The European Court of Human Rights has scolded foster child care officials in Spain for violating the parental rights of a father whose daughter was put in care when he was charged with a crime, then left there when he was acquitted.
The court did not disclose whether Spanish authorities would be required to restore custody of the daughter to the father, Wael Haddad, noting its decisions are not final until three months have passed.
There was hope for the father, as the ruling said the court “asked the domestic authorities to re-examine, in a timely manner, the situation of the applicant and his minor daughter in the light of the present judgment and to take the appropriate measures in the child’s best interests.
“It took the view that the most appropriate form of redress was to ensure that the applicant’s situation was restored as far as possible to what it would have been had the provisions of Article 8 of the Convention been respected.”
The court ruling said “the placement of a child should normally be considered as a temporary measure to be suspended as soon as the situation so permitted.”
Haddad and his wife, a Spanish national, had moved in 2012 from Syria because of civil war in that nation.
Shortly after arriving in Spain, the wife filed a criminal complaint against Haddad for domestic violence. A judge issued a temporary order barring Haddad from contacting his wife and three children, two older sons and a daughter about 1.
The children did not stay with the mother, either, and were put in care.
Shortly after, the Madrid regional government declared the children legally abandoned, but Haddad was not told.
The next year, he was acquitted of all charges.
Even after that, the court with oversight over the children “authorized the placement of Mr. Haddad’s daughter with a foster family with a view to her adoption.”
He eventually discovered the situation but his appeals were denied, even as authorities returned custody of his two sons to him.
“The court noted that Mr. Haddad had already regained custody of his two sons and that he was continuing his endeavours to recover custody of his minor daughter. It observed that Mr. Haddad’s educational and relational capacities in respect of his daughter had not been formally called into question and that his two sons, also minors, were now living with him again,” the court said.
Spanish authorities should have considered “less radical measures” for the custody of the daughter, the judgment found.
They failed “in their positive obligation to take measures to enable him to have regular contact with her.”
The local judge failed even to consider the acquittal and his pursuit of custody, the international court ruled.
The result was a violation of Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights.