Supreme Court of Pakistan (Original Jurisdiction)
Superior Appellate Court
29 March 2011
Rights of Access - Art. 21 | Non-Convention Issues
Following a direction of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the mother's application was entrusted to the Supreme Court exercising its original jurisdiction. The trial judge, Justice Jillani, noted that whilst the Guardian Court would ordinarily have been competent in respect of such an action, the peculiar circumstances of the case led to the present allocation.
The latter derived from: the mother's insecurity in coming to Pakistan; welfare considerations in the light of the children's long separation from the mother; and, the requirement of Article 35 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that the "State shall protect the marriage, the family, the mother and the child". Although the United Kingdom- Pakistan Judicial Protocol on Matters Relating to Children was not engaged, a copy of the order was nevertheless sent to the President of the Family Division of the High Court.
The parents did not agree on the factual circumstances which gave rise to the application. In her application for custody the mother sought to rely on the terms of Pakistani law whereby a mother could keep a male child under 7 and a female child up until the age of 14. The mother accepted, however, that any separation of the children could entail some emotional stress for them (the Court noted that they already displayed elements of "parental child alienation syndrome").
The mother then agreed that the father retain custody and that she have care of the children during the summer vacations. The parents agreed a set of conditions surrounding contact which would take place in both the United Kingdom and Pakistan, with the mother meeting the children's travel expenses.
Justice Jillani observed that mediation had a great potential as a mode of resolving disputes. In the absence of a viable alternative the Court had been required to play this role. It had done so with a measure of caution and circumspection, but this had proved fruitful as both parties had been amenable to reason and demonstrated a sense of mutual accommodation.
Justice Jillani noted that in family law there was a built in provision whereby the Court was mandated to mediate for reconciliation. Section 89A of the Civil Procedure Code of Pakistan was equally relevant as it provided for alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
Author of the summary: Peter McEleavy
Article 21 has been subjected to varying interpretations. Contracting States favouring a literal interpretation have ruled that the provision does not establish a basis of jurisdiction for courts to intervene in access matters and is focussed on procedural assistance from the relevant Central Authority. Other Contracting States have allowed proceedings to be brought on the basis of Article 21 to give effect to existing access rights or even to create new access rights.
A literal interpretation of the provision has found favour in:
S. v. S., 25 May 1998, transcript (official translation), Regional civil court at Graz, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AT 245];
2 UF 286/97, Oberlandesgericht Bamberg, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/DE 488];
United States of America
Bromley v. Bromley, 30 F. Supp. 2d 857, 860-61 (E.D. Pa. 1998). [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USf 223];
Teijeiro Fernandez v. Yeager, 121 F. Supp. 2d 1118, 1125 (W.D. Mich. 2000);
Janzik v. Schand, 22 November 2000, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USf 463];
Wiggill v. Janicki, 262 F. Supp. 2d 687, 689 (S.D.W. Va. 2003);
Yi Ly v. Heu, 296 F. Supp. 2d 1009, 1011 (D. Minn. 2003);
In re Application of Adams ex. rel. Naik v. Naik, 363 F. Supp. 2d 1025, 1030 (N.D. Ill. 2005);
Wiezel v. Wiezel-Tyrnauer, 388 F. Supp. 2d 206 (S.D.N.Y. 2005), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USf 828];
Cantor v. Cohen, 442 F.3d 196 (4th Cir. 2006), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USf 827].
In Cantor, the only US appellate decision on Article 21, there was a dissenting judgment which found that the US implementing act did provide a jurisdictional basis for federal courts to hear an application with regard to an existing access right.
United Kingdom - England & Wales
In Re G. (A Minor) (Enforcement of Access Abroad)  Fam 216 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 110].
More recently however the English Court of Appeal has suggested that it might be prepared to consider a more permissive interpretation:
Hunter v. Murrow   2 F.L.R. 1119, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 809].
Baroness Hale has recommended the elaboration of a procedure whereby the facilitation of rights of access in the United Kingdom under Article 21 could be contemplated at the same time as the return of the child under Article 12:
Re D. (A Child) (Abduction: Rights of Custody)  UKHL 51[INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 880].
Arrondissement judiciaire I Courterlary-Moutier-La Neuveville (Suisse) 11 October 1999, N° C 99 4313 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CH 454].
A more permissive interpretation of Article 21 has indeed been adopted elsewhere, see:
United Kingdom - Scotland
Donofrio v. Burrell, 2000 S.L.T. 1051 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 349].
Wider still is the interpretation adopted in New Zealand, see:
Gumbrell v. Jones  NZFLR 593 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/NZ 446].
The position in Australia has evolved in the light of statutory reforms.
Initially a State Central Authority could only apply for an order that was ‘necessary or appropriate to organise or secure the effective exercise of rights of access to a child in Australia', see:
Director-General, Department of Families Youth & Community Care v. Reissner  FamCA 1238, (1999) 25 Fam LR 330, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 278].
Subsequently it acquired the power to initiate proceedings to establish access rights:
State Central Authority & Peddar  FamCA 519, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 1107];
State Central Authority & Quang  FamCA 1038, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 1106].
When a parent seeks the return of a child outside the scope of the Hague Convention, or another international or regional instrument, the court seised will have to decide how to balance the interests of the child with the general international policy of combating the illicit transfer and non-return of children abroad (Art. 11(1) UNCRC 1990).
Shortridge-Tsuchiya v. Tsuchiya, 2009 BCSC 541,  B.C.W.L.D. 4138, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CA 1109].
United Kingdom - England & Wales
Appellate courts have struggled to agree on the appropriate balance to be struck.
An internationalist interpretation, favouring an approach mirrored on that of Hague Convention, was adopted by the Court of Appeal in:
Re E. (Abduction: Non-Convention Country)  2 FLR 642 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 589];
Re J. (Child Returned Abroad: Human Rights)  EWCA Civ. 417,  2 FLR 85 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 586].
However, in the earlier case Re J.A. (Child Abduction: Non-Convention Country)  1 FLR 231 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 588] a return order was not made, there being concerns as to whether the legal system in the foreign jurisdiction would be able to act in the best interests of the child. A factor in that case was that the abducting mother, who was British, would not be entitled to relocate from the child's State of habitual residence unless she had the consent of the father.
In Re J. (A Child) (Return to Foreign Jurisdiction: Convention Rights),  UKHL 40,  1 AC 80, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 801] the House of Lords expressly stated that the approach of the Court of Appeal in Re J.A. (Child Abduction: Non-Convention Country)  1 FLR 231 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 588] was the one to be preferred.
The House of Lords held that the rationale of the Hague Convention necessarily meant that the State of refuge might on occasion have to do something which was not in the best interests of the individual child involved. States parties had accepted this disadvantage to some individual children for the sake of the greater advantage to children in general. However, there was no warrant, either in statute or authority, for the principles of the Hague Convention to be extended to countries which were not parties to it. In a non-Convention case the court must act in accordance with the welfare of the individual child. Whilst there was no ‘strong presumption' in favour of return on the facts of an individual case a summary return may very well be in the best interests of the individual child.
It may be noted that in Re F. (Children) (Abduction: Removal Outside Jurisdiction)  EWCA Civ. 854,  2 F.L.R. 1649 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 982] a trial judge who felt compelled to discharge his original order for return in the light, inter alia, of the ruling in Re M. had his judgment overturned. The Court of Appeal did not, however, comment on the ruling of the House of Lords and the case ostensibly turned on the existence of new evidence, pointing to the inevitability of the mother's deportation.
In E.M. (Lebanon) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKHL 64,  1 A.C. 1198 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 994] an immigration case centred around the wrongful removal of a child from a non-Convention country, the House of Lords ruled that a return would lead to a violation of the child's and his mother's right to family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). However, it must be noted that on the facts the child's only ‘family life' was with the mother, the father having had no contact with the child since the day of his birth. A majority of the panel (4:1) held that the discriminatory nature of Lebanese family law, which would have led to the automatic transfer of care for the child being passed from mother to father, upon the child reaching his 7th birthday, would not have led to a breach of the ECHR.
The Fourth Special Commission to review the operation of the 1980 Child Abduction Convention in 2001 recommended that Contracting States actively encourage international judicial co-operation. This view was repeated at the Fifth Special Commission in 2006.
Where this co-operation has manifested itself in the form of direct communication between judges, it has been noted that the procedural standards and safeguards of the forum should be respected. The latter was acknowledged in the "Emerging Guidance and General Principles for Judicial Communications" (Prel. Doc. No 3A for the attention of the Special Commission of June 2011, revised in July 2012) where it is stated in Principles 6.1 to 6.5 that:
"6.1 Every judge engaging in direct judicial communications must respect the law of his or her own jurisdiction.
6.2 When communicating, each judge seized should maintain his or her independence in reaching his or her own decision on the matter at issue.
6.3 Communications must not compromise the independence of the judge seized in reaching his or her own decision on the matter at issue.
6.4 In Contracting States in which direct judicial communications are practised, the following are commonly accepted procedural safeguards:
6.5 Nothing in these commonly accepted procedural safeguards prevents a judge from following rules of domestic law or practices which allow greater latitude."
Direct judicial co-operation has been employed in several jurisdictions:
Y.D. v. J.B.,  R.D.F. 753 (Que.C.A.) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CA/ 369]
Hoole v. Hoole, 2008 BCSC 1248 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CA/ 991]
Adkins v. Adkins, 2009 BCSC 337 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CA 1108]
In this case, as a result of the direct communication, the Convention proceedings were adjourned pending an adjudication of the substantive custody issue by the competent Court of the child's State of habitual residence in Nevada, United States of America.
United Kingdom - England and Wales
Re M. and J. (Abduction) (International Judicial Collaboration)  3 FCR 721 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 266]
Re A. (Custody Decision after Maltese Non-Return Order)  EWHC 3397,  1 FLR 1923 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 883]
United Kingdom - Northern Ireland
RA v DA  NIFam 9 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKn 1197]
United States of America
Panazatou v. Pantazatos, No. FA 960713571S (Conn. Super. Ct. Sept. 24, 1997) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USs 97]
Special provision is made for judicial communication in the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (1997), s. 110, see:
Criticism of the practice of direct judicial co-operation has been raised by the High Court of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region - Court of Appeal in D. v. G.  1179 HKCU 1 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/HK 595].
A study of all aspects of international judicial co-operation was undertaken by Philippe Lortie, Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, first in 2002: "Practical Mechanisms for Facilitating Direct International Judicial Communications in the Context of the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction: Preliminary Report", Preliminary Document No 6 of August 2002 for the attention of the Special Commission of September / October 2002.
In 2006, Philippe Lortie prepared the "Report on Judicial Communications in Relation to International Child Protection", Preliminary Document No 8 of October 2006 for the attention of the Fifth Meeting of the Special Commission to review the operation of the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (30 October - 9 November 2006).
(See < www.hcch.net >, under "Child Abduction Section" then "Special Commission meetings on the practical operation of the Convention" and "Preliminary Documents".)
In 2013, the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference published the brochure "Direct Judicial Communications - Emerging Guidance regarding the development of the International Hague Network of Judges and General Principles for Judicial Communications, including commonly accepted safeguards for Direct Judicial Communications in specific cases, within the context of the International Hague Network of Judges". (See < www.hcch.net >, under "Publications", then "Brochures".)
For other commentaries see:
Hague Conference "The Judges' Newsletter" Volume IV/Summer 2002 and Volume XV/Autumn 2009. (See < www.hcch.net >, under "Child Abduction Section" then "Judges' Newsletter".)
R. Moglove Diamond, "Canadian Initiatives Respecting the Handling of Hague Abduction Convention Cases" (2008) 50 R.F.L. (6th) 275.