Pro-family group puts pressure on European Court over notorious homeschooling case
February 3, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Alliance of Romanian Families (AFR) is intervening in the case of Domenic Johansson, the Swedish boy who was abducted by Gotland social services in 2009, asking that he be returned to his family, as international pressure increases on the Swedish government.
The AFR, a Christian pro-life and family advocacy group based in Bucharest, is calling for the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to move forward in the case, noting that lawyers representing the Johannson family filed a complaint against the Swedish government six months ago. The AFR lobbies for the rights of parents, including the right to home school, at the international level.
In a letter addressed to the ECHR, the AFR said it “would like to register its voice of solidarity with the Johansson family. It would also request that the Court show greater expediency in dealing with at least the request for emergency measures and the provision of a case number.
“The proper resolution of this case is of utmost institutional importance to Romanian families, home educators and the protection of both parental and children’s rights.”
In his letter to the Court, AFR president Peter Costea noted that Domenic had been taken from his family despite the fact that they were suspected of no crimes and no abuse. “The sole contention of the state was that Domenic was being home educated.”
Costea said in an email, “The ECHR appears to swiftly accept cases involving issues which are generally subversive to family and Christian values.
“We note that it recently accepted for review the case of two Russian females whose request for a marriage certificate had been denied by Russian authorities.”
In June 2009, Domenic, who was then eight, was taken by police from a plane as the family was preparing to go to India to do charitable work. They had planned to enroll Domenic in school in India. Since then, Domenic has been held in the custody of Gotland Social services and is allowed to see his family for one hour every five weeks.
Friends and supporters of the family say Domenic’s parents are at a breaking point in their struggle to regain their child. Late last year his father, Christer Johansson, took Domenic home from a state-supervised visit, to stay over night in the family home and visit with his grandparents. Christer was arrested and jailed for two months and subjected to multiple psychological evaluations before being released last month.
Michael Donnelly an attorney who works with international cases for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), said the family’s supporters are concerned that the ECHR is not moving on the case.
“It has been rumored that there may be a court official who is hostile to anti-Sweden applications,” he said.
“Our hope is that a number of letters inquiring about the case from the public will get the needed attention on the case,” he said.
Ruby Harrold-Claesson, the president of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights, has been working with the Johansson family and has said she is shocked at the handling of the situation by Swedish authorities. Harrold-Claesson had been the family’s choice for representation but was removed at the order of the state.
She said she is “absolutely astonished” that the ECHR has not responded to any of the applications submitted on behalf of the family.
Donnelly said, “A judgment from the ECHR could order Sweden to pay damages and could be taken to European institutions such as the Council of Ministers to seek enforcement.”
The “sad truth,” however, “is that there is no reparation that could ever make up for the damage done to this family by Swedish authorities. Domenic and his parents continue to live a nightmare and will be scarred by this experience for life. It is the kind of experience that is difficult to ever recover from.”
Swedish child protection laws have long been criticized as being excessively interventionist; social workers are given broad discretion in seizing children and holding them up to age 21. Under the current laws, social workers can, on their own judgment, disrupt families and remove children without any proof being presented to a court. The law specifies that parents who object too strongly can be restricted from seeing their children.
Gotland Social Services:
Swedish Embassy - U.S.
Embassy of Sweden
2900 K Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
Swedish Embassy - Canada
377 Dalhousie Street
Phone: (613) 244-8200
To sign the petition to the Swedish authorities to return Dominic to his family click here.