The case concerned a child born in Germany in 2001. Shortly after she was born, the father, a Portuguese national, was sentenced to a jail term before being deported in 2004. The parents had separated during the father’s imprisonment, but in January 2005, the mother travelled to Portugal to collect the child, who had visited the father.
She returned to Germany alone in late February and made a return application in March 2005, on the basis of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention of 1980. Proceedings were initiated in Portugal in that same month with respect to parental responsibility. The mother’s application was dismissed in January 2006. Her appeal was allowed in June 2006 and the father’s appeal was dismissed in November 2006.
In August 2007, pursuant to a warrant issued by the Portuguese Court, the mother testified in Germany. By a judgment dated 21 May 2008, that Court once again dismissed the mother’s return application on the grounds that the child’s retention was not wrongful. The mother immediately entered an appeal, which was dismissed in January 2009, as the Court of Appeal considered the retention to be wrongful but that return would expose the child to a grave risk.
At the time of the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECrtHR), the custody proceedings were still pending in Portugal. The mother, on the basis of Articles 6, 8 and 13 of the European Human Rights Convention (ECHR), entered an application against Portugal before the ECrtHR on the grounds of infringement of her right to respect for family life and her right to a court ruling within a reasonable time.