Penalties for illegally removing children
State Duma is looking at bill establishing criminal sanctions for illegally removing children from their family
Izvestia (a newspaper) reports that deputies of the State Duma, NGOs and civil rights defenders have drafted a number of amendments covering the procedure for effecting deprivation of parental rights. In particular the bill introduces criminal liability for removal of a child without sufficient grounds. Representatives of the guardianship agencies or the police who remove a child from their family of origin illegally, would face a term of up to eight years deprivation of liberty.
One of those who worked up the draft proposals, retired judge Lyudmila Vinogradova, considers that an article should be added to the Criminal Code providing for a fine of 40,000 roubles, compulsory labour or six months detention for the illicit removal of a child from their family. If the removal is accompanied by the use of force or results in serious consequences for the child or their near ones whether physical, psychological or fatal, then the person who took the decision to carry out the removal should be liable to eight years deprivation of liberty.
When talking to Izvestia, Ms Vinogradova stressed that:
‘Currently staff of the guardianship agencies are not public servants and so cannot be held accountable for exceeding their authority. For this reason in my draft I have not assigned any weight to the identity of the person has taken a given decision, whether it be a public servant, a member of the law enforcement agencies or an ordinary citizen’.
Child rights defenders think that over 90% percent of cases where parental rights have been removed stem from a decision taken by a representative of a guardianship agency acting on their own. Apparently no formal criteria exist for determining whether a child should be removed or not. Children are removed from the family of origin if their accommodation needs repair, there is dirty crockery in the sink or they have been crying.
There would also be changes in procedure. It could be mandatory to limit parental rights as an initial step before removing them entirely. There would then be a period of six months during which the family should be helped to recover. Currently parental rights are removed following the first instance of inappropriate treatment of a child without any attempt being made to rehabilitate the family.
Furthermore specialists explained that a court decision should be a prerequisite for removal. Those drafting the bill said that in the case of emergency removal the guardianship agencies should have 48 hours to submit documentation to the court. The latter should then have eight hours to decide whether the removal was justified or not.
Cases of illegal removal of children are encountered all over Russia according to NGOs that engage in the protection of child and family rights. A striking case occurred in Moscow on 31 December 2013 when a young mother, Maria Shakirzanova, went to register documents for herself and her daughter at the passport office. When she was standing in the queue she decided to give her daughter a breastfeed and asked for a place to be allocated to her in the children’s room so that the little one could have a rest. Whilst the young woman was feeding the baby and settling her down, the passport office staff called the police. The story received wide publicity largely through the social networking sites, and the child was enabled to return to her family. The woman and her attorney take the view that the law enforcement authorities exceeded their powers. They are preparing to sue the staff of the ministry of the interior office in Tagan.