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June 11, 2013

Swedish Supremes Unmoved by Unprecedented Contact in Homeschool Case


Mike Donnelly
Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly is director of international affairs for HSLDA. He and his wife homeschool.

Swedish Supreme Court records reviewed by Johansson family attorney and President of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights Ruby Harrold-Claesson reveal that an extraordinary outpouring of global support failed to influence the Swedish High Court to further investigate the tragic story of Dominic Johansson. His parents have lost permanent custody of their son because Swedish courts had terminated their parental rights, something the U.S. Supreme Court has called the family court equivalent of the death penalty.

Court documents show that thousands from all over the world sent emails and other messages to the Swedish Supreme Court on behalf of Annie and Christer Johansson. Nevertheless, that court slammed the door on any hopes the parents have of seeing their child again for years when they refused to consider the appeal in a curt opinion on April 25, 2013. HSLDA wrote about this here.

“Heads in the Sand”

Harrold-Claesson says she is skeptical about the Swedish Supreme Court’s quick dismissal of the case.

“I’m not aware of any cases that have resulted in this much contact to the Court ever,” she said. “There are strong legal and ethical reasons why the Supreme Court should hear this case. It’s unconscionable that they would stick their heads in the sand and ignore the fact that one of the judges in the appeals court was chief justice in the county administrative court that decided that Domenic should be taken into—and be kept in—state custody, had already been involved in this case, and that he was part of a court that allowed the State municipality to introduce new evidence but did not allow the Johanssons to do the same. This case shows, beyond the shadow of a doubt, it seems that only the government gets due process in Sweden—not individual citizens.”

Michael Farris, chairman of and founder of HSLDA, is determined to keep fighting for the Johanssons.

“It is very concerning that the Swedish court system has slammed the door on the Johanssons, but we will not give up,” said Farris. “We are evaluating legal measures, but the immediate need is to find a way to reunite this family as soon as possible. We are exploring all options on how this could happen.”

The Johansson have had nearly a dozen court hearings regarding their son in at least three court systems in and outside of Sweden. In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights denied their application despite the fact the European Convention of Human Rights guarantees the right of protection to families and the right to leave one’s country. The Johanssons were prevented from leaving when their son was taken from them on June 25, 2009 off a Turkish airliner as they were relocating to minister to orphans in Annie’s home country of India.

Obstacles to Justice

Two applications to the European Court of Human rights have been declared inadmissible, under the “pretext,” according to Harrold-Claesson, that the Johanssons had not exhausted all their domestic remedies. However, according to the appeal submitted by Alliance Defending Freedom’s Senior Legal Counsel Roger Kiska, HSLDA Director for International Affairs Mike Donnelly and Harrold-Claesson, who won a case against Sweden in the European Court in April 2012, this simply isn’t true.

“We find it very strange that of the forty-nine judges in the European Court, it was a German judge, in a one-judge-decision, who declared the Johanssons application inadmissible.” Harrold-Claesson also blamed a Swedish bureaucrat at the European Court as being an obstacle.

“There is a Swedish court administrator who has been called a ‘gate keeper’,” explained Harrold-Claesson. “It appears that this person does their best to makes sure that cases that could embarrass Sweden don’t get much traction. Justice should be objective and not discriminate on the basis of nationality, but the ECHR has not been good to my clients. The actions of the Swedish courts are indefensible—they are just rubber-stamping what the bureaucrats have done. The lack of justice in this case is deplorable. The ECHR should be a viable last resort for people whose human rights have been violated, but it has turned a blind eye to the violations committed against this family.”

Kiska also expressed great frustration with the situation.

“It is disgraceful that a self-styled democratic nation would tolerate this kind of abrogation of basic human rights,” he said. “Domenic and his parents have a basic human right to be together. The facts of this case in no way support even a minimal separation of this family but Swedish authorities—courts and bureaucrats both—have allowed this family to be separated with no contact for years. The harm to the child and his parents is incalculable—the violence to basic human rights is staggering.”

Why the Silence?

Donnelly wondered why other liberty-loving groups and governments were silent about this case.

“Where are the groups who stand for liberty and against government oppression? Where are other free governments who will call on Sweden to address this issue? This is not an isolated case, even though it is somewhat unique in its origination as a homeschooling persecution case. This kind of behavior by a government bureaucracy simply cannot be tolerated,” he said.

“Unfortunately, more and more governments are intruding into families seeking to displace parents as primary decision makers. For example, English and Scottish policy makers, citing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, are considering legislation to appoint permanent government overseers for every child. The Swedish government has also cited the UNCRC justifying its actions in the Johansson case. Free peoples will lose their right to make basic decisions about their children if action isn’t taken to stand up to these kinds of acts.”

 More Information

For more information about the case and how you can support the family please visit our Johansson homepage.