Bringing Elsa home

Last month we reported on the plight of Leeds mum Naomi Button, who is campaigning to find her missing daughter Elsa.

Elsa was abducted by her father, Egyptian Tamer Salama, during a visit to Sharm El Sheikh in December 2011. Ms Button had arranged the visit so that the little girl could visit members of her father’s family.

She has not seen her daughter since and still has no idea of her whereabouts. Naturally she is devastated, telling the BBC:

“The anguish I have suffered over the last 13 months has been almost unbearable at times.”

I can only imagine the distress Ms Button going through. Any mother would find the thought of being separated from your child for more than a year, with no confirmation that she is even still alive, almost unbearable.

Tamer is now in prison for contempt of court. The 35 year-old has admitted that his mother took Elsa to Cairo but has revealed no information beyond that. Sentencing Salama to a second term behind bars,  Mr Justice Cobb  described the abduction as a “gross act” and it would be hard to disagree with that assessment.

Ms Button has appealed to her members of her former husband’s family for information on Elsa’s whereabouts and has also launched a campaign to raise awareness of the little girl’s disappearance, based around a Facebook page. and Twitter account.

Pleasingly, the campaign has attracted plenty of media attention, from the BBC, ITV, Sky News and others.

Sadly, Elsa’s sixth birthday, on February 2, has now been and gone and there is still no news. But as all involved await developments, I cannot help but wonder what else might be possible to move things along.

As regular readers of this blog will know, international child abduction is, unfortunately, a far from uncommon occurrence. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was created more than 30 years ago to provide a legal mechanism for the swift return of children abducted by desperate and alienated parents from one signatory state into another.

But what happens when families are unlucky enough to lose children to countries which have not signed the convention? Sometimes special legal arrangements are in place. The UK has child abduction agreements with both Pakistan and Egypt. I have suggested the family contact the Office of the Head of International Family Justice to try and see if high level judicial and political intervention might bear fruit, on the basis of our agreement with Egypt, known as the Cairo Declaration. It is just possible that such intervention might result in the case being fast-tracked with the Egyptian authorities.

We can only hope. The Office of the Head of International Family Justice provides invaluable legal advice on international child abduction matters and can even correspond directly with foreign judges. I have the greatest of respect for the Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales himself, the estimable Lord Justice Thorpe.

I wish Naomi’s campaign all the best and  really hope she and her daughter are reunited soon!

Photo of Cairo by Raduasandei via Wikipedia

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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1 comment

Shelley Kenny - February 7, 2013 at 2:51pm

I would like yo know if the Cairo Declaration has resulted in a successful reunion for an abducted child and their parent?

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