Severe human rights violation in Sweden: Authorities get away with child abduction

ADF International files case with ECHR against Sweden, home-schooled boy forcibly removed and barred from seeing parents for more than five years
Tuesday, May 24, 2016

STRASBOURG, France – On Monday, ADF International filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Johansson v. Sweden. Christer and Annie Johansson want their 14-year-old son Domenic to be returned by the Swedish state to their care and custody.

The boy, who is their only son, has not been allowed to see his parents in five years and five months. The Swedish district court acknowledged in 2012 that Domenic’s parents took good care of him, but noted that they schooled him at home. This practice, which is rare but legal in Sweden forms the background and possibly the reason for the draconian punishment the family continues to suffer.

“The Swedish authorities have clearly violated the Johanssons’ right to family life. This right is a fundamental right expressly guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. Separating a young child from his parents without even allowing them access to each other is an extreme and unnecessary interference with this right,” said Lorcán Price, legal counsel with ADF International, who filed the application.

In 2009, social services authorities seized the young son of the Johansson family from the custody of his parents as they sat on an airplane. They were about to journey to his mother’s home country of India. The officials neither acted with a warrant nor did they charge the Johanssons with any crime. The authorities seized the boy because they believed home schooling is an inappropriate way to raise a child.

At first, Christer and Annie were allowed to visit their then seven-year-old son two hours a week; however, the government soon cut off all visitations. The child was not only prevented from seeing his parents but also his extended family. When his grandmother died, the officials denied the boy permission to attend her funeral.

In December 2009, a Swedish court ruled in Johansson v. Gotland Social Services that the government was within its rights to seize the child. They cited the fact that the boy had not been vaccinated as a reason to remove him permanently from his parents and also repeated the demonstrably false charges that home-schoolers do not perform well academically and are not well socialized.

Since then, the Johanssons have been fighting at every level of the Swedish court system for their child. In November 2015, the Swedish Supreme Court refused their appeal, leaving them with no option but to take their fight to the European Court of Human Rights.

“Every child deserves to be raised by his or her mother and father. The European Convention on Human Rights requires the cutting of that bond to be the nuclear last resort. In this case, it seems to be the government’s first resort, and so we are inviting the European Court of Human Rights to intervene,” said Robert Clarke, director of European advocacy for ADF International.

“International law holds that children should grow up in an environment where their family ties are maintained, allowing them to enjoy the love, support, and nurture of their natural parents. We urge the European Court of Human Rights to accept the case and quickly have the Swedish authorities return the Johanssons’ son to their care.”

ADF International is an alliance-building legal organisation that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.