USA: Prince George’s Co. man sentenced for international parental kidnapping


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prince-georges-county-sealWASHINGTON — A Prince George’s County man, who took his two young children away from their mother and fled to Tunisia in 2011, has been sentenced to nearly two years in prison for international parental kidnapping.

Faical Chebbi, 45, of Accokeek, Maryland, was arrested over the summer after he landed at Dulles International Airport. In 2011, he took his two children to Tunisia in violation of the parental rights of the mother, authorities said.

Chebbi was arrested by agents with the FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection after landing at Dulles International Airport on June 14.

The FBI said that both children have been reunited with their mother, as ordered by the court.

Chebbi was sentenced to 21 months in prison and ordered to pay $119,807 in restitution.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from The United States or Tunisia feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

India: Hague convention on child abduction: India must not sign this flawed arrangement


Factoring the ‘best interest of the child’ and safety of the mother in a foreign land in an abusive relationship, India must not sign the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction

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The phenomena of NRI marriages brought with it the inevitable problems of ‘limping marriages’, where a person is considered married in one country and divorced in another. When faced with domestic violence, a woman will pick up her children and go back to her home country where she has family to support her. The husband in the meantime gets an ex-party decree of divorce and the custody of the children. This makes the mother an ‘abductor’ of her own children in the eyes of a foreign court. . But is she an abductor under the Indian law? Not yet, but if India’s proposed move to sign the Hague Convention goes through she will not only become a child abductor but will also be denied the protection of the Indian courts which she now has.

The signing of the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction will enable the government to force children away from their mothers and immediate family, and be sent to a foreign country without considering whether this is in the ‘best interest of the child’. This thoughtless move flies in the face of the professed policy of the Indian government to empower women. Today they at least have the protection of Indian courts, but if the Hague Convention becomes law, they will lose that protection.

Many mothers, who flee to India with their children, often are either abandoned or face domestic violence. The convention shows no recognition of the role domestic violence plays in compelling a mother to go back to her country of origin. If India adheres to the provisions of the convention, the woman, just to be with her children, will be forced to go back to a violent relationship.

Japan did not sign the convention till 2013. The decision to sign the convention with reservations required developments in their domestic laws. The courts in Japan are obliged to consider whether the abuse towards the parents who ‘abduct’ their children could psychologically harm them upon returning to the marriage. Japan has shown awareness of domestic violence while signing the convention through the Act on Implementation of Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

In a battle for custody of minor children, the courts in India look at what is in the ‘best interest of the child’. In a transnational marriage, the courts will not only look at the fact that a foreign court has given custody to the father but also whether it is in the interest of the child to go back to the father when the mother is in India. The inevitable argument of the father is that he has a higher standard of living; that the child will have a better life. Some get carried away by such arguments but the courts look at all other factors, including the fact that the mother is unable to return because of the violence she faces and the fact that the child has a settled life in India. This is a healthy approach which does not confuse economic comforts alone with well-being.

The argument in favour of signing the convention has been that it will benefit mothers as well when fathers abduct children. However this disguises the fact that most times it is mothers who take their children out of a foreign country when faced with domestic violence.

The law commission found that 68% of the time the parent taking the child was the woman, out of which 85% were the prime caregivers. The numbers are too large to ignore. We cannot ignore women who have faced any harassment at the hands of their partners and expect them to go back to live with them or leave their children in such an environment. After all, the focus of any custody law should be the ‘best interest of the children’, which would hardly be fulfilled if the child is separated from the primary caregiver.
There is growing international pressure to sign the document from some countries like the US. Ironically, the US is one of the countries that refused to sign the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, as it did not meet its country-specific settings. While that may be true, something similar should be acceptable for India.

No doubt there are cases where the parent residing in the foreign country has legitimate custody claims. However, by signing the Hague Convention, we will be compelled to recognise a foreign judgment regardless of the justness of the decision on custody under Indian law, or whether it was delivered ex-parte. Today an Indian court will not send a child back to a foreign land unless it is in the interest of the child.

In 2016, the ministry of women and child development took the decision to not sign giving reasons such as the practical reality of child-custody claims by the NRI parent against the Indian-resident parent. The reason for a possible change in stand is not yet known to the public. It could possibly be the lobbying by rich NRI husbands, which has ultimately succeeded.

This is not an arrangement that India should agree to keeping in mind the practical realities, such as the prejudice in foreign courts, and plight of mothers returning to India with their children. The child should have access to both parents, but not at the expense of the safety of the mother who is forced to leave. Efforts must be made to negotiate with the foreign government on a case-to-case basis, and not simply label a parent as a child ‘abductor’. This is possible only if both the parties want the ‘best interest of the child’ and not the mere physical location.

Indira Jaising is a senior advocate, Supreme Court

Can airlines keep grandparents from flying overseas with grandkids?


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QUESTION:

Does an airline have the authority to deny grandparents and grandkids traveling together the right to board an international flight if they don’t have a letter from the kid’s parents allowing them to fly?

ANSWER:

No, the airline cannot deny boarding. However, some foreign customs will stop you and make you return home. It’s the airline’s responsibility to bring you home, so it’s in everyone’s best interest that you have the letter.

SOURCES:

Robert Eicher, WUSA9 viewer and grandfather

Lisa Tiller, Southwest Communications

Kathy Grannis Allen, Managing Director, Airline Industry Public Relations, Communications- Airlines for American

Kevin Brosnahan, Press Officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs- U.S. Department of State

Rhonda Anderson, Belize Tourism Board

U.S. Citizen Services, U.S. Embassy Belize

PROCESS: 

Robert Eicher was outraged when a Southwest Airlines flight attendant informed him that he, his wife and their 10-year-old grandson could not board their flight to Belize. They had to make this leg of their trip. Robert’s daughter was getting married.

The problem wasn’t with their passports. The issue was that they didn’t have a notarized letter signed by each of the boy’s parents permitting the 10-year-old to travel overseas with his grandparents. The flight attendant cited human trafficking concerns in Belize as her reasoning, Eicher said.

They had 45 minutes before the plane departed without them.

“We told the supervisor that we could have [the letter] by the time the flight landed in Belize, but she said Belize Customs officials would not let us off the plane without it,” Eicher recounted. “We told her we were willing to take that chance.”

Southwest Airlines would not budge and the Eichers watched the plane take off.

They managed to get the letter two hours later and got on a flight from Atlanta to Belize, maneuvering the border control lines without a problem. They lost a day of traveling and meetings with the wedding planners, but Eicher still got to walk his little girl down the aisle.

 

Now, Eicher is wondering whether the Houston Hobby Southwest supervisor stepped outside the bounds in denying them travel.

Eicher put WUSA9’s Verify team up to the task.

First, we reached out to the Bureau of Consular Affairs, a subsection of the U.S. State Department. Kevin Brosnahan explained a minor consent form isn’t required to leave the country.

“The United States does not require a consent form for those departing the United States,” Brosnahan said. “Many countries, however, require it to enter – and airlines may require this document in order to board a flight to that country. We suggest that travelers in this situation check with the embassy of the country they are visiting.”

Verify checked with the U.S. Embassy in Belize and discovered the permission slip is required upon entering because Belize has a riddled history of human trafficking and child abduction by a single parent. This is why a letter notarized by both parents is required.

Belize is considered a Tier 3 country, meaning its government does not fully meet the minimum standards and is not making significant efforts to do so, according to the State Department’s June 2017 Trafficking Report.

“When children are not traveling with both parents, immigration officials often request documentation to establish the children are traveling with the permission of both parents. Such documentation may include notarized letters from the parent(s), custody or adoption papers, or death certificates in situations where one or both parents are deceased,” according to the Belize Embassy.

Eicher claims he traveled once before to Belize with his grandson in October 2016. They didn’t have a letter then, and they left from the Belize airport without conflict.

But even though the Belize government says they require children to have these permission slips when traveling with anyone other than both parents, a Southwest flight outbound from the States cannot deny passage without it.

“No, the customers are allowed to travel. Our employees are encouraged to use and/or direct customers to the international travel page on Southwest.com where they can find details of the documentation requirements for a specific destination,” said Southwest spokeswoman Lisa Tiller.

If you get caught at a foreign customs, Southwest has to pay for you to come home.

“Yes, per our policies based on the Immigration and Nationalization Act Section 241 and specific to customers missing required documentation, when a local authority requests that Southwest Airlines transport inadmissible customers it is the responsibility of Southwest Airlines to pay for his/her travel out of the country,” Tiller said.

So, we can Verify that an airline cannot bar you from boarding without the notarized letter, but being prepared and having the letter is advised.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from The United States feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

Ethiopia: Cries of joy after abducted child reunites with parents


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Biniyam was only 5 when armed men abducted him from a traditional gold mining site in Gambella, Ethiopia and taken to war-torn South Sudan.

His mother tried to stop the kidnapping but was shot by the abductors. Both Biniyam’s mother and father, who was absent during the April 2017 attack, had never expected they would see their son again. But this family’s story has a happy ending.

After the kidnapping, Biniyam’s mother was living in a state of shock. Her husband explained that “she could not sleep and eat well. She could not talk to anybody, when she did she was talking to herself. It was very disturbing.” Both the mother and father tried to find their son; the father even travelled to Khartoum, but they found no hint of Biniyam.

