An internationally known human-rights lawyer who had agreed to work on the case of a Swedish family whose son was taken into custody by agents of the government social-services program for being homeschooled says she has been 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 agencies over the custody of their children, had been working on the case of 9-year-old Dominic Johansson, who was taken in a state-sponsored abduction in mid-2009.
His parents, Christer and Annie, had been in a dispute with local government officials over their plans to homeschool him as the family prepared to move to India, Annie’s home country.
Police, with instructions from social services, on June 25, 2009, boarded a jet preparing to depart on an international flight to India to take Dominic into custody, where he’s been since.
An e-mail from Harrold-Claesson obtained today by WND confirmed she would appeal the determination, and 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 setting where social-services agents have put him.
“I will not accept any other lawyer than Ruby,” Johansson told WND. “I just can’t start over again.
“Funny thing, Ruby has been asking the social services for the case documents,
investigations and all, but they refused to send it to her. This lawyer on the
other hand got it all before I knew about him.
“I will refuse this lawyer and demand Ruby to be accepted!” Christer Johansson wrote.
Annie and Dominic Johansson
Court officials earlier had picked one of the locally known attorneys to represent the family, but Christer rejected him out of hand. Then, in a move that surprised family advocates, Harrold-Claesson was appointed to work with the Johanssons.
According to a website built to support 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 Dominic? Is he the child of Annie and Christer Johansson, or is he the child of Gotland Municipality?” the website questions.
“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!”
The website said it is not advocating an abandonment of protective services for children.
“We support the work of child protective services in their mission to serve children who are truly abused and neglected. When child services works to protect children who are truly in need, the organization is serving the community in the capacity in which the people had intended,” the site states.
“However, when child protective services removes children from families simply because the family does not meet an arbitrary threshold based upon opinion, and having nothing whatever to do with substantiated abuse or neglect, it is then child services has lost its way and no longer provides a vital service to the community.”
WND reported last month when social-services agents swooped down on an elementary school to grab Dominic and take him out of class so he would not meet Harrold-Claesson.
Government officials then canceled a scheduled telephone conversation between Dominic and his parents because of “what happened today at the school.”
The lawyer reported the incident to the Home School Legal Defense Association, which has been working on the Johansson case. The organization has posted information about the case on its site, and there also is a Facebook page dealing with dispute.
Mike Donnelly, a staff attorney for the HSLDA, called that move, in May, a “petty power play” and said it demonstrates “the kind of gross disregard these social-services agents have for basic human dignity.”
He said, “The family were simply accompanying their lawyer on a visit to the school to see Dominic’s educational environment. We continue to hope that justice will prevail although it will be very difficult for the family to heal from this totally unnecessary trauma inflicted upon them by Swedish authorities.”
Gustaf Hofstedt, president of the local social-services board, told WND by telephone from Sweden at the time 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.
“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.
In an online statement at the time of the abduction, Johansson said, “While we may do things differently than most Swedes, we have not broken any laws and we have not harmed our son. We decided as a family that we wanted to move to India where we could be near my wife’s family. But the government has taken over my family, and now we are living in a nightmare. I fear for the life of my wife under this torture and for the well-being of my son who has only been allowed to see his parents for a few hours since he was taken. The government is alienating my son from me, and I am powerless to do anything.”
“What you have here is a socialist country trying to create a cookie-cutter kid,” said Roger Kiska, an Alliance Defense Fund attorney based in Europe. “This kind of thing happens too often where social workers take a child and then just keep him.”