For the first time in three years, supporters of a boy “state-napped” by Swedish police officers aboard a jet preparing to take off for India say they have hope he will be returned to his parents’ custody.
“I’m absolutely elated!” said Ruby Harrold-Claesson, an attorney in the case of Dominic Johansson and his parents, Christer and Annie, over the issue of homeschooling.
“This family has suffered horribly for three years at the hands of these Swedish officials,” Harrold-Claesson said. “There has not been any justice from the Swedish court system – until now.”
She said the social workers and authorities in Gotland, Sweden, have “made this family’s life a nightmare for no good reason.”
“I am very pleased that the district court finally saw through the flimsy case and has ruled solidly in favor of the Johanssons.”
The joy was prompted by a detailed 23-page court opinion in which the district court ruled against a state demand for the termination of the parental rights of the Johanssons.
The court noted that it could not ignore the unanimous and extensive firsthand accounts of friends, family members and others that his parents were providing Domenic proper care before Swedish authorities seized him June 26, 2009.
“This is a tremendous day for the Johansson family,” said Michael Donnelly, director of international relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association.
The organization had been working with the international Alliance Defense Fund to pursue arguments on behalf of the Johansson family before the European Court of Human Rights.
“HSLDA and the Alliance Defense Fund have been supporting them since Swedish officials took their child – a grotesque abuse of their human rights. Dominic has not been returned home yet, but we have every hope that he will be soon,” Donnelly said.
|Christer and Domenic Johansson|
The organization, which advocates for homeschoolers worldwide, said the ruling from the court was a major breakthrough.
HSLDA founder and Chairman Michael P. Farris called on Swedish officials to take immediate action: “Swedish officials in this case violated several of this family’s fundamental human rights as recognized by a variety of treaties and conventions. Justice demands an immediate response, and Swedish authorities should return Domenic to his parents immediately.”
Roger Kiska, an ADF staff attorney who has worked on the Johansson case, said: “After three years of separation we hope that Swedish officials will take prompt action to restore this family in light of this favorable court decision. The Johanssons’ rights under the European Court of Human Rights have been horribly violated. We hope that the ECHR will reconsider its rejection of this application in light of these the circumstances and see that justice is done.”
HSLDA reported the decision could pave the way for the restoration of the family, even though the issue in the current district court dispute was whether or not the Johanssons’ parental rights would be terminated.
The family last December had filed a request with the court overseeing the social services case for review of the order that put Domenic into foster care, HSLDA said.
Swedish law requires that such motions be acted on within four months, but there was no action by the court or the social workers well beyond that time frame, HSLDA said.
“We will ask the court for the immediate return of Domenic Johansson to his parents. Based on the information in this verdict, there can be no justification for keeping this family apart,” Harrold-Claesson said.
Christer Johansson told HSLDA that he believes the case might finally be turning in his favor.
“It feels pretty good to win,” he told the organization in a statement. “The social authorities have been running around winning for the last three years. It was pretty important that we won this because, if we didn’t, we would have permanently lost our only child. There is something very wrong with people who would keep a family separated this long for no legitimate reason.”
“This has been a disgusting legal game. The bureaucrats aren’t looking at the big picture. Domenic was healthy before, and since he was taken, his health has gotten worse,” he said.
HSLDA reported that Domenic’s medical records show multiple health issues since the government took him into custody. And the Johanssons’ attorney said expert testimony from psychologist and professor Trevor Archer indicated that for Domenic’s health and well-being it would be best that he be returned to his parents care right away.
Donnelly said the families who already have been supporting the Johanssons in one way or another need to focus now.
“Now is the time for all concerned supporters to call on the Gotland social services authorities to do the right thing – return Domenic to his parents now!” said Donnelly.
Besides being raised before the ECHR, the case also has sparked controversy in India, Annie Johansson’s native country. The family was planning to move to India when police officers boarded their jetliner in 2009 and took Domenic into custody.
According to The Hindu newspaper in India, Indian authorities have declined to become involved officially in the case, because Christer Johansson is a Swedish citizen and Domenic was born in Sweden.
