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ECtHR / Application no. 27853/09 / Judgment

X. v Latvia

Deciding Body type:
European Court of Human Rights
Deciding Body:
Grand Chamber
Decision date:
Key facts of the case:
  1. The applicant was born in 1974 and now resides in Australia. She is a Latvian national, who, in 2007, also acquired Australian nationality.
  2. After meeting T. and beginning a relationship with him at the beginning of 2004, she moved into his flat at the end of that year, although she was still married to another man, R.L., whom she divorced on 24 November 2005.
  3. On 9 February 2005 the applicant gave birth to a daughter, E. The child’s birth certificate does not give the father’s name, and no paternity test was carried out. The applicant, who was still living with T., subsequently received single-parent benefits. In spite of the deterioration in their relationship, the applicant continued to live with T. as a tenant.
  4. On 17 July 2008 the applicant left Australia for Latvia with her daughter, then aged three years and five months.
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
Taking human rights seriously requires that the Hague Convention operates not only in the best interests of children and the long-term, general objective of preventing international child abduction, but also in the short-term, best interests of each individual child who is subject to Hague return proceedings. Justice for children, even summary and provisional justice, can only be done with a view to the entirety of the very tangible case at hand, i.e. of the actual circumstances of each child involved. Only an in-depth or “effective” evaluation of the child’s situation in the specific context of the return application can provide such justice. In layman’s terms, Neulinger and Shuruk is alive and well. It was and remains a decision laying down valid legal principles, not an ephemeral and capricious act of “judicial compassion”.
In the specific case at hand, the domestic courts not only forwent an in-depth or “effective” evaluation of the child’s situation, but even failed to check the conditions of applicability of the Hague Convention in the first place. There was simply no legal basis for the interference with the applicant’s right to family life with her child, the removal of the child from Latvia being the only unlawful abduction in this case. Therefore, I find a violation of Article 8 of the Convention.