State ‘child-napping’ escalates to international court
The state-sponsored “child-napping” of a Swedish boy because his parents were homeschooling him is being escalated to the European Court of Human Rights, which is being asked to hear the case of Domenic Johansson. The application has been filed by the Alliance Defense Fund and the Home School Legal Defense Association, international organizations monitoring the case in which Johansson was taken into custody by police one year ago on the orders of local social services agents.
“We are gravely concerned about this case because of the threat it represents to other homeschooling families,” said Mike Donnelly, staff attorney for HSLDA and one of nearly 1,700 attorneys in the ADF alliance. “In response to our inquiries, Swedish authorities have cited the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child to explain and defend their actions. If the U.S. were to ever ratify this treaty, as the White House and some members of Congress desire, then this sort of thing could occur here.”
Swedish authorities forcibly removed Domenic from the custody of his parents, Christer and Annie Johansson of Gotland, on June 25, 2009, from a plane they had boarded to move to Annie’s home country of India. The officials did not have a warrant nor have they charged the Johanssons with any crime.
The HSLDA and ADF reported the officials “seized the child because they believe homeschooling is an inappropriate way to raise a child and insist the government should raise Domenic instead. Social services authorities have placed Domenic in foster care as well as a government school and are only allowing Christer and Annie to visit their son for one hour every five weeks.”
“Parents have the right and authority to make decisions regarding their children’s education without government interference,” said Europe-based ADF Legal Counsel Roger Kiska. “A government trying to create a cookie-cutter child in its own image should not be allowed to violate this basic and fundamental human right. The refusal of Swedish authorities to respect that right has left us no choice but to take this case to the European Court of Human Rights.”
The case was elevated to the international court because the Supreme Administrative Court of Sweden refused to review a lower court’s decision from December 2009 affirming the state abduction of Domenic.
The lower court had cited minor medical concerns for Domenic “as well as the provably false charges that homeschoolers do not perform well academically and are not well socialized,” according to the HSLDA.
“It’s one of the most disgraceful abuses of power we have ever witnessed,” Donnelly said. “We fear that all home-schooling families in that country are at risk.”
Christer Johansson told WND via e-mail just days ago he is expecting further court action on the case in Sweden in the next few weeks. While courts have affirmed the “taking” of Christer and Annie’s son, the arguments now are pending over the social services agents’ ability to “keep” him.
“I have never ever in my life been in contact with such cruel people,” he told WND.
One of the websites working to support the Johansson family, DomenicJohansson.com, said social services agents apparently are pushing the case forward quickly before an internationally known human rights advocate could be restored to the case.
“Close observers of the Johansson state-sponsored ‘kidnapping’ case believe the Visby Social Board is pushing Swedish courts to fast-track a new series of court challenges in an effort to have the cases quashed long before Ruby Harrold-Claesson wins her way back as counsel to Domenic’s parents,” a recent report on the website states.
It also has posted a photographic comparison of the boy shortly before he was taken into custody by police and several months after he was placed in foster care under government orders.
“June 25, 2010, marks the one-year anniversary of the violent seizure of the … child,” the report states. “So traumatized was Domenic by the acts of armed police on behalf of the Visby Social Services board, witnesses tell us he vomited during and shortly after the shocking scene when uniformed Swedish police stormed an India-bound jetliner just moments before takeoff.”
WND reported when a judge banished from the case Ruby Harrold-Claesson, the president of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights and a well-known advocate for families in disputes with social-services agents over custody of their children.
Domenic’s parents had been in a dispute with local government officials over their plans to homeschool him as the family prepared to move to India. An e-mail from Harrold-Claesson obtained by WND confirmed she would appeal the determination.
Christer Johansson told WND, also by e-mail, a new lawyer had called him to introduce himself: “So I said, ‘Hold on a little, where is my lawyer Ruby?’ He said she was removed from the case by the court [be]cause our son’s lawyer made a complaint against her.”
He said the court apparently removed Harrold-Claesson because the lawyer made an attempt to see the child in the school where social-services agents had put him.
“I will not accept any other lawyer than Ruby,” Johansson told WND. “I just can’t start over again.”
According to a website that supports the family, the head of Sweden’s Department of Children and Education, Lena Celion, wrote that it was “for the boy’s sake” that agents forcibly and without a warrant took him from his family, placed him with a foster family and enrolled him in a government school.
“Whose child is Domenic? Is he the child of Annie and Christer Johansson, or is he the child of Gotland Municipality?” the website questions.
Annie and Dominic Johansson
“For ‘the boy’s sake’ Swedish social services ripped a happy, healthy and cherished child from the arms of loving parents. Why? To force him to sit daily in a building behind a desk in a Swedish school when just a few short months later he would have been doing the very same thing in Indian public schools, less the trauma caused by what has been almost an entire year separated from his parents. With rights like these, we think children would be better off with no rights at all!”
Gustaf Hofstedt, president of the local social-services board, has told WND by telephone from Sweden that there is more to the dispute than homeschooling, but he refused to explain.
“I understand the public debate has been that is a case that is only concerning the fact of homeschooling,” he told WND. “But that is not the case.”
Asked to explain, he said, “I can’t answer that question because of secrecy.”
Then he complained about the participation of Harrold-Claesson in the case.
“There was an attorney that wasn’t accepted actually by the parents,” he said. “The first attorney was very much welcome to get information.”
The HSLDA documented that the child was removed “without a warrant or reasonable cause to believe that he was being harmed.”
“Their reasoning? Dominic was being homeschooled, which is permitted by Swedish law, and his parents had also legally opted out of giving him standard vaccinations,” the group said.
Further, in December, “after being kept in state custody for several months with minimal visitation from his parents, a Swedish court upheld this decision.”
Christer Johansson has told WND that other parents who find themselves in such situations should “get a good lawyer” immediately.
He said he and his wife have been shocked by what has happened.
“It’s difficult for me to speak about all this, and really I have not landed yet. It’s just so crazy. It’s insane stuff that’s happening. It has to stop,” he told WND earlier.
When the court ruling was announced, Donnelly, also director of international affairs for the HSLDA, called the court decision “deeply disturbing.”
“The hostility against homeschooling and for parent’s rights is contrary to everything expected from a Western nation,” he said.
There also is a petition on Dominic’s behalf.
“At times referred to as a ‘social utopia,’ Sweden is completely antagonistic toward homeschoolers and, in reality, anyone who deviates from what the Swedish government defines as ‘normal.’ The government’s quest for conformity produces troubling side effects: the criminalization of actions – such as a parent’s decision regarding the best form of education for his child – that ought to be the hallmarks of a free, democratic society,” HSLDA has reported.
“Taking children from their parents over minor differences in approaches to medical care (e.g., choosing not to vaccinate or delaying minor dental treatments) and for homeschooling is completely at odds with the basic human rights which all Western democracies should reflect,” the HSLDA said.
The attack on homeschoolers appears to be part of a trend in some Western nations, including Germany. WND reported when a German family was granted asylum in the United States because of the persecution members would face if returned to their home country.
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