New hope for ‘state-napped’ homeschooler

By Bob Unruh

An appeal by parents of a “state-napped” Swedish boy who was taken into government custody because he was homeschooled has been rejected by an international court in Europe, which blasted the parents for preventing their son from going to school and keeping him “isolated from children of his own age.”

But Christer and Annie Johansson are working with a human-rights lawyer, who is bringing a new case in Sweden they hope will reunite them with their son, Domenic, now 12. The boy was taken from a jetliner by police in an armed SWAT-type raid at the age of 7 when the family was moving to India.

The Johannsons have asked that parents from around the globe to step up and lobby the court on their behalf.

According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, the Johanssons haven’t seen their son since November 2010.

They recently contacted HSLDA to spread the news that they are asking their supporters to contact the Swedish court that was to hear their case, the organization said.

“This family’s battle has been long, hard and painfully disappointing,” HSLDA said in its report. “After 7-year-old Domenic was initially seized in June 2009, a Swedish appeals court permanently transferred custody of Domenic to a third-party custodian and terminated Christer and Annie’s parental rights in December 2012.”

Since then, the dispute has been going on in courtrooms, where the HSLDA, together with the Alliance Defending Freedom, twice petitioned the European Court of Human Rights.

The court’s most recent decision, citing a Swedish court ruling, went against the parents.

It said “the applicants had failed in their care of [Domenic], both physical and psychological. It specifically pointed to the fact that X had not been allowed to go to school and had been kept isolated from children of his own age. It further considered the applicants’ actions after X had been taken into compulsory public care, in particular the [father’s] abduction of X and the publication of confidential information on the Internet.”

The parents “were also found to be in denial about their failings in providing X with proper care as well as concerning the results of X’s psychiatric evaluations,” the court said.

The international court’s opinion noted that the local court decision was a 2-1 decision. It said one of the judges in the majority had been part of a lower-court ruling to punish the family for homeschooling, but the international court did not consider that a reason to make any changes.

HSLDA said the family’s new case is being handled by noted human rights attorney Rudy Harrold-Claesson of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights.

Also on the case is Roger Kiska, senior counsel for ADF Global.

“What has happened in the Johansson’s situation is a horrible violation of family rights and every family’s worst nightmare,” said Michael Donnelly, HSLDA director of global outreach.

“It is far beyond time that the Swedish courts realize they cannot separate a child from his parents simply due to the mistaken assumptions of a social worker. Many of you have prayed for and supported the Johansson family over the past five years. Please advocate once again on their behalf and help send a message to the judge that they are not alone.”

He provided on the HSLDA website details about how to contact the judge, Goran Sooderstrom, either by email ([email protected]) or by telephone (+46 498 – 28 14 00).

HSLDA suggested text for the contact that included a request to “rule in favor of restoring custody of Domenic to Christer and Annie.”

“The family must be respected as an integral unit of any democratic society,” the suggestion includes.

WND reported legal experts argue Swedish officials violated multiple human rights enshrined in international treaties to which the Swedish government is a party: the right of parents to direct the education of their children, family life, due process, travel and more.

“The seizure of the child without a valid court order, from a plane he was lawfully entitled to be on, the detention by the state in foster care with virtually zero contact with his family and finally the termination of parental rights is a clear violation of international human rights standards,” HSLDA founder and Chairman Michael Farris, who holds a master of law degree in public international law from the University of London, said earlier.

Swedish officials several times have declined to respond to WND questions.

When the family tried to leave Sweden in 2009 for India, the mother’s homeland, armed police stormed the plane and abducted young Domenic without a warrant or court order. Social services workers claimed he had some cavities in his baby teeth.

Numerous experts and attorneys have described the incident as a brazen example of “state-napping.”

When one court decision was released in Sweden in favor of the parents, government officials kept the child in custody until they were able to get it reversed.

The frustration at one point prompted Christer to take his son during a brief visit and not return him to social workers, resulting in a prison sentence for the father.

Christer and Domenic Johansson

Swedish courts eventually terminated the family by severing the parental rights permanently.

Legal experts from around the world have told WND that the pretexts cited to seize Domenic do not stand up to scrutiny, especially because homeschooling was legal in Sweden at the time, and the right to homeschool is guaranteed under multiple human rights treaties.

“No legitimate justification has ever been produced to defend the seizure or the ongoing custody of the boy,” HSLDA said in a statement released at the time.

Social service workers also have been infuriated that information about the case has been posted online, and the court noted that should not have happened.

As WND has been reporting for years, the Johansson family is hardly alone in battling Swedish authorities for the right to homeschool.

Dozens of families have already fled abroad, including Jonas Himmelstrand, the chief of the Swedish Homeschooling Association, ROHUS, who fled to Finland with his wife and children.


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