Monday, December 28, 2009

Hague, Schmague. Does it really protect families and children? NO!

Over the past few months, as dad DAVID GOLDMAN managed to get his custody case turned into an International Incident involving the U.S. State Department and full Big Media coverage, we've been hearing a lot about the Hague Convention. Just what the heck is the Hague Convention and what does it say about international child custody issues?

There are many Hague Conventions, but the one we're talking about here is the third of the modern Hague Conventions. Its full title is Convention of 19 October 1996 on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children. It is much broader in scope than the first two conventions, covering a wide range of civil measures of protection concerning children, from orders concerning parental responsibility and contact to public measures of protection or care, and from matters of representation to the protection of children’s property.

In theory, the Convention provides uniform rules determining which country’s authorities are competent to take the necessary measures of protection The Convention determines which country’s laws are to be applied, and it provides for the recognition and enforcement of measures taken in one Contracting State in all other Contracting States. The co-operation provisions of the Convention provide the basic framework for the exchange of information and for the necessary degree of collaboration between administrative authorities in the Contracting States.

In reality, the whole thing has been plagued with political problems from the beginning. It seems to work very well for wealthy countries (like the U.S.) and politically well-connected parents (typically fathers). It does not work so well for mothers and children trying to live in safety. That's one reason why countries like Japan have rejected the Hague Convention, because it does not provide protection for Japanese wives married to abusive foreign men.

Yet somehow, the Hague Convention has suddenly become Holy Writ, impervious to criticism. Strip away all the incense and prayer beads and it's just another piece of legal agreement that's being subverted by the powerful, while endangering the lives of women and children.

So there is nothing necessarily sacred, noble, or just about the Hague Convention. As it's being applied, it's starting to look like an international variation of the old U.S. Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required that authorities in the free states (under threat of substantial penalty) return runaway slaves to their masters in the slave states. Only now we're told that the laws, values, and protections of the host country don't matter, and that women and children are the sole subjects of the country of origin--despite the corruption and dangers there.

This is not idle speculation. My buddy Annie found the case below from last May, where the judge's "interpretation" of the Hague Convention actually lead to the death of a young mother at the hands of her children's father, HAJRUDIN HASANOVIC.

Young mother fled to Sydney to save her life
May 2, 2009

Cassandra Hasonovic... convinced she was going to die at the hands of her husband.

CASSANDRA HASANOVIC was convinced she was going to die at the hands of her husband but her pleas for help - in Australia and Britain - fell on deaf ears.

"He said he was going to chop me up in little pieces and post me piece by piece to my family," she told police more than a year before her death.

The nightmare tale of the mother, 24, who was dragged out of a car and stabbed to death by her husband in front of her mother and two young sons in July, neared its climax in a British court yesterday.

Mrs Hasanovic died hours after begging British police to drive her to a safe house: "I live in fear for my safety. I am so scared of him."

Her story was recounted this week during the trial of Hajrudin Hasanovic, 33, who was last night found guilty of murder and sentenced to a minimum of 18 years in jail.

The jury learned how he was to have been deported to his native Serbia after losing custody of his children, following his conviction for sexually assaulting his wife.

They heard a damning story of a woman whose fears were ignored by authorities in two hemispheres for more than 12 months.

The five-year marriage ended in May 2007 after the sexual assault and Mrs Hasanovic fled to Australia, where she had relatives. She lived in the safety of Sydney's western suburbs in the fervent hope of seeking custody of her sons.

But Lewes Crown Court, in West Sussex, heard that Australian authorities insisted she return to Britain, arguing the case had to be pursued there.

Philippa McAtasney, QC, who opened the case for the prosecution, told the court that she returned to Britain at the cost of her life.

In the months that followed her return, police were called to several violent confrontations between the couple, and officers equipped the young mother with a panic alarm.

Mrs Hasanovic's mother, Sharon De Souza, broke down as she described the terror inside the car on July 29, when her son-in-law appeared from nowhere and lunged at the car as she prepared to drive her daughter and grandsons to a refuge.

In the panic, the car's central locking was de-activated, allowing Hasanovic to reach into the back seat, where his wife was sitting between the boys.

"I just remember trying to start the car and the alarm went off and I could not get the car started … I could see a figure coming towards me in the shade …" Mrs De Souza said.

"I looked up again and he was staring towards me. … I just thought: 'Oh, my God."'

She then saw Hasanovic drag her daughter from the car, leaving her face down on the pavement.
"She was lying on the ground. Her eyes were open and she was not moving at all.

"I didn't realise she was dead. I said: 'Come on, hold on, you're going to be OK.' I could see the blood [but] I could not take it in and I remember hearing the boys screaming."

"Cassie was devastated when under the Hague convention she was ordered to return the boys to England," Mrs De Souza said.

"This brutal, cruel and senseless act has torn our lives apart".

Following a court order killed her
May 4, 2009

The man accused of stabbing his 24-year-old wife to death in front of his two little boys has been jailed for life in a British court, shouting abuse at her family as he was led away.

Hajrudin Hasanovic was convicted of the murder unanimously in a West Sussex Court but shouted at his former wife's devastated family and friends as he was led to the cells: "My children will never forgive you for what you have done to me and Cassie. . .you killed her. You are bastards all of you."

Police officers were forced to intervene and led him forcibly out of the dock, leaving the family in tears, the Argus newspaper reported.

The terrible tale the 24-year-old mother, Cassandra Hasanovic, who sought refuge from her violent husband in Australia but was refused unfolded during a three-week trial. The court heard that she was dragged out of the family car and stabbed to death by her husband in front of her mother and sons last July, just hours after begging police in the UK to drive her to safe house: "I live in fear for my safety. I am so scared of him."

Her estranged husband, 33, was set to be deported to his native Serbia after losing custody of his children in the wake of a conviction for his wife's sexual assault in 2007.

During the murder trial, the jury heard a damning story of an increasingly desperate young woman who feared for her life and the safety of her sons but whose anxiety was downplayed or ignored by authorities in two hemispheres over a period of more than 12 months.

The young couple's five-year marriage ended in May after the first conviction and Cassandra Hasanovic initially fled to Australia where she had family. She lived in the fervent hope that she could pursue custody of her two boys from the safety of Sydney's western suburbs. However the Lewes Court in West Sussex heard that Australian courts insisted she return to the UK, arguing that the case had to be pursued through the British courts.

Philippa McAtasney, QC, who opened the case for the prosecution told the Court: "She obeyed the court order at the cost of her life."

In the months that followed her return, police were called to several violent confrontations between the couple and officers equipped the young mother with a police panic alarm.

Cassie's mother, Sharon De Souza, who desperately tried to drive her daughter to a refuge after police refused to drive her, issued a statement through the family's support officer after the verdict.

She provided a photograph of her beloved daughter and her little grandchildren in memory. Mrs De Souza said nothing could express the family's devastation: "Cassie was a beautiful, loving, compassionate, insipirational woman, an amazing mother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, cousin and friend,

"Gentle, warm, thoughtful, caring and generous. A courageous and devoted mother who absolutely adored her children. She wanted to build a beautiful life with them and she had everything to live for. She was just 24 years old when she died.

Mrs De Souza, who now lives in Sydney with her grandchildren, said "a light has gone out of our lies never to be replaced".

". . .She fled to Australia in fear for her and her boys' safety. Cassie was devastated when the Hague convention court hearing in Australia ordered the return of the boys to England. Although Cassie was in fear for her life she felt forced to return with them despite the police deeming Cassie and the boys high risk."