Christer and Domenic Johansson
It’s been some nine months since family advocates pleaded with the European Court of Human Rights to look into the case of a Swedish child taken by police from his parents and isolated with government-sponsored foster parents because he was being homeschooled, and now a case number has been assigned.
The move in Domenic Johansson’s case is significant, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association, because once a file number has been assigned, the case can begin to move forward.
The HSLDA had joined with the Alliance Defense Fund, an international civil and religious rights organization, to seek help from the ECHR.
“The ECHR is the Johanssons’ only remaining recourse, since their case has been heard at every level of the Swedish court system,” said Michael Donnelly, the HSLDA’s director of international relations. “It was strange that the court received and followed up on complaints that we sent in the last six months, but had not responded to our application originally filed in June 2010. We are glad to see the court has finally assigned a case number.”
He said the letter-writing campaign that had been launched on behalf of the family to the court now no longer is needed. The request for help was submitted in June 2010.
As WND reported, the father, Christer Johansson, was jailed for two months for taking Domenic home for a visit at Thanksgiving.
The case developed in mid-2009 when social services and police forcibly took custody of Domenic, then 7, because they worried he was homeschooled. The local courts later denied the parents the legal representation they sought, demanding instead they be represented by a government-approved attorney. The courts ultimately ruled the state must keep custody of Domenic.
Ruby Harrold-Claesson, the president of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights, had been working on the family’s case but was ordered off by the court in favor of a locally appointed representative the family opposed.
Annie and Domenic Johansson
But Donnelly has expressed alarm at the family’s treatment.
“The inhumanity of Swedish authorities in retaining Domenic Johansson in foster care with virtually no visitation from his parents remains a grave concern for our organization,” he said. “The failure by provincial and national authorities to investigate and rectify a scandalous abuse of power on the part of Gotland municipal authorities and social workers makes Sweden look more like a former Soviet totalitarian state than a Western free and democratic one.”
The government took custody of Domenic when police officers stormed a jetliner which the family had boarded en route to a move to India, the home country of Domenic’s mother, Annie Johansson.
The case also is being followed by a blog called FriendsofDomenic.
Gustaf Hofstedt, president of the local social services board in Gotland, earlier told WND by telephone from Sweden 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.”