In early August, five months after the abduction, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in South Sudan was informed of the whereabouts of Biniyam. The ICRC tracing team in Ethiopia then located the parents of Biniyam.

“When the parents heard the news they couldn’t believe that their son was found alive and even doubted how he would be brought back to them. Especially the mother, who had suffered traumatically from the pain of separation, was doubtful of the news,” said Salih Bashir, who is part of the ICRC team that reunites separated family members.

Extreme joy overtook both parents when they saw their son again on October 1 at the family home in Dima Woreda, Gambella.

“His mother could not stop her cry of joy, and nobody attempted to separate mother and son from hugging each other that seemed to last forever. There is nothing more gratifying for the ICRC than to see separated families unite again,” said the ICRC’s Bashir, who traveled with Biniyam to the reunification.

The ICRC strives to restore family links (RFL) between members separated by conflict and violence around the world. In Ethiopia, RFL activities focus among others on reestablishing links between South Sudanese refugees sheltered in Gambella, and their families living both in South Sudan and abroad through the exchange of messages and free phone calls.

 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from Ethiopia feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

Cyprus / Norway: Kidnapped girl back with mother as police promote co-operation (update 3)


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Kidnapped four-year-old Marie Eleni Grimsrud was in her mother’s arms on Tuesday one day after she was handed over by her father to authorities in Norway as Cyprus police spokesman said the positive outcome was due to the close co-operation of the two countries.

In a statement to the Cyprus News Agency, Angelides said eight people were taken to court in the course of the investigations by the police, who moved with discretion and sensitivity because of the nature of the case.

He added that it is not yet clear whether the girl’s father Torkel Grimsrud will appear before a court in Norway or Cyprus, but noted that the investigation is still ongoing.

“The case is certainly not over and we will see how it ends up, but what I must say is that it is a case with a particular history and significant references were made in court with regard to anyone’s involvement,” Angelides said.

On criticism levelled against the police over the handling of the issue, Angelides said “it was a sensitive matter and some developments could not be made public because what mattered was investigations to show results”.

Concluding, he thanked all those who with the information they gave to the authorities contributed to this positive result, as well as the Norwegian authorities and Marie Eleni’s family for their help and cooperation.

The family’s lawyer Laris Vrahimis said following the abduction on April 27 Grimsrud was “probably” able to escape through the north.

“From there he may have gone to Turkey on a boat – not something particularly difficult,” he said.

“At some point he headed to Norway, possibly through Europe. From Turkey to Greece and then through Europe to Norway. You know, it’s Schengen-area, there’s no passport control.”

Vrahimis said the key to Grimsrud’s decision to turn himself in was the freezing of his assets by a Norwegian court.

“This man had a vast support network, which he had to pay for,” he said.

“When he ran out of money he couldn’t afford the network anymore, and he was forced to turn himself in.”

President Nicos Anastasiades posted on Facebook that he is delighted to see the happy ending of the story.

He congratulated all those who contributed to the happy ending, particularly the Cyprus police for its discreet and effective cooperation with the Norwegian authorities.

“I hope other cases of children who have been lost or abducted and have no contact with their family anymore will have the same beautiful ending,” Anastasiades concluded.

On Tuesday afternoon the Facebook page Help Us Bring Her Home said the child was in her mother’s arms.

NGO Hope For Children highlighted the importance of mediation in cases involving the abduction of children which contribute to the safe return of the child.

The NGO expressed its joy over the upcoming return of Marie Eleni and mother to Cyprus.

“We congratulate the Norwegian and Cypriot authorities who, from the first moment, applied a serious repatriation plan and proved that parental abductions can only be addressed through the close cooperation between the involved countries and authorities,” the statement said.

“The father’s surrender to the Norwegian authorities, following negotiations, also proves that mediation and negotiations, proactive or after the abduction, are a useful tool and a crucial procedure which contribute to the effort of the – as much as possible – harmless return of the child.”

The little girl was abducted from a Nicosia kindergarten on April 27 and it is thought that she and her father were staying in or near Cyprus until recently.

On Monday, the father surrendered to Norwegian police after extensive negotiations while her Cypriot mother was flying out to be reunited with the child.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from Norway or Cyprus, feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

Lebanon: Chatham, Ont. mother pleads for return of children husband took to Lebanon


Jolly Bimbachi’s husband took her children to Lebanon for a visit, but refuses to return

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Jolly Bimbachi kissed her two sons goodbye as they set out for a month-long trip to Lebanon with their father, back in 2015.

