Decision of Court (Fifth Section), May 12, 2015 (case X v. SLOVENIA)

JudgeN\/A
Resolution DateMay 12, 2015
Issuing OrganizationCourt (Fifth Section)

FIFTH SECTION

DECISION

Application no. 4473/14Xagainst Slovenia

The European Court of Human Rights (Fifth Section), sitting on 12 May 2015 as a Chamber composed of:

             Mark Villiger, President,              Angelika Nußberger,              Boštjan M. Zupančič,              Ganna Yudkivska,              Vincent A. De Gaetano,              André Potocki,              Helena Jäderblom, judges,

and Claudia Westerdiek, Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application lodged on 23 January 2014,

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

THE FACTS

  1. The applicant, Mr X, is a Slovenian national, who was born in 1962 and lives in Sp. Duplek. The chamber decided that the applicant’s, the children’s and their mother’s identity should not be disclosed to the public (Rule 47 § 4 of the Rules of the Court).

    1. The circumstances of the case

  2. The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.

  3. The applicant is the father of two children, Y, born in 2000, and Z, born in 2002. He was married to their mother, M, but they separated on an unknown date.

  4. On 3 September 2003, after a physical conflict between the applicant and M, not for the first time, the children were taken away from them by the Maribor Welfare Authority.

  5. According to the judgment in the case of X v. Slovenia (no. 40245/10, 28 June 2012) which concerned the applicant’s complaint about the length of the custody proceedings the facts appear as set out below.

  6. The care order and restrictions imposed on the applicant’s contact visits with the children

  7. On 4 September 2003 the children were placed in the care of a foster family by an interim care order.

  8. On 11 February 2005 an ordinary care order was issued by which the children were removed from their parents indefinitely.

  9. Between 2003 and 2005 the applicant did not have any contact with his children, and he repeatedly requested the Maribor Welfare Authority to return the children and to allow him to have contact with them.

  10. On 17 October 2005 the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social affairs (“the Ministry”) allowed the applicant and M contact with the children once a month.

  11. For the first two years the contact was successful, but later became stressful as the applicant and M became impatient and were in conflict during the meetings. In December 2007 the Welfare Authority concluded that continuing contact would not be in the children’s best interest.

  12. In October 2008 the applicant confirmed that he did not want to have contact with the children under the arrangement set out in the Ministry’s decision of 17 October 2005.

  13. By an interim court order of 19 July 2011 the applicant was again forbidden to have contact with the children. On the basis of expert opinions, the Maribor District Court found that the contact did not have a positive effect on the relationship between the applicant and the children, and that there was no real prospect of the situation improving to such an extent that the children could be returned to the applicant.

  14. On an unknown date the applicant lodged an appeal with the Maribor District Court against the interim order prohibiting him from having contact with the children.

  15. On 5 June 2012 the Maribor District Court dismissed this appeal. The domestic courts found that contact would not be in the children’s best interests, basing their decision on expert reports as explained in paragraphs 28 and 29 below.

  16. The applicant did not lodge an appeal with the Higher Court in connection with the interim order.

  17. The withdrawal of the applicant’s parental rights

  18. In parallel with the above, on 9 February 2005 the Maribor Welfare Authority instituted proceedings before the Maribor District Court seeking the withdrawal of the parental rights of the applicant and M in respect of Y and Z.

  19. The Maribor District Court ruled in 2005, deciding that the applicant and M should be divested of their parental rights.

  20. In 2006, on appeal, the Maribor Higher Court quashed the decision and remitted the case for re-examination, with an instruction that the court should examine further evidence.

  21. In 2010 the Maribor District Court found that the withdrawal of parental rights was the only appropriate measure.

  22. On appeal, the Maribor Higher Court again quashed the decision and remitted the case for re-examination, finding that the expert opinions on which the decision was based were outdated.

  23. On 5 June 2012 the Maribor District Court again decided to withdraw the parental rights of the applicant and M. It found that in 2003 the children, Y and Z, were hospitalised three times; they were neglected and dirty and had haematomas on their bodies. Police intervened several times in the applicant’s and M’s home due to verbal and physical conflicts. Among other...

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