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since June 19, 2001


Parents on hunger strike in Berlin, various articles in the press

Berliner Morgenpost, 11.07.2001 — FrançaisDeutsch

Parents hunger for contact with children.

Parents from the USA, France, South Africa and Sweden want to begin today at the Gendarmenmarkt a hunger strike of undetermined duration.  According to a declaration by the organizers, they want to force through that to be allowed to regain contact with their children who had been abducted bei the other parent to Germany.  The relevant parents allege that Germany contravenes the Hague Conventions.   The judicial agreement, which Germany joined in 1990, states that abducted children must be returned as quickly as possible to their country of origin, even before lengthy custody battles are decided.

Kerstin Niethammer-Jürgens, Berlin-lawyer for international family law, rejects the accusation by the parents.  Supposedly, contrary to other countries, Germany generally sticks to the agreement.[1]  Specially trained judges are said to be responsible in cases of child abductions.[2]   Nevertheless, it is said that there are problems in part with the execution of decisions dealing with the return of abducted children, which is often dragged out for extended intervals.

According to the Office of the Federal General Attorney about 240 cases annually are being dealt with according to the Hague Conventions.   Child-protection agencies estimate that the number of minors who are being abducted from or to Germany is climbing steadily. There were about 2000 cases in the past year.   While previously it was mostly fathers who abducted their children to foreign nations, it is today almost as often mothers who bring their children to Germany.

To advise parents who remain [without their children] and offer them support, Kerstin Niethammer-Jürgens now brought to life — with the help of colleagues, psychologists, as well as mothers and fathers — the initiative "Return Kids" (Kids zurueck).  Nevertheless, "Return Kids" does not support the hunger strike.   The lawyer: "We don't exactly know who is behind it.  The Organization is chaotic."[3]


1.) According to a presentation made by Karin Jaeckel, Dr. Phil., at the International Child Abduction Conference in Washington DC, June 7-9, 2001, things are not quite as clear-cut.

It is not without cause that Youth Welfare Offices in Germany are discredited as "kidnapping-offices" or "mother-offices". And not without cause did the French President Jacques Chirac call German family law "the law of the jungle"....

Ladies and gentlemen, you surely know that [par.] 13b rules the term treasured above all by German judges, namely the "welfare of children".

Exactly, it prohibits the return of children to where they had been kidnapped from, if the "welfare of a child" could be in danger....

...Against the orders of the Hague Convention, most of the judges of family law start the court hearing, to negotiate the welfare and custody of the child. And as usual, they need an expert opinion. And with that, time goes by.

2.) Again, the facts that Karin Jaeckel presented in relation to the special training that judges receive differ considerably.  It is not that there is an abundance of such specially trained judges.  The process intended to employ such judges is merely in the proposal stage.

...feminist lawyers often advise their clients with binational children to sue for divorce according to German law, if possible....

Margot von Renesse, SPD-member of the Bundestag and well known as the mother of the new law for child and parent in Germany, declared the aim of the law-giver and the legal practice. It is the wish now that the judges must overcome the German provinciality. Therefore those sentiments need to be extended to create a court of law with international competence.

The court is to consist of three experts who decide in all binational cases. They are to be comprised of a family court judge plus two lay judges. They all must be German and are to be elected every four years.

It appears that Kerstin Niethammer-Jürgens is being motivated not by concerns for parents who lost their children but much more likely by profit motives that cause her to pormote the niche in the family law industry that she created for herself.  If the striking parents are so far wrong, and if solutions are that easily to be found in the German courts, why did she not simply identify her treasured specially trained judges and where they can be found?  Would that not instantly put an end to the hunger strike?

3.) If Kerstin Niethammer-Jürgens truly doesn't know who is behind the hungerstrike, that shows that she deliberately closed her eyes and failed to inform herself.  The parents are right there, in Berlin.  She can speak to them during her lunch break, although we should hope that her apparent callousness doesn't extent to having her lunch in front of the hunger-strikers.
   Moreover, there is no formal organization sponsoring the hunger-strike action.  The strikers are people like any of us.  They merely happened to get in touch with one another, united only by their common experiences in the German family courts, and reached the agreement that no other legal avenues remain open for them but to risk their lives in this hunger strike.

It is regrettable that the Berliner Morgenpost did not put more of an effort into reporting on the issue and instead resorted to unbalanced advocacy reporting.  After all, the facts are just as easily visible to the Berliner Morgenpost.

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Posted 2001 07 11
2004 12 15 (reformated)