Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
The justices of the Supreme Court of Sweden have finished the destruction of a family that was begun in their lower courts, rejecting an appeal of a ruling that permanently separated a young boy from his parents because he was being homeschooled.
“In a perfunctory order the Swedish Supreme Court rejected a desperate appeal by Christer and Annie Johansson, parents of Domenic Johansson, who was torn from his parents while minutes from takeoff on an international flight as the family prepared to move to India,” said a report from the Home School Legal Defense Association, which along with a team from the Alliance Defending Freedom has been fighting on behalf of the family.
Michael Donnelly, HSLDA’s director for international affairs, said the decision is reprehensible but characteristic of the Swedish court system’s callousness.
“We are grateful for the many people who responded to our request to send letters to the court. We are heartbroken by the court’s unwillingness to hear this case,” he said. “How can anyone respect the Swedish justice system that allows this kind of injustice to go unheard.”
Donnelly vowed that the fight will continue.
“How can we give up?” he asked. “The fact that both Johanssons have survived after nearly four years without their only child is a testimony to their faith and hope. We will leave no stone unturned in helping this family plead their case, but there are few courts left to which they can turn. We ask our friends and supporters to keep this family and their legal team in their thoughts and prayers.”
He said some may wish to ask the court to reconsider their decision. The family’s lawyers are also reviewing other legal procedures that may be available to request reconsideration or to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
WND has reported on the case from its beginning, when Domenic was seized by armed Swedish police officers operating on the orders of social services agencies from on board a Turkish Airlines flight June 25, 2009, because he was being homeschooled.
He was 7 at the time.
The family was in the process of moving permanently to India, Annie’s home country, but the armed officers were ordered to board the jet and seize the boy.
WND reported last December that an appeals court panel in Sweden had imposed the “death penalty” on the homeschooling family, granting the state full custody of Domenic.
The appeals panel reversed a lower court ruling that granted the Johanssons custody of their son.
Christer and Domenic Johansson
During the first months following his seizure, the parents were only permitted to visit Domenic once every two weeks. The visits soon became every five weeks, and in 2010, all visitations were cut off, HSLDA said. The parents haven’t seen their son in three years now.
“The United States Supreme Court has written that terminating parental rights is the family court equivalent of the death penalty,” HSLDA said.
The Johansson case in Sweden, the group said, “demonstrates what can happen when the family is not respected as an integral unit of society.”
The HSLDA said the Swedish Supreme Court, by rejecting the appeal, affirmed the lower court order permanently separating the family.
Family attorney Ruby Harold-Claesson said the court decisions were biased, since social services officials were allowed by the court to introduce their selected psychiatric expert while the family was not allowed to supplement its information or have an impartial psychiatric evaluation of the child.
“It’s obvious that [(the Supreme Court] haven’t even read the appeal,” Harold-Claesson told HSLDA.
“I had hoped something would change with this case, but sadly this is more of the same inhuman treatment from a ruthless system that has no regard for the rights of parents and children to be together. The court doesn’t seem to even notice how the state was permitted to introduce new evidence in the court of appeals but the Johanssons were not. In the Swedish system it seems as if individuals have no rights when they oppose the ‘almighty state’.”
She also noted the impropriety of a judge on the appeals court panel who also had been in charge of the administrative court system that originally took Domenic away from his parents. He then retired and was appointed to hear the parental termination hearing in the district court system, something Harrold-Claesson said should never have happened.
“I asked for the recusal of this judge because he was the chief judge in the Stockholm administrative court where all the cases for Domenic Johansson had been decided in favor of the state—how could he be impartial?” she asked.
It was last June when a Swedish district court said the parental rights would not be terminated. In a 23-page opinion, the court said it could not ignore the unanimous and extensive testimony of firsthand accounts of friends, family and others that Domenic Johansson was being properly cared for by his parents prior to Swedish authorities seizing him in 2009.
Farris said the actions by Swedish officials cannot be explained.
“The taking of this child for homeschooling and while the family was moving out of the country is an egregious violation of basic human rights and international law standards. Sweden is a party to numerous treaties that require them to respect the rights of parents to make education decisions and to leave the country if they choose. This is a dangerous precedent if permitted to stand.”
HSLDA President J. Michael Smith said that there is no known reason for Sweden’s behavior in the case.
“Based on the review of available documentation of this case, we don’t know of anything that would justify either the long-term separation of the family or the termination of their parental rights,” he said. “There is no doubt that this family needs help.”
Harrold-Claesson is a noted international human rights attorney who has dedicated her life to fighting what she describes as the brutal Swedish social services system.
“The evidence was overwhelming in favor of the Johanssons, and that is why the district court found in their favor,” she said. “These are good parents who were taking good care of their son. This is an unbelievable case of overreaching on the part of Gotland’s politicians. It is despicable that the Swedish courts – with the exception of the district court – have been willing to back up the social workers in this case.”
The attorney said the Swedish system is tilted so that social workers and foster care professionals gain financially when children are removed from their homes.
“They take children to feed a bureaucratic machine of foster homes based on subsidies. They impose their will on vulnerable families who don’t have the resources to fight back, and most lawyers don’t dare to challenge the system for fear of their career,” she said.