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December 10, 2014

Czech children to spend fourth Christmas in Norwegian foster care

TOP 09 deputy wants government to ask for answers international child custody dispute

Prague, Dec 9 (ČTK) — Czech mother Eva Michaláková, from whom the Norwegian authorities took her sons away three years ago, plans to file a legal complaint against the social service in Norway and ask for the children to be placed in her custody, MP Jitka Chalánková (TOP 09) told reporters.

Michaláková’s Norwegian defense counsels are preparing the respective legal steps.

On Chalánková’s proposal, the Chamber of Deputies today assigned the government to ask Norway to explain why the children were taken from their mother and why they have not been returned to her when the investigation was halted.

Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová, (Social Democrats, ČSSD) dismissed the view that the government ignores the case. She said the government has no instrument to influence the case in Norway, where it is dealt with according to Norwegian legislation.

Marksová said Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD) will directly address Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg over the case.

Justice Minister Helena Válková (ANO) also indicated that the Czech Republic has only limited options now.

Michaláková and her two sons have Czech citizenship.

The Barnevern Norwegian social service took the sons from the Czech couple in May 2011 on the basis of a denunciation from a kindergarten saying they were sexually abused.

Zdeněk Kapitán, head of the Czech branch of the Office for International Legal Protection of Children, told Czech Television (ČT) that suspected sexual abuse was not the only reason why the children were taken away from the family.

The Norwegian police investigated the father and later also the mother of the boys, but they halted the investigation and no charges were brought.

Despite it, the Norwegian authorities stripped the parents of the right to care for the children in February 2012 and sent the boys to foster parents. Each of them stays in a different family. The mother can see the boys twice a year for two hours.

Jiří Pavelka, the boys’ grandfather, pointed out that this Christmas will be the fourth when the mother and sons will be apart again.

“It is inadmissible that siblings are raised separately in foreign families. The rights of Czech citizens are being violated in Norway. The government must stop burying its head in the sand,” Chalánková, who is watching the case, said.

Norwegian courts rejected the mother’s appeal. She turned to the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg in November 2013, but it did not accept her complaint.

The Chamber wants the government to ask whether the Norwegian authorities were considering cooperating with the Czech institutions in placing the children in the custody of their Czech relatives.

If Norway does not provide well-founded and acceptable answers, the government should do its utmost for the return of the sons to the Czech Republic.

Moreover, the Chamber called on the government and President Miloš Zeman to initiate talks about an international agreement on children’s protection.

The Chamber did not call on the government to grant Michaláková diplomatic protection, which would promote the dispute on the international level, and to consider filing an international complaint against Norway.

Chalánková dismissed the opinion that the Czech Republic can do nothing until the mother used all legal means. The only possibility is a complaint against the Norwegian social service that can be filed repeatedly every year, she added.

“It is usually turned down. There is a minimal chance of success,” Chalánková said.

Michaláková’s Czech lawyer Pavel Hasenkopf said her client can submit a proposal on which the Barnevern regional commission would decide. After rejecting it, the woman can turn to a district appeals court and then to an appellate court. If she fails, she can try it again in a year, she added.

It is a vicious circle since remedial measures will not be exhausted until the boys turn 18, he said.

Some 9,400 people have signed a petition in support of the mother and her sons, Chalánková said. The organizers will pass on the petition sheets to the Chamber of Deputies petition committee on Wednesday.

Some 300,000 Kč have been collected within a fund-raising campaign to cover the costs of the mother’s Norwegian defense lawyers.

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