The proceedings related to two children born in Israel in 2003 and 2004 respectively. They had lived there with their married parents until 27 April 2006, when their Romanian mother took them to her home country for an extended visit. It was the case of the Israeli/Dutch father that the visit was for a fixed period of time, with a return scheduled after 6 months, on 24 October 2006.
On 3 November 2006 the maternal grandmother advised the father that the children would be remaining in Romania. Ten days later the father filed a return request with the Israeli Central Authority. On 14 February 2007 the Romanian Central Authority commenced return proceedings in the Bucharest District Court.
On 11 October the Bucharest District Court ruled that the retention of the children was wrongful and refused to uphold any of the exceptions; notably that the “state of insecurity” in Israel would expose the children to a grave risk of harm. On this final point the Court noted that the prevailing security situation had not been an obstacle to the family having lived in Israel for five years.
On 7 January 2008 the Bucharest Court of Appeal, in a 2:1 majority ruling, upheld the mother’s appeal. In this the majority found that the children had left with the father’s consent due to the latter’s worsening financial situation and the children would face a grave risk of harm if returned.
The Court found, inter alia, that there was no evidence the father had supported the children since they had gone to Romania; he had only visited once, in October 2007; the family home had been sold and the father was living with the paternal grandmother. Moreover, the children were found to have integrated into the Romanian community successfully and there was external evidence of potential dangers in Israel.
The father lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights on 28 May 2008, that his and his children’s rights under Articles 6 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) had been breached. On 19 December 2008 the Bucharest District Court granted the mother a divorce and awarded her custody of the children. The father did not file an appeal against these rulings.