She gave each of her boys a watch with a note attached, saying: “I love you. We’ll be back together in time.”

The family vacation turned into a nightmare for Bimbachi shortly after the plane flew out of Pearson Airport in Toronto.

Within days, she got a call from her husband Ali Ahmad — he had no intention of returning with their children.

Omar Ahmad was six years old at the time. His brother, Abdal-Geniy, was four. It’s now been two-and-a-half years since Bimbachi, who grew up in Chatham, Ont.and met her husband during a visit to Lebanon, has seen her children.

Omar and Abdal-Geniy Ahmad

Brothers Omar and Abdal-Geniy Ahmad were taken to Lebanon by their father in 2015. (Jolly Bimbachi)

 

She is in the midst of a protracted legal battle that has inched along one painstaking day after another. Even though she has since won legal custody of her children from Canadian courts, and has divorced her husband, her fight is not nearly over. International child abduction cases can take years to resolve.

“I’m pleading with the Canadian government and the Lebanese government to come together … to try to solve this,” Bimbachi said as tears stream down her face. “Already, my sons sometimes think I don’t want to be with them, or that I don’t want them, or I don’t even love them. I want them to know I would do anything for them.”

Attempts to reach Ahmad for comment were unsuccessful.

100 new cases a year

Officials from Global Affairs Canada, which receives about 100 new reports of international child abductions a year, confirmed they are working with Bimbachi, but would not speak to details of her file.

The bulk of Global Affairs cases are reported in Ontario, Quebec and B.C., according to spokesperson Brianne Maxwell, who said getting a child returned to their parents can vary in difficulty depending on the country.

“Each jurisdiction has its own laws with respect to the rights and responsibilities of minors and their parents, and in many cases dual citizenship is also a relevant factor,” she wrote in an email to CBC News. “Many countries do not consider parental child abduction to be a criminal offence.”

Jolly Bimbachi

Jolly Bimbachi struggles to tell the story of how her ex-husband took their two sons to Lebanon and refuses to return. (Derek Spalding/CBC)

 

These types of cases can take years to complete, with legal costs often escalating above $100,000, according to James Marks, a Toronto based lawyer who specializes in international child abduction.

“My heart goes out to the mother and the two children, who’ve been separated from one another for … two years,” he said. “That’s just lost time for these children, who effectively have been abducted to another country.”

Expensive custody battle

Bimbachi nearly collapsed when her then husband told her over the phone he was keeping her boys. The devastated mother frantically went to a filing cabinet where she kept her children’s birth certificates and other identification. They were gone.

“I’ll probably never see my kids again,” Bimbachi recalls thinking at the time. “I didn’t know how to go on. I didn’t know how to do anything anymore.”

She would soon realize her husband cleaned out their joint bank account as well.

Taking her fight to the courts was a financial disaster for Bimbachi, who teaches part time at St. Clair College and who also works at a craft store in Chatham. She worked with legal aid to gain custody of her two sons in Canada, but that decision carries little weight in Lebanon, where the children remain.

In March, she was finally able to divorce her husband. She also has another lawyer in Lebanon, who’s been working the system overseas, trying to get a date for a custody hearing.

Having her children in Lebanon is another significant challenge. The country is not part of the 1980 Hague Convention, which is a treaty agreed upon by more than 100 countries for the speedy return of a child who is internationally abducted.

Many of the countries have similar parental laws that support having the children live in their home state. In Bimbachi’s case, her two boys are Canadian citizens.

“But … Middle Eastern countries, they don’t see it that way, they haven’t signed up (to the Hague Convention). It’s extremely difficult to apply any pressure on them,” Marks said. “Even if she does get custody, the court in Lebanon may not order the children to go back to Ontario.”

Bimbachi knows the risks of going to Lebanon to regain custody of her children, but she plans to go there in the coming months, just as soon as she can get a hearing before the courts.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from Canada or Lebanon, feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

Norway / Cyprus: Mum leaves Cyprus for Norway to reunite with kidnapped daughter


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BREAKING
A CYPRIOT mother is heading to Norway to be reunited with her daughter who was kidnapped by her estranged father earlier this year.
The father, Torkel Grimsrud, 48, abducted his four-year-old daughter in Nicosia in April.

 

It is understood he is being questioned by police tonight.
Laris Vrachimis, the lawyer who represents the mother, told the Cyprus News Agency that the mother is now en route to Norway to take back her daughter, he said, adding that authorities say she is in good health.

The toddler, Marie-Eleni, became the focus of a national media frenzy and island-wide search after she was snatched outside her day-school.

Her abduction came after a long and acrimonious custody battle between her parents.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from Norway or Cyprus, feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)