In October 2007 eleven-month-old Australian child Panagiotis Laskos was abducted from Australia to Poland by his mother, Malgorzata Muchowska.
The child’s father, Sydney restaurateur Dimitrios Laskos, immediately lodged an application for Panagiotis to be returned to Australia under the provisions of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
A court-ordered psychiatric assessment in Poland concluded that Panagiotis should be returned to Australia as soon as possible.
After losing his case at a Polish local court because the mother did not want to return to Australia – which is not a legitimate reason for refusal under the provisions of the Hague Convention - Mr Laskos appealed to the Polish High Court.
Last week he was told the Polish High Court refused to return Panagiotis to Australia as required under the Hague Convention. The reasons given were:
1) The child doesn't speak English. This is not a legitimate reason under the provisions of the Hague Convention.
2) The child no longer knows his father. This is not a legitimate reason under the provisions of the Hague Convention.
3) The father lied to the court about his property holdings in Sydney & he is unreliable. This is not relevant under the provisions of the Hague Convention.
Mr Laskos said, “The court asked me for proof that I owned property in Australia and I agreed to provide this information even though it wasn't relevant to the case. I own a very successful restaurant in Sydney as well as a take-away food business. How can they say I am not reliable!?”
A spokesperson for the Coalition of Parents of Abducted Children (COPAC) said, “The Hague Convention is there to enable children who have been abducted to be reunited with their other parent as quickly as possible and to enable parenting matters to be heard in the courts within the jurisdiction of the child's country of habitual residence, which in this case is Australia”.
Mr Laskos has traveled to Poland three times to see his son.
He said, “My wife refused to let me see Panagiotis during the first visit. During the second visit I was only permitted to see him for a short time under the supervision of armed police”. His wife wanted the same condition imposed during his third visit.
Mr Laskos said, “I have no criminal record and have never done anything wrong. Why am I being treated like a criminal when it is my wife who has abducted an Australian Citizen?”
The COPAC spokesperson said, “International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA) is not a crime in Australia. This means Mr Laskos has no further legal avenues available to him within Australia such as asking the Australian Government to seek an extradition order. He has also exhausted all legal avenues in Poland”.
“This case highlights the high level of non-compliance many countries display by ignoring their legal obligations under the Hague Convention, as well gaps in Australian legislation” said the spokesperson.
Mr Laskos is now seeking the help of the Australian Government. He wants them to ask the Polish Government to overturn the decision of the Polish High Court on the grounds that their decision is based on reasons that are not valid under the provisions of the Hague Convention.
The spokesperson said, “This decision of the Polish High Court is a travesty of international justice and a blatant breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This Australian child is now being held captive within Poland with the full support of the Polish legal system”.
He added, “If this decision is not overturned it will send a message to parental child abductors around the world that all they have to do is get to another country with the child and use that country’s legal system to get what they want”.
Mr Laskos is also exploring the possibility of mounting a case against the Polish Government through the European Court of Human Rights.
Spokesperson: Ken Thompson 0417-416-024
Interviews with Dimitrios Laskos: Contact Ken Thompson 0417-416-024