Frank Arndt discusses international child abduction on ITV Daybreak

Earlier today, our Head of International Family Law, Frank Arndt, appeared on ITV Daybreak to discuss the dramatic story of Aleksandra Abou-El-Ella.

She is the Slough mother, originally from Poland, who travelled to Egypt in disguise to snatch her daughter back, two years after her estranged husband ran off to the Middle Eastern country with little Mona, now aged three. According to reports, Mustafa Abou-El-Ella simply told his wife that he was taking Mona to visit friends, and then flew out of the country.

After a very long two years, determined to be get her daughter back, Aleksandra and campaigner Donya Al-Nahi located Mona. Disguised in local clothing, the 29 year-old then snatched her daughter from the street before flying back to the UK.

Why couldn’t Aleksandra resort to more conventional legal means? Unfortunately Britain has no extradition treaty with Egypt and the country has also yet to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, a major treaty which allows children abducted from one country into another by a parent to be quickly returned. As Frank noted, the one legal agreement concerning child abduction which we do have in place with Egypt, the Cairo Declaration, is a simply a ‘memorandum’, a statement of well-intentioned legal principles but one which has yet to generate a single return from the country. In such circumstances, trusted local contacts can make all the differences.

Frank noted that this case is both exceptional, in the circumstances and lengths to which Aleksandra was prepared to go, and just one of thousands of similar cases every year. In Frank’s words: “The international legal system let her down. The two years she was waiting is two years too long”.

Children can be returned from Hague Convention countries within 48 hours. “The system is working, but in Egypt it is not working, so I can totally understand as a lawyer, as a father, how she feels.”

Frank has developed a global trusted legal network which is always important in child abduction cases and which can help to avoid lengthy delays.

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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Carlos - August 7, 2013 at 9:43am

“Children can be returned from Hague Convention countries within 48 hours”

…or never. This statement, while perhaps trivially true (as would be one that said children “can be” returned from near anywhere in 48 hours,) promotes a very harmful misrepresentation of the reality. Hague Convention signatories are, in no way shape or form, generally better than non-convention countries in terms of actually returning children. Countries simply signing the Convention are meaningless in terms of whether or not abducted children are returned.

It is tragic, but a lack of enforcement for a very well thought out law has created a reality where the primary use of the Abduction Convention is to bury affected parties in complex, expensive and never-ending litigation which, in the end, only supports the existing status quo and provides an avenue for the legitimization of child abduction (ie parental child trafficking) and an aura of legitimacy by virtue of an after the fact legal process.

Indeed, over the past several years, the overall return rate to the US from non-Convention countries has actually been higher than that from Convention countries overall (although the US State Dept obfuscates this fact by no longer posting full return statistics.)

Convention cases can drag on indefinitely with cases, even in the USA, taking over five years only to be remanded back to lower courts for further investigation (eg Abbott v Abbott.)

michelle jatta - August 22, 2013 at 9:34pm

I know it is very traumatic and my self has had children taken to egypt and half of me agrees what she done is correct the other half does not.
the child was snatched just like she was snatched in the first place .
two wrongs dont make a right and she should have went through the legal system in egypt, yes it can take time and i know one mother over 4 years.
this has been done and can not be reveresed
i think it was wrong to have the child on the tv where you discuss those things, as this is damaging to a child.

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