Wednesday, June 06, 2007

South Africa and the Hague Convention

South Africa’s Court of Appeal has blasted the failure of the courts below to order the prompt return of a child, now aged five, who was wrongfully retained in South Africa away from his then habitual residence in the Netherlands by his mother for 3½ years. The Court ordered (June 4, 2007) that the child now be returned immediately to the Netherlands, in compliance with South Africa’s obligations under the Hague Child Abduction Convention.

Judge Belinda van Heerden expressed great concern at the “dismal failure” of South Africa’s courts and its chief family advocate to act expeditiously and to secure the child’s prompt return, stating that proceedings "in the present case were anything but expeditious. Some three and a half years have elapsed from the time of the boy's wrongful retention in SA in December 2003. The boy has spent most of his young life in this country.”

Judge van Heerden also stated that, "The training of South African judicial officers in the principles and procedures underpinning the convention also appears to be less than that required by SA's obligations under the convention. It is to be hoped that these shortcomings will receive the prompt and proper attention of the relevant authorities."