Failure to guarantee contact between abducted boy & his father is a human rights violation

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Family Court fails international standards

In a brand new decision from the UN Human Rights Committee, Zoltowski v Australia, the WA Family Court falls short of the equality and fairness standards found in article 14(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Further, this case concerning a little boy abducted from his father illustrates how Australia is failing to protect children and families (ICCPR arts 17, 23 & 24).
Arek Zoltowski & his young son on a jetty
Pictured: Mr Zoltowski and his Polish-born son.  In November, the UN found they had suffered human rights violations arising from Australia's inadequate response to the boy's abduction.  Says Mr Zoltowski:
"No words can express the anguish of a parent affected by child abduction and by betrayal by their government, which is supposed to guard you and your children, which on one hand signs international treaties and on the other hand they are the perpetrators, violators."


Mr Zoltowski is a Polish-Australian who moved to Australia with his wife and their 2-year-old son in 2006.  After nearly 3 years, the family returned to Poland, with the intention of permanent relocation.  However, Mrs Zoltowski soon changed her mind and took the boy to Australia without his father’s knowledge or consent.  The couple divorced, with Polish courts granting sole custody of the child to his father, and the Family Court of Western Australia later granting sole custody to his mother.

Mr Zoltowski applied under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction for the return of his son to Poland and for access and custody.  The WA Family Court granted Mr Zoltowski supervised access to his son in Australia, two-and-a-half years after he had first applied.

In 2015, the UN Human Rights Committee found that Australia’s failure to guarantee personal relations and regular contact between Mr Zoltowski and his son constituted arbitrary interference with family life and a violation of the right of families and children to protection (ICCPR articles 17, 23 & 24).  Also, Australia’s failure to deal expeditiously with Mr Zoltowski’s custody and access applications amount to a violation of his rights concerning fair hearings (art 14).

Australia is obliged to ensure effective and enforceable remedies for these violations (ICCPR art 2(3)).  Australia must, at the very least:
  • ensure regular contact between father and son
  • compensate them for the violations of their rights
  • act to prevent similar violations happening to anyone else
Every state and territory of Australia, as much as any federal authority, is obliged to provide effective and enforceable remedies for human rights violations.

Read more about the Zoltowski case.
Arek Zoltowski & his son play soccer together in a park
What is the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction?

This international treaty regulates how signatory countries should handle the abduction of children across international borders and ensure their prompt return to their country of habitual residence.

Participating countries, their courts and other relevant bodies must "act expeditiously in all proceedings" under the Convention, including when dealing with parents' applications for access to their children.

Hague Conventions are organised in the Netherlands, and are distinct from UN-derived human rights treaties.

Zoltowski v Australia is the 41st individual communication upheld against Australia by UN treaty committees.  Australia has so far remedied only 15% of these violations, despite a clear obligation to guarantee an effective remedy when human rights are violated.  Don't allow another UN decision to be ignored.  The UN's efforts to uphold universal human rights will only work when we get behind it.
ACT NOW: Insist the government remedies these violations against a boy & his father
Rodney Croome, advisor to Remedy Australia and 2015 Tasmanian Australian of the Year
And another thing ...

Remedy Australia warmly congratulates Rodney Croome (right) at the completion of his term as Tasmanian Australian of the Year -- an honour richly deserved for a lifetime's indefatigable commitment to human rights.  We thank him and all our superb Advisory Council members for their valuable contribution Remedy Australia, as we enter our 3rd year of operation.

Rodney is well known as Australia's leading LGBTI campaigner.  In this interview with Julia Baird from The Drum he refers to his role in the historic Toonen v Australia case, the very first individual communication to be lodged and to be decided by any of the UN human rights treaty committees concerning Australia.  He also discusses bagpipes, pademelons and Beethoven.
Defend human rights by sharing this newsletter.
Defend the right to an effective remedy by signing this letter calling for full implementation of the Zoltowski decision.

Thank you
Nick Toonen OAM
Remedy Australia
Dr Olivia Ball
Remedy Australia
Copyright © 2016 Remedy Australia, All rights reserved.

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