For half of his life, 14-year-old Domenic Johansson has been in the custody of social services agencies in his home country of Sweden after agents forcibly removed him from a jet on which he and his parents were preparing to leave for his mother’s home country of India, because he was homeschooled.
For much of that time, he’s been denied permission to see or talk to his parents. Social services agencies even have denied him contact with extended relatives, and he was refused permission to attend the funeral of his grandmother.
Now, ADF International is asking the European Court of Human Rights to intervene, restore the boy to his parents and allow them to try to repair the damage that has been inflicted from years of state custody.
WND first reported on the case in 2009 when the boy was 7. At that time, his parents, Christer and Annie Johansson, went public with their case after social services officials ordered police to halt their plane’s takeoff so they could snatch Domenic.
The Gotland couple had been homeschooling Domenic, described as “a bright and happy 7-year-old,” as they prepared to move to India. They “made all the right moves, informing the school of their plans.”
But police invaded the international air carrier, took Domenic and placed him in social services custody, where he remains despite years in Swedish courts.
ADF International explained Tuesday why it filed a request to the ECHR to intervene.
“The boy, who is their only son, has not been allowed to see his parents in five years and five months. The Swedish district court acknowledged in 2012 that Domenic’s parents took good care of him, but noted that they schooled him at home. This practice, which is rare but legal in Sweden, forms the background and possibly the reason for the draconian punishment the family continues to suffer,” the organization said.
Lorcán Price, ADF International legal counsel, said the Swedish authorities have clearly violated the Johanssons’ right to family life.”
“This right is a fundamental right expressly guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights,” Price said. “Separating a young child from his parents without even allowing them access to each other is an extreme and unnecessary interference with this right.”
When authorities snatched Domenic, they had no warrant. Nor did they ever charge the Johanssons with a crime.
“At first, Christer and Annie were allowed to visit their then seven-year-old son two hours a week; however, the government soon cut off all visitations. The child was not only prevented from seeing his parents but also his extended family. When his grandmother died, the officials denied the boy permission to attend her funeral,” ADF International said.
In 2009, a court initially ruled that the government “was within its rights” to seize Domenic. Officials claimed he need a filling in his teeth and he hadn’t had a vaccination.
But the officials, according to ADF International, “also repeated the demonstrably false charges that homeschoolers do not perform well academically and are not well socialized.”
In November 2015, the Swedish Supreme Court refused to correct the case.
“Every child deserves to be raised by his or her mother and father. The European Convention on Human Rights requires the cutting of that bond to be the nuclear last resort. In this case, it seems to be the government’s first resort, and so we are inviting the European Court of Human Rights to intervene,” said Robert Clarke, director of European advocacy for ADF International.
“International law holds that children should grow up in an environment where their family ties are maintained, allowing them to enjoy the love, support, and nurture of their natural parents. We urge the European Court of Human Rights to accept the case and quickly have the Swedish authorities return the Johanssons’ son to their care.”
When that 2015 decision was released, prominent family attorney Ruby Harrold-Claesson of the Nordic Committee on Human Rights said the decision “really isn’t surprising, because the system has to protect its power over every individual, and its prestige when they commit the basest of crimes.”
Michael Donnelly of the international Home School Legal Defense Association noted then: “This is more of the same cold, callous indifference we’ve seen in the past from the Swedish Supreme Court. This court had multiple opportunities to correct a gross injustice, and each time they have turned away.”
He said the Swedish state “has destroyed this family and, sadly, even if the court agreed to hear the case and overturn the decision – the harm has had been done is virtually irreparable.”
Commenting earlier on the case, Roger Kiska, senior counsel for ADF, said the case reveals the “hardness” of European condemnation of homeschooling, which once was exemplified by Adolf Hitler, who was among the first to ban homeschooling and require student to be under government indoctrination during their formative years.
“Domenic should have been returned long ago but for the bureaucratic hardness of the Swedish Child Protection system,” he said. “The behavior of the Swedish officials in this case has been reprehensible.”
Swedish officials have declined numerous requests to respond to WND questions.