Swedish parents Annie and Christer Johansson have launched what may be their last hope to see their son again – with an appeal to the Supreme Court of Sweden to overturn a lower court’s decision to end their parental rights over homeschooling.
Michael Farris, the chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, says it’s among the most brutal cases he’s ever seen.
His parents haven’t seen Domenic Johansson for almost three years. He was abducted by armed Swedish police officers operating on the orders of social services agencies from on board Turkish Air Flight 990 on June 25, 2009.
He was seven 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 – because he was being homeschooled.
The seizure took place even though school was out of session.
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 Annie and Christer Johansson custody of their son.
The HSLDA has been working on Domenic’s case, along with officials from the Alliance Defending Freedom.
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 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.”
In American courts, HSLDA explained, clear and convincing evidence, the civil equivalent of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” is necessary before parental rights are terminated.
It was last June when a Swedish district court had 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.
The HSLDA said, “The strain of the forced separation is inflicting unbearable pain and pressure on the family who still live on the same island just miles from where their son lives – yet they are not permitted to have any contact with him whatsoever.”
HSLDA said it is asking homeschooling and concerned parents from all over the world to join in a letter-writing campaign to plead with the Swedish Supreme Court to take the case and to return Domenic to his parents.
Ruby Harrold-Claesson, the attorney for the family, told HSLDA that it is important that the Swedish government know that they are being watched.
|Christer and Domenic Johansson|
“Let them know the world is watching,” Harrold-Claesson told HSLDA. “I think that it is positive that the justices at the Supreme Court should know that the world is watching them. Shower them with emails, inundate their fax with letters. Everything – email or fax – that is sent to the court has to be registered and made available for public scrutiny.”
Michael Donnelly, HSLDA’s director for international affairs, has been working with the family since 2009 and says this may be their last hope.
“If the Swedish Supreme Court does not intervene it is likely they will never see their son again. It is like a death sentence, except that Domenic is alive and just a few miles away from his mother. The strain on her is becoming unbearable. She is having increasingly frequent physical and mental breakdowns. I fear for her life,” Donnelly said.
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.”
“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. There is no doubt that this family needs help,” he said.
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.
HSLDA said it hopes a letter-writing campaign will get the court’s attention and help them distinguish this case from the thousands they receive.
HSLDA’s involvement in the case has involved financial and emotional support to the beleaguered mother and father. Among other efforts, it has set up a donation procedure for those who wish to help.