Press Release

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Congratulates Left-Behind Parent on Legal Victory

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) congratulates Tom Sylvester, a parent of an internationally abducted child, on his victory in the European Court of Human Rights.

Sylvester, on behalf of himself and his daughter Carina, brought suit against the country of Austria in the European Court of Human Rights, stating that Austria denied them their human rights as enumerated under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom, which included the return of his daughter from Austria under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Carina was abducted from Michigan by her mother in 1995 and taken to Austria. While the court of first instance in Austria found that Carina was wrongfully removed from the U.S. and ordered her return, the case was appealed and delayed due to the lack of enforcement of the order of return. Ultimately the Austrian Supreme Court did not enforce the final return order as Carina had become acclimated to her new environment.

The European Court of Human Rights concluded that the Austrian authorities failed to take, without delay, all the measures that could reasonably be expected to enforce the return order, and thereby breached the applicants’ right to respect for their family life. The Court ordered the Austrian government to award approximately $47,000 to Sylvester to cover the costs and expenses of his legal battle, in addition to non-pecuniary damages.

“This is a moral and ethical victory. However, this does not now mean that Carina will be able to have a normal relationship with her father. The United States still needs cooperation from the Austrian government to achieve that. This decision merely vindicates Tom’s position and places Austria on notice that it needs to improve its implementation of the Hague Convention for this family and those families to come,” said Ernie Allen, president of NCMEC.

NCMEC, a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, works in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. NCMEC was established in 1984 as a public-private partnership to help find missing children and combat child sexual exploitation. Since September 1995, NCMEC has handled 3,143 cases under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction for the U.S. Department of State, resulting in the return of 2,211 children. For more information about NCMEC, call 1-800-THE-LOST, or visit www.missingkids.com.