The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

Ronite Bitton

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1. I was asked to write something about the case of Ronite Bitton. 

2.  Details of her case are already available on the internet.  In essence, she is facing a lengthy term of imprisonment, in addition to terms already served, because she is accused of having removed her son to Israel and arranged for him to disappear, in order to avoid the possibility of his being ordered to return to live with his father in Belgium.

3. There are plenty of impassioned pleas and opinions about the case in various places on the internet.  I am not going to add to their number: apart from anything, I have had no opportunity to check the truth of any of the factual assertions made in the case.

4.  Whatever the facts, the case is a reminder that the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction can be a two-edged sword.  The Convention was designed as a tool against injustice and a way of imposing rule of law among the 80 or so signatory countries.  A fantastic idea: to protect children from being dragged from one country to another in order to evade justice or to frustrate orders of courts made with their welfare in mind.

5.  But all legal systems can go wrong: and what happens if one legal system, whether through corruption or incompetence, threatens to detroy a child’s life?  Like diplomatic immunity or extradition, the only way the Convention system can operate is by unquestioning respect by each participant for each other participant’s processes, even in cases where they seem to have miscarried.  As soon as you allow a participant to examine the quality of justice in a particular case, the system starts to break down and to become infected by political and other considerations.

6. So can the Convention be used to enforce injustice?  Yes, of course it can. 

7. If the assertions made on Ronite’s behalf are true, she has been the victim both of this inflexibility of the Convention, and also of actual injustices and failures within the Israeli judicial system. 

8.  In the United Kingdom now there is a Criminal Cases Review Commission, which is able to review criminal cases independently and, if they believe that justice may have miscarried, instigate fresh proceedings.  Perhaps the Convention needs to have a similar system on an international scale so that, without compromising the automatic nature of the Convention as a general rule, there is a non-political and independent way of intervening in cases where the Convention appears to have been used as a weapon of injustice, whether through corruption or incompetence.  I have a troubled feeling that if such a body were to exist it would find more than enough cases to occupy it.

9. In the meantime, I would encourage anyone who feels strongly about injustice to access some of the petition and other sites about this particular case, to satisfy themselves as to the facts, and then to take any action they feel inclined to take, whether by signing a petition or otherwise publicising the case.  A forgotten injustice will never be rectified: a publicised one just may be.

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Written by Daniel Greenberg

June 1, 2012 at 9:24 am

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