Wyed Akbaruddin of the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi told the newspaper Annie is a “Person of Indian Origin” but no longer is an Indian citizen.
But the report said Johansson has asked authorities at the Indian embassy in Stockholm whether or not his son could obtain Indian citizenship.
He told the newspaper Indian authorities said he and his son cannot be given citizenship, but they can apply for either a Person of Indian Origin card or an Overseas Citizen of Indian card.
A surge of publicity has been created by commentators in India who now are covering the case, which WND has been reporting since 2009.
Suranya Aiya noted in PravasiToday.com that Sweden’s tough stance on homeschooling is held by other nations as well. The English-language Alpha News called the case “a shocking example of how child care authorities in the West often fail to understand the Indian way of bringing up a child.” The report noted Annie’s mother, still of India, reports her daughter is devastated by the situation, and Annie herself is seeking help from a nongovernmental organization in India.
Christopher C.M. Warren wrote in PravasiToday the custody case has become “the Swedish government’s biggest blunder in modern times.”
He claimed that “as many as 10,000 to 20,000 children out of an overall population of 8 million [are] being taken away from their parents each year” in Sweden.
He called it Europe’s “worst state-sanctioned child trafficking businesses.”
“From the very beginning, the social services department and the Gotland [Sweden] municipality have cast a veil of secrecy around the whole case. Domenic was seized by armed police on an airliner waiting to fly the family back to India where they were planning to resettle, without a warrant. … What was their crime? For homeschooling … only homeschooling was fully legal at the time.”
Swedish officials told a reporter that they could not provide details about the case.
“It is impossible to understand the Domenic Johansson case without first understanding this mentality which basically is this: The individual is incapable of exercising his freedom responsibility so rearing must be left to the ‘village’ – in a word, to the state. And the social services are now to be every child’s ideal parent – best dad and best mum who know other ‘best dads’ and other ‘best mums’ to send them to after breaking up their original families,” wrote Warren.
He continued: “Domenic has been legally kidnapped by a pirate Swedish state. Somewhere along the line, Sweden has lost its way, and badly.
“Now that mother India is waking up to this abuse of one of her children we are confident that the Johanssons will have final victory. They absolutely must. And it will not be enough, after all the trauma they have suffered, for some shady deal to be worked between the Swedish government and the Indian as happened in another recent case involving the equally corrupt Norwegian social services.”
Domenic, he wrote, “must be returned to his rightful parents, and they – with their son – must be allowed this time to leave the Swedish Gulag without police interference and to the freedom of India.”
He finished: “We are looking now for Indians to raise their voices on behalf of Domenic.”
WND also recently reported Lotta Edholm, a prominent member of Sweden’s liberal party, wrote in an article in Aftonbladet, a Swedish newspaper, that the nation’s social service laws should be changed to encourage social workers to take children away from homeschooling families.
The deputy minister of social affairs, Maria Larsson, “should take an initiative to change the social services act so that the social authorities can intervene when children are kept away from school by their parents,” she wrote in her blog.
WND also has reported on several cases in which children were taken by authorities in Sweden over homeschooling. In one case, a private detective literally abducted back the children and reunited them with their parents, who had moved out of the country.
The conflict over homeschooling in Sweden are getting as contentious as in Germany, where numerous families have fled their home country instead of facing the crushing fines, jail sentences and even destruction of families.
In a dramatic case involving the Romeike family, a U.S. immigration judge granted political asylum in the U.S. because of the persecution they would face if they returned to Germany. The Obama administration is appealing the ruling, seeking to send the family back.
Donnelly said what is happening in Germany and Sweden needs to be noted in the United States because of the habit officials have of adopting controversial European policies.
He noted that Emory University School of Law professor Martha Albertson-Fineman, in her book “What Is Right for Children,” argues “that it is not enough that children have the opportunity to go to public school – they must all go to public school, meaning that homeschooling and private schools should be banned.”
Donnelly said, “This is one of the reasons why it is important for American homeschoolers to be interested in what happens overseas. By fighting these ideas wherever they occur globally, we can prevent them from gaining traction here.”