Imagine your local county judge ordering you, a U.S. citizen, to board a jet plane with your three children to deliver them to your ex-spouse living in Zimbabwe, where you will be required to bid them farewell and get on the next return flight to the U.S. Your ex has threatened to revoke your children's U.S. citizenship. The judge has decided your family's fate following an international treaty that supersedes U.S. law, a treaty originally designed to keep foreign fathers from permanently removing their U.S. citizen children from the U.S. against the will of their mothers, but which is now being used by foreign fathers to achieve the polar opposite end.
This is one family's nightmare today. Three U.S. citizens, ages 9, 11, and 13, are being forced by a Northern California judge to move to Zimbabwe to live with their Canadian citizen father.
The children's mother is being required to deliver her children to Zimbabwe on April 19th and surrender them to their father on April 20th, then immediately board a plane to return back to the U.S. "Failure to follow this procedure could result in imprisonment or possibly death" for the mother in a country where the law permits women and children to be considered the property of men.
When they met and married, the children's parents were working as missionaries in Zimbabwe, where the children were born and spent most of their lives, a circumstance that seals their fate today.
Two years ago, with their marriage on the rocks and Zimbabwe an economic and human rights disaster zone, Jonathan and Krystal Curle moved their family to the U.S. "to seek marital counseling and safety from political unrest." When the marital counseling didn't help, they divorced. Subsequently, while crossing the border, the father was nabbed by U.S. immigration authorities for visa violations. He was denied entrance to the U.S. for five years and moved back to Zimbabwe.
The father sought recourse in the Hague Convention 1996, in which the determining legal factor is not the welfare of the children but where the children have "habitual residency."Although these American children have been living in the U.S. for the last two years, they have spent more of their time in Zimbabwe than in the U.S. Thus, according to the treaty, even though no members of this family are citizens of Zimbabwe, the U.S. has surrendered legal jurisdiction in this case to the Zimbabwean legal system, such as it is.
Lars Larson has been covering this story. The legal picture is available here. An interview with the mom's sister is here, as well as an interview with the children's grandfather.
Linked at Theo Spark by Chris Wysocki, who commented, "Remember this the next time Ruth Bader Ginsberg sings the praises of "international law." Thanks, Chris.
Addendum: Click here for the Help the Curles facebook page.