New ruling increases pressure to return Swedish child to parents

ADF, HSLDA file new motion with European high court
Friday, February 10, 2012

ADF attorney sound bite:  Roger Kiska

STRASBOURG, France — A recent European Court of Human Rights ruling increases the pressure on Sweden to return a 10-year-old boy to his parents after the government abducted him from his parents nearly three years ago for being home-schooled.

Alliance Defense Fund and Home School Legal Defense Association attorneys representing the parents of the boy, Domenic Johansson, filed a new motion with the European high court Thursday after the court ruled in another case that children can be irreparably harmed if separated from their parents for more than three years.

“The government shouldn’t abduct and imprison children simply because it doesn’t like homeschooling. This atrocity must stop,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Roger Kiska, who is based in Europe. “The recent ruling from Europe’s highest court recognizes the harm that comes to a child when he is separated from his parents for such an excessive amount of time. Domenic should be returned to his parents immediately.”

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights concluded in Neulinger and Shuruk v. Switzerland that a child separated from a custodial parent for more than three years can be irreparably harmed by the upheaval in his living circumstances if he is not returned to the custodial parent before then.

The application for interim measures filed Thursday argues that the court’s conclusion in that case “highlights the urgency of granting interim measures in the Johansson case…. Gotland Social Services continues to unlawfully hinder reunification and minimize parental visitation both in violation of Domenic’s rights and the parents’ rights. Like in Neulinger and Shuruk, this separation has been ongoing for nearly three years. We therefore urge the European Court not to wait any longer to impose interim measures in reuniting Domenic with his natural parents, Annie and Christer Johansson….”

Swedish authorities forcibly removed Domenic from his parents in June 2009 from a plane they had boarded to move to Annie’s home country of India. The officials did not have a warrant nor did they charge the Johanssons with any crime. The officials seized the child because he was home-schooled, even though home-schooling was legal in Sweden at the time he was taken into custody.

“There is no justification for separating Domenic from his parents for this long,” explained HSLDA lawyer Mike Donnelly, one of nearly 2,100 attorneys in the ADF alliance. “We remain gravely concerned about this case as it represents what can happen to other home-schooling families.”

HSLDA, which is working together with ADF on the Johansson v. Sweden case, is a 29-year-old, 80,000 member non-profit organization advocating the legal right of parents to home-school their children. Ruby Harold Claesson of the Nordic Committee on Human Rights is also working with ADF on the case.
  • Pronunciation guide: Kiska (KISH’-kuh), Donnelly (DAHN’-uh-lee)
  • Photo: Domenic Johansson and his mother, Annie, before he was seized by Swedish authorities
 ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.