Drbal v. Czech Republic

Communication No 498/1992
Download Judgment: English
Country: Czech Republic
Region: Europe
Year: 1994
Court: United Nations Human Rights Committee
Health Topics: Child and adolescent health, Mental health, Violence
Human Rights: Right to due process/fair trial, Right to family life
Tags: Child development, Children, Domestic abuse, Mental disorder, Minor

Drbal (D) had not complied with a court order giving custody of his daughter to her mother because, in his view, she was mentally ill and aggressive. An attempt to take away the child by force had also failed. He complained about the bias of the court’s chairman and the disregard of the medical evidence concerning the child’s mother.

[Adapted from INTERIGHTS summary, with permission]

The Committee held that, as the information did not show the decisions of the courts or the conduct of the authorities were arbitrary or amounted to a denial of justice, the communication was inadmissible under OP Art 3.

One Committee member dissented, arguing that the situation had solidified into one which might jeopardize the healthy development of the child due to the court's failure to handle the matter n the appropriate way. Considering such shortcoming, the dissenting member believed that the communication raised issues under article 24, paragraph 1 (entitling a child to protection) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

[Adapted from INTERIGHTS summary, with permission]

"The Committee further notes that the author claims that the courts were biased against him and wrongfully decided to give custody of his daughter to the mother, and not to him, and not to change his daughter's official place of residence. These claims relate primarily to the evaluation of facts and evidence by the courts. The Committee recalls that it is generally for the courts of States parties to the Covenant, and not for the Committee, to evaluate facts and evidence in a particular case, unless it is apparent that the courts' decisions are manifestly arbitrary or amount to a denial of justice. In the instant case, which relates to the complex issue of child custody, the information before the Committee does not show that the decisions taken by the Czech courts or the conduct of the Czech authorities have been arbitrary or amounted to a denial of justice. Accordingly, the communication is inadmissible under article 3 of the Optional Protocol." Paragraph 6.3

"It is not apparent from the material that was submitted to the Committee that the courts' decisions were manifestly arbitrary or amounted to a denial of justice. Neither the records from the court proceedings, nor their decisions and the reasons given for them have, however, been available to the Committee. They would in all likelihood not reveal any flagrant mis-justice. Instead, what is of real concern to me is that the situation, after the court decisions and the failed enforcement, has developed into a factual anomaly which might jeopardize a healthy, sound and safe development of the child. The author alleges that, as long as the mother has legal custody, his daughter continues to be exposed to possible health damages. She cannot move freely, especially at school, as she constantly runs the risk of an enforced withdrawal to an unknown environment. She does not know her mother. By virtue of all this, she suffers mentally. This anomalous situation is alarming and it is caused, whether inadvertently or not, by the courts' failure to handle the matter, as is now obvious, in an appropriate way. The shortcomings work, in my opinion, to the detriment of the best interests of the child. The communication, in my opinion, therefore raises issues under article 24, paragraph 1, of the Covenant, which entitles every child to such measures of protection as are required on the part of its family, society and the State. I consider the communication admissible in that respect." Dissenting opinion,