When is it child abduction and when is it child recovery?
A 60 Minutes reporter and crew have been detained by Lebanese authorities after a child recovery operation went suddenly wrong.
The incident was caught on CCTV and footage shows the two children accompanied by their grandmother and a nanny, walking along a Beirut street. An SUV pulls up, men get out, grab the children and bundle them into the car as a woman presumed to be their grandmother, Ibtissam Berri, is shoved aside.
Ms Berri said one member of the group hit her with his gun while another man filmed the confrontation. “A Honda car drew my attention and a big TV camera was being carried by a man filming us. Faster than lightning two men came out,” she said. “One hit me with his pistol on my head and I fainted and there were bruises on my body.”
The team made a clean getaway, but was caught not long after the fact. Soon after, the boy and girl were returned to the father and Ms Faulkner was arrested.
The children’s father, Ali el-Amien, said it was a reckless and dangerous act. “I was surprised [that] any one could endanger the children like that,” he told the ABC.
“What if someone armed passed by and saw the scene and started to fire? We are in Lebanon here. If they started to shoot, they could have hit one of the children. They could have shot my mother.”
Mr el-Amien said the family had been living in Lebanon until 2013, when Ms Faulkner decided it was no longer safe and took their children to Australia. “When all the bombings took place, she wanted to go and visit her parents. She arrived there and tore up the children’s passports,” he said.
“She told me ‘when you want to see them, you come to Australia’. I tried to live there more than once but all our revenue came from Lebanon and not from Australia. We were both out of work [in Australia].”
Ms Faulkner said Mr el-Amien took their children to Lebanon on a holiday last year but refused to let them return to Australia, leading to her attempted abduction alongside the 60 Minutes team.
A judge has been asked by Lebanese prosecutors to investigate child abduction charges against Australian mother Sally Faulkner and a Channel Nine crew.
The prosecutors referred to the crime of deprivation of liberty, or abduction, which is punishable by a minimum three years in jail.
They have sent the file to an investigating judge, due to be appointed later today, who could decide to release the accused on bail or hold them while he conducts further enquiries.
Under religiously inspired laws, Ms Faulkner’s rights as a mother are limited, but she may have a presumed right of custody over at least one of her two children depending on their ages, which could undermine the kidnapping case.
However, Lebanese authorities have taken a dim view of the use of the child recovery agency.
Both parents level child abduction accusations toward each other.
What makes this case messy is that Lebanon is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, while Australia is a signatory. The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty in force between Australia and a number of other countries. It provides a lawful procedure for seeking the return of abducted children to their home country. It also provides assistance to parents to obtain contact or access to children overseas. Because Lebanon is not a signatory, they are under no obligation to follow it’s guidelines.
In Australia, it is against the law to take children to another state or country without the consent of the other parent. If your former spouse has done this, we can assist in making an urgent application to the Court for a Location and Recovery Order. This is where the Court makes orders which enable you not only to locate your child or children but also to enable you to secure their return to you.
If there is a risk that your child or children may be snatched and taken overseas, we can help you lodge a child airport alert with the Australian Federal Police.
We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation with our friendly and experienced family lawyers. Contact us today!