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On Wednesday the House of Lords ruled in Re M (Abduction: Zimbabwe) that two children who were wrongfully removed from Zimbabwe can remain in the UK.
The father of the children, who had been born and raised in Zimabawe, had applied for summary return of the children to Zimbabwe under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980. The Court of Appeal rejected the mother's defence of grave risk, concluding that this was a Zimbabwean case. Neither the children nor their mother had any lawful right to remain in the UK and, although settlement had been established under Art 12 of the Convention, the judge excercised his discretion to order an immediate return.
Their Lordships found that it had to be borne in mind that the major objective of the Convention could not be achieved, in that a swift return to the country of origin could not be secured. It therefore could not be assumed that that country was the better forum for the resolution of the parental dispute; the policy of the Convention would not necessarily point towards a return in such cases, quite apart from the comparative strength of the countervailing factors, which might well, as in this case, include the child's objections as well as her integration in her new community.
In this case the children should not be returned because of the delay. Baroness Hale said the "children should not be made to suffer for the sake of general deterrence of the evil of child abduction world wide".
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