, but failing that, jailing her and then letting her go the next day was surely the next best thing. After all, what did that do but tell her to run?
At that point, Dad was out of options for getting his child back, so he turned to the European Court of Human Rights for compensation. The laws of the European Union specify a right to family life that the mother plainly violated. Moreover, Hungary abetted her violations by failing to do what it was required by the Hague Convention and the charter and laws of the European Union to do.
So Dad sued Hungary and won. He was awarded €20,000 in compensation and €12,000 in legal expenses by the court. That of course is nothing compared to a lifetime with his daughter. And the money will do nothing to replace her father in the life of the girl who must be 11 now. I wonder if, when she reaches adulthood, she too could bring suit against Hungary for depriving her of her father. I don’t see why not.
Still, it’s worth noticing that, at least in Europe, countries covered by the Union’s charter and laws, aren’t entirely free to do as they please with fathers’ rights and children’s welfare. Unlike so many other places there seem to be consequences, albeit slight ones, for running roughshod over fathers and children.
And that’s a small step in the right direction.