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02 DEC 2013

Reunite assists European Court of Human Rights on interpretation of Hague Convention

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has delivered a Grand Chamber judgment in the child abduction case of X v Latvia in which Reunite, a UK international parental child abduction charity, has intervened.

The case concerned the application of the 1980 Hague Convention on the civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and its compatibility with the provisions of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

At issue in the case was the procedure for the return of a child to Australia, her country of origin, which she had left with her mother at the age of three and the mother's complaint that the Latvian courts' decision ordering the child's return to Australia had breached her Article 8 rights.

In 2008 a Latvian Court found that the child's removal to Latvia had been wrongful under the principles of the 1980 Hague Convention. Following the return of the child, the ECtHR held, by a majority, that there had been a violation of Article 8. The Court held that ‘the Latvian courts' approach in granting the return order lacked in-depth examination of the entire family situation and of a whole series of factors.'

In this subsequent appeal, reunite assisted the Grand Chamber in considering the general approach taken to the examination and subsequent determination of the welfare of an individual child in international child abduction cases.

An increasing number of cases under the 1980 Hague Convention are coming before the ECtHR and reunite held concerns that some aspects of the Court's jurisprudence were being applied inappropriately and in a manner which was inconsistent with the principles of the Hague Convention.

The President of the ECtHR authorised reunite to provide written submissions as independent third parties in the case before the Grand Chamber. Following the judgment, Alison Shalaby, reunite's Chief Executive Officer, commented:

‘We are grateful to the European Court of Human Rights for affording us the opportunity to contribute submissions and provide assistance in this case. We believe that the 1980 Hague Convention must remain an effective international instrument, ensuring that children who have been abducted are promptly returned to their country of habitual residence and it is important that any guidance to its proper interpretation is clear to those who have to apply it, or who are subject to it.'

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