Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Hague Convention is mere words on paper ~ not justice for children

By Ken Thompson, December 13, 2009

Two years ago, 11 month old Panagiotis Laskos was abducted from
Australia to Poland by his mother.

Panagiotis & his mother are Australian Citizens. His mother is also a
Polish national. His father Dimitrios is an Australian citizen and is
also a Greek national.

Panagiotis is an Australian citizen & travelled to Poland with his
mother on an Australian Passport.

Dimitrios immediately lodged an application with the Polish Government
for Panagiotis to be returned to Australia under the provisions of the
Hague Convention. This is the only legal mechanism available to a
parent whose child has been abducted from Australia.

There are only three provisons within the Hague Convention upon which a
signatory country can refuse to return a child:

1) When the person, institution or other body having the care of the
person of the child was not actually exercising the custody rights at
the time of removal or retention, or had consented to or subsequently
acquiesced in the removal or retention; or

2) When there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the
child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in
an intolerable situation.

3) Under some circumstances, the return can be refused if the child has
become settled in the country it has been abducted to. This usually
applies if the Hague application is not submitted within 12 months of
the abduction taking place.

The Polish courts initially refused to return Panagiotis to Australia
because his mother didn't want to return to Australia. This is not a
legitimate reason under the provisions of the Hague Convention.
Dimitrios appealed the decision to the High Court of Poland. He has now
been told this court has also refused to return Panagiotis to Australia.

Their reasons were:

1) The child doesn't speak English.

This is not a legitimate reason under the provisions of the HC. Anyway,
the only reason the child doesn't speak English is because he was
abducted to Poland two years ago & it has taken this much time to work
through the Polish courts.

2) The child no longer knows its father.

This is not a legitimate reason under the provisions of the Hague
Convention. The purpose of the Hague Convention is to enable children to
be reunited with their other parent as quickly as possible & to enable
parenting matters to be heard in the courts within the jurisdiction of
the child's "country of habitual residence".

The only reason the child no longer knows its father is because it was
abducted and then prevented from having any contact with its father for
almost two years. Dimitrios travelled to Poland last year to see his
son. The mother only allowed him to see Panagiotis for four hours. Now
they say the son doesn't know his father.

2) The father lied to the court about his property holdings in Sydney &
he is unreliable.

This is not relevant under the HC. The court had asked Dimitrios for
proof that he owned property in Australia & Dimitrios agreed to provide
this information even though it wasn't relevant to the case.

Dimitrios had to sell his home to pay for his legal fees. His aunt owns
a 6 bedroom house in Sydney & has offered to transfer the title to
Dimitrios. The court would not accept this. Dimitrios also owns a very
successful restaurant in Sydney but he doesn't own the building. This
was not taken into consideration by the court.

Let's not forget.....none of this is relevant to the Hague Convention.
In the two years it has taken Dimitrios to work through the Polish
courts, the mother has had the child's name legally changed and has had
it baptised in a different religion to the one it was originally
baptised in when the child was in Australia. She commenced divorce
proceedings without Dimitrious knowing about this. She is also being
supported publicly by Polish politicians & the Polish media.

Dimitrios has no other avenue of appeal within the Polish legal system.
He has no legal avenues available to him within Australia either because
International Parental Child Abduction is not a crime in Australia. If
it was, consideration could be given to seeking the extradition of the
child's mother.

This decision by the Polish High Court is a travesty of justice and a
blatant breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the
Child. It also shows the Polish legal system has total contempt for
international law & that the Polish Government is complicit in the
abduction of Australian children.

At least 150 children are abducted from Australia each year. Unlike
several other 'developed' countries, it is not a criminal offence in
Australia for a parent to abduct a child from this country. This means
Dimitrios has no further legal avenues available to him in either Poland
or Australia to have his son returned.

Where to now?

To be continued....
ken thompson

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