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Frenchman seeks compensation for 'breach of human rights' by Maltese courts

A French man has filed a Constitutional application claiming violation of his human rights and demanding €360,000 in compensation for the way the Maltese courts handled his separation proceedings and a custody battle over his two five-year-old children.

Etienne Merlevede said that his children were 'abducted' from France by his estranged wife Lara Borg St John in August 2008.

He opened proceedings against her for their return but the Maltese authorities failed to adhere to the six-week time limit for proceedings under the Hague Convention on child abduction leaving the case to drag on for almost a year.

Furthermore contrary to procedural fairness and justice, the same judge that heard the abduction case was the same judge that heard their separation case, Mr Merlevede said.

Through other proceedings in the Family Court, Ms Borg St John also managed to secure a four-week jail term against him for failure to pay child maintenance meaning that despite a decree by the Maltese courts granting him access, he could not come to Malta for fear of being jailed.

The civil court also decided against him and ordered that the children stay with their mother, which decision, Mr Merlevede said, was flawed at a fundamental level.

He added that the separation proceedings should never had been decided before the issue of the abduction as there would have been an enormous difference if the Maltese courts had followed the Hague Convention.

He asked the Constitutional Court to declare that his human rights had been breached because of the exaggerated time it took for the case to be concluded, the fact that his right to family life had been breached, his right to freedom and the discrimination.

Mr Merlevede requested €60,000 in compensation from his wife and a further €300,000 from the Maltese authorities.

Lawyer Tonio Azzopardi appeared for Mr Merlevede.

 

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