Prague aims to participate in Michalák hearing in Norway – but will it be allowed?

Eva Michaláková, photo: Filip Jandourek

The government on Wednesday announced plans to participate in court proceedings involving a Czech woman stripped of her parental rights in Norway. Ministers say they will employ a Norwegian legal mechanism to take part in the case. But is not clear whether that is possible.

Eva Michaláková,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Norway’s children’s welfare agency removed two boys from the Czech Michalák family on suspicion of sexual abuse and neglect five years ago.

Last autumn a Norwegian court stripped their mother Eva Michaláková of her parental rights and put the children up for adoption.

A Norwegian court is due to hear Michaláková’s appeal against that ruling this month.

And the Czech government aims to be involved. The minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, said on Wednesday that it would employ a mechanism in Norwegian law allowing public bodies to participate in court hearings if the general interest is at stake.

The minister also outlined the arguments that Prague plans to use.

Lubomír Zaorálek,  photo: CTK
“Adoption in a foreign country is unacceptable in the situation of the Michalák children because, in our view, it contravenes the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In addition, we protest at the fact the biological mother has been denied contact with the children, despite the fact she has expressed interest in such contact.”

However, a lawyer for Eva Michaláková, Pavel Hasenkopf, said it was rather unclear whether the Czech government would be allowed to take part in the case.

“It has never happened in history that a foreign state has made use of this legal mechanism, which says that certain organisations – non-governmental or public institutions – can take part in a hearing representing the public interest. So we will create a precedent in this regard. It is not clear at the present time whether the Norwegian authorities will allow participation in the proceedings or not. Naturally, I hope that they will.”

Mr. Hasenkopf – who said he had only learned of the government’s plan from the media – said the lead-up to the hearing would be a busy period.

Pavel Hasenkopf,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková
“We now need to consult with the Foreign Ministry, the Office for the International Legal Protection of Children and the Office of the Government about what they plan to do in concrete terms; about if they want to support to Mrs. Michaláková or her children in the case. We don’t know anything now but we will need to soon, because the case will be this month.”

If Eva Michaláková fails with her appeal she still has other legal options, including taking the matter to the European Court of Human Rights. The Czech government has previously said it would support such a step.