Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Federal Courts Violate the Hague Abduction Convention

By Jeremy Morley

This week the Abbott case – the only Hague abduction case ever to get the U.S. Supreme Court -- was finally dismissed, but only because the child turned 16 and the Hague Convention applies only to children under that age. The case is known for the fact that U.S. courts finally accepted the rule applied by most other countries that a parent who can veto his child’s relocation overseas ha s a Hague right of custody.

The child’s mother had wrongfully taken the child, then aged 9 or 10, from his habitual residence in Chile to Texas in violation of Chilean law prohibiting either parent from taking the child out of the country without the other’s consent. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that he should have been returned to Chile.

However, the case should also be famous for the fact that it demonstrates that the federal appeal courts trample on the clear treaty obligation of the United States to resolve Hague cases expeditiously – and within six weeks if possible.

Instead of it taking the recommended six weeks for the courts to handle the case it took them six years -- and even then the child was never returned. The result is an utter farce. Federal appeals courts in the United States have no rules concerning expeditious handling of Hague cases. With minimal exceptions these cases are placed on the same timetable as any other case, while courts often pay mere lip service to the requirement of speedy determination by simply refusing to grants a stay of enforcement of a return order pending an appeal, thereby effectively depriving many respondent’s of their right of appeal.

For the family in question, it appears (to an outsider) that the result has been disastrous. CNN reports that “the youngster seeks no further contact with his father.”

Speedy resolution of return applications is essential to the operation of the Convention. The language of the Convention repeatedly calls for state parties to provide for procedures to ensure the "prompt return" of abducted children (Preamble; Article 1) and to "use the most expeditious procedures available" (Article 2). Indeed, the Convention provides in substance that a country’s judicial authorities are expected to conclude a Hague case within six weeks of its commencement.

In England the courts have adopted rules that require appeals in Hague cases to be lodged within 14 days of the first instance decision and that expedite appeals through a fast-tracking appellate procedure. The target of six weeks is for resolution of the case in its entirety, including all appeals.

The United States federal courts should follow suit. By failing to do so they are participants in international treaty violation.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

French Jewish mother wins custody battle against Saudi prince

A French Jewish mother has won a custody battle in France against a Saudi prince, who has been ordered to return their 10-year old daughter he was alleged to have kidnapped after their cross-religious romance turned sour.

The Paris criminal court ordered Prince Sattam al-Saud from the kingdom’s founding royal family, to hand over custody of his daughter Aya to her French mother, Candice Cohen-Ahnine, and provide child support of €10,000 (£8,300) a month.

For the past three-and-a-half years, the prince has kept Aya in a Riyadh palace despite efforts by the French foreign ministry and President Nicolas Sarkozy's office to resolve the issue.

But the French court ruling appears to have had no effect on the prince. “What do I care of Sarkozy?” he is cited as telling Nouvel Observateur magazine. “If need be, I’ll go like [Osama] bin Laden and hide in the mountains with Aya.”

Miss Cohen-Ahnin, 34, and the prince met in London 14 years ago at Brown’s nightclub and their daughter was born in November 2001.

Their relationship continued until 2006 when he allegedly announced that he was obliged to marry a cousin, but that she could be a second wife. She refused and they separated.

Miss Cohen-Ahnine claimed that her daughter was taken from her during a visit to Saudi Arabia in 2008 and that she was held in the prince’s palace where she had only fleeting meetings with her daughter.

She said she managed to leave when a maid left her door open and she sought refuge in the French embassy.

Miss Cohen-Ahnin was eventually spirited out of the country after the prince allegedly produced a document purporting that she had been Muslim but had converted to Judaism — a crime punishable by death.

She said she was concerned about her daughter’s upbringing when she discovered Facebook photos of her in a niqab and playing with her father’s firearms.

Despairing at the lack of diplomatic progress, she published Give My Daughter Back, a book recounting her ordeal, in October.

Since the court ruling, the prince faces an international arrest warrant for ignoring the custody sentence.

Mrs Cohen-Ahnine said the court ruling was a “great victory for me and vindicates everything I have said … but I’m still very worried for my child’s future.”

The prince denied ever having kidnapped the child or the mother.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, he said: “She was free to come and go as she pleased.”

He said she had converted to Islam and the two had married in Lebanon under Islamic law, and under terms of the divorce, put through courts in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, the parents were to share custody of the child.

He said the protocol was drawn up in Saudi Arabia offering her a house, all expenses paid and access to the child and the possibility of taking her on holiday for one-and-a-half months a year.
He said she left Saudi Arabia for France without even telling the family. He claimed that she said: “'Give me two million euros and take the daughter’. I said, 'No, I don’t bargain over my own child’. That’s when the problem started.”

The prince said he would send lawyers to France to challenge the court decision but not his daughter.

“France hasn’t got the right to take her back. She is a Saudi citizen and a princess. They cannot oblige a princess to leave this country,” he said.

For more information on Saudi Arabia and International Child Abductions, please go to: