Malaga Congress 2023
An international congress on child abduction. With lawyers, judges, mediators and other professionals specialized in Child abduction from all over the world. At the congress the speakers and attendees discussed the outcome of the October meeting of the Special Commission. This Special Commission on the Practical Operations of the 1980 Child Abduction Convention and the 1996 Child Protection Convention.
This congress was organized by ASIME, an association of professionals against international child abduction.
On this page we share the highlights of this congress.
ASIME’s International Congress on Child Abduction: Global Proposals from the Mediterranean.
The International Congress on Child Abduction, hosted by the Bar of Lawyers of Malaga and orchestrated by the Association for International Mediation and Arbitration (ASIME), marked a pivotal moment in the collective fight against international child abduction. Assembled in Malaga on November 23 and 24, 2023, the congress convened a diverse assembly of 100 professionals from 20 countries across four continents, encompassing judges, lawyers, mediators, and representatives from esteemed global organizations.
Sir Mathew Thorpe
Conclusions of the Eight Special Commission
This congress focused on core objectives outlined in the October 2023 Conclusions of the Eighth Special Commission of the Hague Conference. These objectives encompassed an extensive review of the 1980 Child Abduction Convention. Emphasizing the paramountcy of the child’s best interests in alignment with UNCRC, it advocated for protective measures and endorsed legal aid and direct judicial communications. The congress laid emphasis on collaborative initiatives and the continued vitality of the Convention in an ever-evolving global landscape.
Crucial Points Emphasized
A notable highlight was the focus on efficient handling of return applications. The role of the International Hague Network of Judges (IHNJ) was underscored for efficient provision of foreign law information. The event initiated comprehensive work on Model Forms, Country Profiles, and mediation promotion, reinforcing child protection measures under both Conventions. Regarding the 1996 Child Protection Convention, the measures of protection were highlighted to obtain the safe return under the 1980 Convention.
ASIME Congress Committee
Mediation: Reunite & Mikk
Beyond academic discourse, the Congress aimed to foster a global alliance among international professionals, enabling knowledge exchange and developing viable strategies to combat child abduction. A diverse assembly enriched discussions with varied perspectives from legal, psychological, and law enforcement domains. With representation from 20 countries across 4 continents, it became a comprehensive platform to address the complexities of cross-border child abduction. The speakers shared insights on legal intricacies and mediation best practices.
Impact and Future Prospects
ASIME’s International Congress on Child Abduction has continued the global conversation among legal operators implied with child abduction, propelling us towards enhanced legal frameworks, collaborative mechanisms, and child-centric approaches for efficient resolutions.
The conclusions, derived from rigorous discussions, pave the path for more effective resolutions in addressing child abduction, symbolizing a shared dedication to safeguarding the welfare of children worldwide. The conclusions will be published in an e-book.
Let’s meet again in the future!
Adriana de Ruiter
Adriana de Ruiter, ASIME
Summary by Sacha Lee
The ASIME congress on child relocation in Malaga
As a junior lawyer, this was my first international conference experience and something that I felt merited a few written reflections.
This ASIME congress brought together a select cohort of leading international child abduction specialists from around the world (from Chile to New York to London to Spain to Bulgaria to Russia to South Africa to name just a few). It followed hot on the heels of the 8th Reunion of the 1980 Hague Convention. It was a privilege to hear directly from those who had attended that congress what had been discussed there and the action points that arose. Particular areas of focus include: the 1980 Hague Convention and concurrent asylum applications, the use of technology, the mutual cooperation between the 1980 and the 1996 Hague Conventions, the effect of delay, how the voice of the child should be heard and the reaffirmation that 1980 Hague proceedings are summary and not child arrangements proceedings.
Sir Matthew Thorpe
Over the course of two days, there was lively debate and knowledge sharing across the panels. Sir Matthew Thorpe provided his insight and opinion on the impact of Brexit on child abduction proceedings in England and Wales, as well as his vision for the future. We heard statistics from European, South American and African delegations about their rates of child abduction, the countries of their outgoing/incoming abductions and the way each country implements the 1980 Hague Convention, including timescales and rates of return. We also learned about the application of the 1980 Hague Convention in Argentina and the inter-American court, including the close intersectionality of gender-based violence and Article 13b there.
We heard a talk from our Bulgarian colleague about the differing ways the 1980 Hague Convention is implemented there, with particular reference to Article 13b and the lack of available legal enforcement options. This talk sparked widespread knowledge sharing and discussions afterwards, including the entirety of the lunch hour!
Turkey, Spain and Poland
This neatly led into discussions from Turkish, Spanish and Polish colleagues about protective measures and enforceability in their respective countries. The English and Welsh regime is famously hot on returns and protective measures are second nature. However, post Brexit, we have to rely on the 1996 Hague Convention to ensure enforceability. It was therefore very interesting to hear the panel about how Brussels II ter can be best utilised by Member States to ensure the implementation of protective measures that move with the minor child through cross sectional approval.
Despite us only meeting for the first time earlier that morning, I enjoyed a discussion with a Polish lawyer about the differences in our respective jurisdictions regarding the applicability of Article 13b, the enforceability of return orders (if made), the intersectionality of 1980 Hague Convention proceedings and criminal proceedings and the role that nationality and gender of the abducting parent can play in Polish proceedings.
Russia and France
A particular highlight was a very thought-provoking panel about the 1996 Hague Convention from the Russian and French perspective. We were encouraged to hear that foreign orders are capable of being recognised and enforced in Russia under the 1996 Hague Convention, even in the context of the current Ukraine war. It was also noted that our Russian colleagues are hopeful that Russia will not denounce the 1980 and 1996 Hague Conventions, even though they are already no longer part of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Council.
From France, a country which is a Member State to Brussels II ter, fellow Member States were reminded not to neglect careful consideration of the 1996 Hague Convention. For example, if a Spanish mother and Austrian father (unmarried) lived in Austria with their child, the 1996 Hague Convention tells us that the applicable law is Austrian law and therefore, the mother would have sole Parental Responsibility for that child. If she were to remove the child from Austria, that would not class as abduction as the father has no rights of custody for the purposes of the 1980 Hague Convention.
Brussels II ter
Or, if a child moves from one Member State to another (lawfully), jurisdiction will move with the child to the new country which can cause tension between Articles 5 and 10 of the 1996 Hague Convention and Article 23 of Brussels II ter. For example, there had been a case in France where the French court permitted a mother to relocate to Switzerland, the father appealed but because the mother had already left with the child for Switzerland, the Swiss courts refused to enforce the subsequent French orders obtained by the father.
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The congress also benefitted from the expertise of international mediators. Reunite and MIKK gave insightful talks which promoted the vital importance of mediation (and early mediation) in international child abduction cases. From an English perspective, it was interesting to see the differences between the European model of international mediation (MIKK) and our own (Reunite).
To achieve our common goal of eradicating international child abduction, it is vital that we work together. We have so much that we can learn from each other as well as inspiration we can draw to effect change in our own jurisdictions. I found the level of international cooperation and willingness to debate and share knowledge at the ASIME conference very impressive.
I was also struck by the genuine friendship of those attending this congress. From the moment we arrived (even before we checked into the hotel!), fellow delegates were greeting Carolina with the enthusiasm and warmth of close friends. I was touched and flattered that this camaraderie was immediately and automatically extended to me throughout the conference and social occasions around it. Indeed, I spent our free time on Friday sightseeing around Malaga’s old town with a new Belgian friend and the Saturday watching the tennis with newfound Spanish and Italian friends!
It was a real privilege to be invited to attend this Congress and I very much look forward to attending the next one in 2025!
Sacha Lee and Carolina Marin Pedreno
The Eight Commission Meeting
In October 2023, the Special Commission on the Practical Operation of the 1980 Child Abduction Convention and the 1996 Child Protection Convention had its eighth meeting.
It was the Special Commission’s first meeting in six years. Previous meetings of this Special Commission were held in 2017, 2011-2012, 2006, 2002, 2001, 1997, 1993, and 1989.
The HCCH organises Special Commission meetings to review the practical operation of many of its core Conventions and instruments, adopting Conclusions & Recommendations (C&Rs) aimed at promoting best practices and improving the operation of the Conventions.
You can read the Conclusions & Recommendations of the Eitht Meeting on the website of the HCCH.
On the HCCH website, you can also read all the Preliminary Documents and Information Documents.
Study by Asociación Internacional de Juristas de Derecho de Familia (AIJUDEFA)
During the Eight Meeting of the Special Commission, AIJUDEFA presented its study about child relocation. The association of international family lawyers asked for attention for the prevention of child abductions.
AIJUDEFA asked the Commission to prevent international child abduction by promoting legislation on the issue of international child relocation, and therefore to:
1. Guarantee that children´s rights are a priority.
2. Avoid long and unpredictable processes that make them victims.
3. Look for legal reciprocity of the rulings related with the judicial resolutions.
4. Guarantee the child´s right to maintain permanent contact, both virtual and physical with
the parent in the distance and a parenting plan for those cases that would include, for
instance, that the child may spend most of his/her vacation with the other parent.
5. Generate formation, training and awareness spaces on the international family relocation
for administrative and judicial officers and law professionals that are, firstly, those called
in to assess consultations on these issues related to international family legal matters.
6. Promote formation in matters of family mediation in cases of international family
relocation in order to avoid future conflicts.
7. Avoid children abduction or illegal retention.
8. Elaborate standards in line with the globalized time we live in, as well as a harmonic
interpretation of the children´s rights and custodian parent’s needs, which would jointly
result in a solution that would sufficiently guarantee the ultimate interest of children and
9. Make the Washington Declaration known both inside the judicature and among the
systems operators, so that it becomes an enlightening instrument.
10. Promote the practice of direct judicial communications among the judges of the different
jurisdictions involved, with the purpose of helping establish, acknowledge and enforce
You can read the full AIJUDEFA study on the website of the HCCH.
See you next time!
The Malaga Congress about International Child Abduction was a great succes.
Thank you ASIME for organizing this event.
We are looking forward to the next opportunity to meet you and discuss the issue of child abduction and child relocation!