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'TV programme Ontvoerd not always in interest of the child'

In its broadcast of 28 April 2019, TV programme Medialogica (Human) looked at television programme Ontvoerd (Abducted). Leiden professors Mariëlle Bruning and Jannemieke Ouwerkerk contributed to the broadcast.

Mariëlle Bruning

In the programme Ontvoerd, presenter John van den Heuvel returns children to the Netherlands in order to reunite them with the parent who remained behind. A harzardous concept, says Bruning, Professor of Child Law. 'I see a programme that has the best of intentions, but there are always two sides to a story. And if you read just one side of the story, and study the file of only one of the parties, it can put you on the wrong track. As a result, the programme can be contrary to the interests of the child and its position.'

In the programme, children are removed from their everyday environment in front of the cameras without having the chance to say goodbye to their parent. 'I think that goes really far', Bruning says. 'I don’t think it is correct, because it is a very drastic situation for the child. And do you have to show that on TV?' Also the methods used by the programme to return a child are often unsound. 'Sometimes they act with total disregard for procedures. This of course is not something that is desirable.'

Jannemieke Ouwerkerk

One of the cases dealt with in the programme concerned a mother who had moved to Portugal with her daughter though the Dutch court eventually ruled that the father, who remained in the Netherlands, was awarded parental authority. Ontvoerd returns the child to the Netherlands and uses a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) against the mother to do so, which is activated by the Dutch Public Prosecution Service.  

Can you use an EAW to attempt to return an abducted child? 'A European Arrest Warrant may be issued to return a suspect or convicted person to the Netherlands’, says Ouwerkerk, Professor of European Criminal Law.  'For other objectives, no matter how noble they may be, a European Arrest Warrant cannot be issued.'

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