Cablegate: Child Abduction: New Central Authority Director Discusses
DE RUEHPG #0202 0850634
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 250634Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRAGUE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0206
UNCLAS PRAGUE 000202
STATE FOR EUR/NCE AND CA/OCS/CI
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC CMGT PREL EZ
SUBJECT: CHILD ABDUCTION: NEW CENTRAL AUTHORITY DIRECTOR DISCUSSES
SANTANA, CCA MISSION
1. CG met March 19, 2008, with the new head of the Czech Office for
International Legal Protection of Children (the Czech Central
Authority or CCA), Lenka Pavlova. Pavlova was previously a lawyer
in private general practice with a focus on family law. She said
she applied for her present position at the urging of then Acting
Director, longtime Embassy and Office of Children's Issues contact,
Marketa Novakova. Pavlova speaks English.
2. Pavlova said she was instituting some changes to the CCA. There
would, for example, be a new focus on moving cases along quickly.
She also wants to educate citizens, social workers and others about
child abduction issues with the goal of trying to prevent cases from
arising. Finally, she wants to strongly emphasize mediation as a
way to resolve cases.
3. As an example of the new approach Pavlova cited the Santana
case. She said she met personally with Mr. Santana and with Ms.
Horvathova (the taking parent in the case) to offer her services as
a mediator to find a way for Mr. Santana to have regular access to
his son. Unfortunately, she said, both parents rejected the idea of
mediation, at least for the time being. She did arrange for Mr.
Santana to have access to his son (Pablito) while he was here in
February, and said they saw each other almost every day. She also
arranged for him to see the pre-school where Pablito goes, and to
meet with the pre-school director. She said Pablito was
unfortunately absent from school that day due to illness, according
to the mother (who she said lives in Prague 13). She said Mr.
Santana did not want to press for mediation because he was afraid of
upsetting the mother and thus losing the access he was able to have.
She said Ms. Horvathova did not want to mediate access to Pablito
in the U.S. because she was still afraid she might be arrested and
prosecuted if she went there. Indeed, Pavlova said that Diane
Kenney from the California prosecutor's office was unable to provide
unequivocal assurance that Horvathova would not be arrested.
4. With regard to the Santana court case, she confirmed that there
is as yet no written opinion of the decision the court made on
February 25. She also confirmed the decision was based on Article
XIII (best interests of the child) and that the CCA, in an advisory
capacity to the court, had supported this interpretation. She said
that in general she supports speedy return of children, but viewed
this as an exceptional case for several reasons: the age of the
child, the passage of time, the fact that the child has bonded with
his mother, and the fact that the child does not speak English. She
emphasized that she wanted to continue to work to mediate regular
visitation for Mr. Santana.
5. In more general discussion of the Hague Convention, Pavlova
referred several times to the importance of the best interests of
the child, and noted that her office title had the words "protection
of children" in it. She also referred to the importance of the
mother- child bond during the child's first three years of life, and
said it was important to consider this as well. When asked a
hypothetical question - female taking parent, two-year-old boy,
court decision within three months of abduction, would she support
return or not - she sidestepped an explicit answer, but referred to
the importance of maintaining the close mother-child bond. CG
pointed out that the Hague Convention was designed to return
children quickly to their habitual place of residence, in part
because it was courts in the habitual place of residence who were
best situated to evaluate the best interests of the child. Pavlova
agreed with this, but then cited the Santana case where, she said,
so much time had passed that the court best situated to evaluate
best interests was in the Czech Republic. She acknowledged that the
delay was in fact the fault of the Czechs - she mentioned this
several times - and said she hoped to prevent such delays from
happening in future cases. She noted that a legislative package
proposed by the Ministry of Justice (setting up a special court of
experts, among other things) was still under active consideration,
and both she and Novakova expected it to succeed at some point.
6. Comment: Some aspects of Pavlova's statements could portend
difficulties for future Czech Hague cases. Her mother-centric views
and focus on "best interests" may indicate a serious misreading of
the language and intent of the Convention. At the same time her
acknowledgment of Czech failures, her vow to speed things up, and
her explicitly expressed desire to work closely with the U.S.
Embassy and the Office of Children's Issues signal some openness to
dialogue. She noted that the visit of CG was the first official
visit of any foreign diplomat to her office in Brno, and she seemed
eager to meet and establish contact with Office of Children's Issues
representatives. Post believes an effort to make these contacts
early on could prove fruitful in the long run. Post notes that
Acting A/S Jacobs will be in Prague May 6 - a meeting with Pavlova
might be useful. Pavlova indicated a willingness to come to Prague,
where she lives, for such a meeting. End Comment.