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December 20, 2011

Family of State-napped Swedish Child Savors Small Victory

Christer and Annie Johansson have won a small but hopeful victory in their quest to regain custody of their nine-year-old son Domenic who was taken from them over 2 years ago in a dramatic raid while the family was seated on an airliner departing the Nordic country. Ruby Harrold-Claesson, the couple’s attorney, reported to HSLDA that the Gotland District Court ruled in favor of the Johanssons, allowing them to retain their parental rights of Domenic.

“Gotland district court has ruled against the social workers and the social council and the Municipality of Gotland in their quest to terminate Annie’s and Christer’s parental rights for Domenic … I hope that this court decision is the beginning of the end of the gross violations of Human rights that Annie, Christer and Domenic have been subjected to at the hands of the social workers and the social council in Gotland,” said Christer Johansson’s attorney and President of the Nordic Human Rights Council Ruby Harrold-Claesson.

Michael Donnelly, director of international relations at HSLDA, says this decision offers a glimmer of hope.

“I am hopeful that this is the beginning of the end to the horrific treatment these people have suffered at the hands of Swedish authorities over the past two and a half years,” states Donnelly. “The Johansson family has endured unspeakable tyranny over their decision to homeschool their child and then to attempt to leave Sweden. Sweden’s behavior in this case has been shocking.”

The Swedish Social Services Committee first sought to terminate the parental rights of Annie and Christer Johansson in October 2011. The latest decision by the Gotland court against social services marks a significant departure from previous decisions in the Johansson’s case. Swedish courts had also previously removed Harrold-Claesson from the Johansson case.

“The social services are afraid of me because I stand up to them,” said Harrold-Claesson. “There are few lawyers in Sweden who dare to. But in Jamaica where I grew up this kind of treatment of families is unheard of. Too many magistrates simply do the bidding of the all-powerful Swedish social services, and this case is no different from the scores I have litigated over the years.”

Magistrate Magnus Schultzberg dismissed Harrold-Claesson from the case in June after Gotland local authorities requested she be removed. The magistrate then appointed a public defender, Torsten Bäckstrand. However, under European human rights laws, defendants have a right to choose counsel.

“I applaud Torsten Bäckstrand’s decision to resign after he was told by Christer that he wanted me to represent him,” said Harrold-Claesson. “The latest magistrate has recognized the family’s right to have me, and I applaud her decision to keep this family together, at least on paper, for now. We will continue this fight for justice until Domenic goes home.”

The tragedy concerning the Johansson family began in June 2009, when then seven-year old Domenic was forcibly removed from his parents, Christer and Annie, while the family was on board an airplane bound for Annie’s homeland of India. Swedish police snatched Domenic without a warrant, placed him in state custody, and have not charged the Johanssons with a crime. Authorities have subsequently pointed to some minor dental problems and a spotty vaccination history as justification for continuing to hold Dominic in state custody.

HSLDA continues to work with the Alliance Defense Fund and Harrold-Claesson at the European Court of Human Rights representing the family in their lawsuit against Sweden. The case has not been provided any kind of schedule. The ECHR has the authority to order Sweden to pay monetary damages, as has happened in the past in similar cases, but could not enforce an order to have the child returned to his parents. The local court’s decision indicates a possible shift in the way the case is being handled and offers a breath of hope. One of the major reasons for the state-napping and continued seizure of the child was because the family homeschooled him.

“Sweden’s government continues to go down a frightening path of educational tyranny as it implements harsh policies causing more and more homeschooling Swedes to flee the country. In the past several months, three families have relocated from Sweden to neighboring countries under pressure because educational officials have reported them to social authorities. The social authorities have virtually unlimited power to take children from families and cause great pain and suffering if they choose to,” Donnelly said.

HSLDA has petitioned Swedish officials to reunite the Johansson family, condemning the continued separation of Domenic from his parents. As of October 2010, the Johansson’s case had been heard at the every level of the Swedish court system and the actions of social services upheld.

If you would like to send the family a note of encouragement, you may contact them at: Christer and Annie Johansson, c/o Rune Johansson, Alva Gudings 363, 623 46 Hemse, Sweden.

Please remember this family during this Christmas and Holiday season, and consider donating to our work in support of the Johansson’s and other families like them. Give to the Home School Foundation’s International Fund.

 More Information

You can learn more about this case at HSLDA’s Sweden page and by going to Facebook and joining the group “Return Domenic Johansson to his Parents!”