ECHR issues warning to Norway over child welfare service
Feb.16, Oslo: Eight Norwegian child welfare cases have been heard by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg over the past 15 months in what a long-time human rights lawyer has called “an extremely serious warning to Norway”.
According to reports the Norwegian Child Welfare Service (Barnevernet) has long been accused of overreach in its efforts to protect children from potentially abusive situations.
Barnevernet faced a wave of anger and worldwide protests last year that were largely spurred by the removal of five children from their Norwegian/Romanian parents. But although the Bodnariu family become a rallying point for both Romanians and the international Evangelical community, their case hardly stands alone.
Anders Henriksen, the head of section at the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir), told The Local last year that a total of 1,664 children were taken into care in 2014. Of those, 424 had mothers who were born abroad, leading many to accuse the agency of “state kidnappings” over cultural differences.
With eight seperate cases having been taken up by the ECHR since December 2015, a long-time human rights lawyer has warned that Norway needs to take action to address the high number of complaints about the agency, the Local reported.
Speaking to TV2 about a 2016 case in which a child was taken from his parents because his mother was diagnosed as having minor mental problems, Gro Hillestad Thune, who was a judge on the court in Strasbourg for 17 years, said there needs to be better oversight of Barnevernet.
Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovský, a leading voice amongst Barnevernet's critics, called the court's decision to take on so many Norwegian child welfare cases "a breakthrough".
He added that he hoped the attention the cases have received in the European court system will "expose the system flaws" within the Norwegian Child Welfare Service.
The Oslo Times International News Network