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Law Matters: Child Abduction - legal advice - The Hague Online
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Law Matters: Child Abduction

(18 July 2006)

One of the stories that is now regularly covered by the Dutch media concerns the two Dutch children who were taken to Syria by their father against their mother's will. The mother has now been fighting for the return of her children for over two years. Recently, the children were able to get away from their father and reach the Dutch Embassy in Damascus. The diplomacy is now trying to find a solution. The main question is: are the children going to be returned to the Netherlands?

 

Child abduction by one of the parents is one of the most grave and emotional actions that can be taken. The impact on the children is overwhelming. Unfortunately, it happens more and more often. The Dutch Authorities were asked to take action in 58 cases in 2002 and 76 in 2004. On December 1 2005, 126 children had not yet returned to the Netherlands. In this article, I will provide basic information regarding the legal background.

 

First of all, in the Netherlands it is prohibited to take a child to another country against the will of the other custodian parent. Doing so earns the parent a maximum prison sentence of nine years. Unfortunately, one must realise that it is unlikely this threat will withhold anybody from abducting his or her child. More importantly, the other parent is usually merely interested in the quick return of the child.

 

If you know the whereabouts of the child and if the child is in a country which is a member state of The Hague Child Abduction Treaty, there are legal possibilities to take action for a quick return. The member states are listed in the Treaty database on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs www.minbuza.nl. The member states have obliged themselves to realize the return of an abducted child as soon as possible. The necessary procedures are to be followed by the Central Authority and judges of each state.

 

Unfortunately, 75% of the children are taken to non-treaty countries. Therefore, the treaty does not apply and one must find other sources to safeguard a safe return of the child. This could be diplomacy, legal action in the country concerned, or even a re-abduction, which, however, might be as illegal as the initial abduction.

 

As Syria is not a member state of the Treaty, Syrian authorities will apply their own values when deciding whether to collaborate in the return of the children to the Netherlands.

 

Antoine de Werd adewerd@gmw.nl

Attorney at Law

http://www.gmw.nl/en/

 +31(0)70 - 3615048

 

 


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