Child adoption without taking account of the mother’s wishes breached her human rights (ECtHR)

In its Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Abdi Ibrahim v. Norway (application no. 15379/16) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The case concerned the decision by the Norwegian authorities to allow the adoption of a child by a foster family against his mother’s wishes. The mother, a Somali national who had moved to Norway, did not ask for her son’s return as he had spent a long time with his foster parents, but wished for him to maintain his cultural and religious roots. 

The Court decided to examine the applicant’s wish to have her son brought up in line with her Muslim faith as an integral part of her complaint under Article 8, as interpreted and applied in the light of Article 9 (freedom of religion). It was not necessary to examine separately any alleged failures to comply with Article 9. 

The Court pointed out that various interests had been taken into account when placing the applicant’s son in care, not just whether the foster home would correspond to the mother’s cultural and religious background, and that that had complied with her rights. 

However, the ensuing contact arrangements between mother and son, which had been very limited and had culminated in adoption, had failed to take account of the mother’s interest in allowing her son to retain at least some ties to his cultural and religious origins. Indeed, there had been shortcomings in the overall decision-making process leading to the adoption, which had not given sufficient weight to the mother and child’s mutual interest in maintaining ties.

The Court held, unanimously, that Norway was to pay the applicant 30,000 euros (EUR) in respect of costs and expenses. It dismissed, by 14 votes to three, the remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction. (source: ECtHR /photo:


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