The Hague Convention on Child Abduction was originally created to help stop child trafficking and serious issues of this nature.
In recent years however, it has become a tool for child abusers to reclaim their victims.
According to Reunite research almost every parent they interviewed had fled from a foreign country with their children to escape domestic violence. The perpetrators of the abuse use the Hague Convention to circumnavigate the rigorous investigation of the English court and use ‘jurisdiction’ and ‘habitual residence’ to their advantage and force the children and victim parent to their own country.
Once the victims are back in the perpetrators country, the perpetrator is are at a distinct advantage.
They are using their own language and (usually) an inferior, familiar and corruptible justice system to their advantage.
The victim parent will be unfamiliar with the legal system and language and will be at a disadvantage of being homeless and penniless after fleeing in panic from the family home.
The Hague Convention only has a very limited number of options to avoid being sent back to the other country. Either there is a risk of harm or the child objects.
Risk of Harm
If there is a real risk of harm to the children the proceedings must be in depth and every piece of evidence must heavily scrutinized, witnesses questioned and cross examined etc, just as in a real domestic violence case.
Unfortunately Hague proceedings do not allow for this. They are, in accordance with the convention, very short and quick. There is very little time to gather evidence or even to produce a half decent statement. there are no witnesses, no cross examination, no investigation and wholly rely on a hastily put together statement by an individual who has recently fled domestic violence and all the emotions and confusion that entails.
Hague Convention hearings a catastrophically inadequate to determine and risk of harm.
The child, if they are old enough, is interviewed by a CAFCASS officer to ascertain their views and wishes. A report is then made and supplied to the judge.
If, as in my case, the child objects for a whole host of reasons including risk of harm then the judge can refuse to send them back. Since Hague Convention hearings do not deal with custody issues. ‘jurisdiction’ and ‘habitual residence’ means the English court cannot make this kind of decision, the judge has no other option then to send the children back to the other country.
Child Objections are automatically overruled by jurisdiction issues, rendering this argument useless.
There MUST be a drastic and immediate change to the way Hague Convention hearings are carried out for the safety and protection of children.
There MUST be adequate measures to ensure that the Hague Convention is not being misused to reclaim victims of child abuse.