These children have been kidnapped for 3593 days, 4 hours

International Child Abduction in Brazil

As opposed to other countries who have signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Brazil is a country that never returns any abducted children.

Typically, Brazil delays all Hague cases for many years and then says they cannot return the abducted children because they have already been in Brazil for too long. This is obviously a clear violation of the Hague Convention.

At the same time, Brazil prevents the left-behind parent from visiting his children in Brazil. If the left-behind parent tries to visit his children in Brazil, he is immediately arrested and told to pay a large amount of money for alleged child support payments. After making this extortion payment, he is escorted directly to the airport and sent back to his country, without being allowed to see his children.

Legal experts in international Hague proceedings refer to this Brazilian practice as: "State Sponsored Child Abduction." The criminal behaviour of Brazil in relation to children abducted to Brazil reminds some people that Brazil is a country that does not extradite criminals and that Brazil was a preferred destination for Nazi war criminals.

Brazil is a heaven for child abductors. Brazil is now considered a preferred destination for child abductors, even for those who are not from Brazil. It is widely considered that Brazil is committing a crime against children by assisting those who chose to kidnap children to Brazil. Brazil's abduction culture and corrupt politics are considered to be a main factor in this criminal behaviour. Even Brazilian officials agree that Brazil's corruption and politics play a significant role in Brazil's behavior in these cases.

Brazilian left-behind parents do not suffer the same injustice in relation to Hague Convention cases in other countries as non-Brazilian parents suffer in the Brazilian courts. Many countries have returned children to Brazil under the Hague Convention. The same Brazilian authorities that delay cases in Brazil indefinitely, and that refuse to return any abducted children to their countries of origin, work very fast, efficiently and aggressively, when trying to get abducted children back to Brazil.

An International Parental Abduction is not an international custody battle. A custody battle is done in divorce court, family court, a civil court, a local court. But an International Parental Abduction case is done in a Federal Court in the country where the children have been abducted to. All that Brazil has to do in these cases is to return the abducted children to the country from where they were taken and let the divorce court in those jurisdictions handle the custody issues.

The following cases provide good examples to the criminal behavior of the Brazilian government. Today there are thousands of parentally abducted children in Brazil from all over the world, so these cases are just a few of them. These cases illustrate the fact that Brazil's official policy is to never return any abducted children, and this makes Brazil unique for those countries which have signed the Hague Convention.

All these cases have been classified as International Parental Abduction cases, and are being dealt as such by the Brazilian Federal Courts. All cases mentioned are also being followed by law enforcement agencies in Brazil and elsewhere.

Brazil is not complying with its international obligations under the Hague Convention. The US State Dept has also stated that Brazil is not compliant. All these cases are being handled by a Brazilian Federal Court, and the results given have been reached by the various Brazilian Judges handling these cases. Brazilian officials agree that there is a problem, they do not deny it.

Cases of Children Abducted in Brazil


The case of Sean Goldman, a four year old boy abducted to Brazil in 2004, gained sustained international media attention after the Hague Convention case languished in the Brazilian courts for years prior to the abducting mother's death during the birth of another child by a new husband, her lawyer João Paulo Lins e Silva. The husband's family were a powerful legal clan with links to the Brazilian elite and attempted to adopt the child and continue to deny access to the legitimate father in contravention of the Convention. However, more than 200 children are being held in Brazil in contravention of the Hague Convention while their cases languish in the Brazilian judicial system or are simply ignored by the Brazilian authorities.

It is argued that the Goldman abduction is a model of the type of case that The Hague Convention was designed to resolve. However, his case became much more than an international child abduction case and turned into a nationalist war of words and media frenzy, with the Brazilian side claiming that the child was Brazilian and that any attempt to return him to the US would be in contravention of the Constitution of Brazil. Even though it is clearly in the Brazilian courts that decisions on whether to return abducted children are made, the neutrality of SEDH and its respect for international law has also come under increased international focus and scrutiny. At the height of the Goldman case in 2009, the Director of SEDH, Special Secretary Paulo Vannuchi intervened publicly, claiming that the child should remain in Brazil even though this amounted to kidnapping and was in violation of the Hague Convention. In a speech to the Brazilian parliament in April 2009, he claimed that if the child were allowed to visit his father in the US, he might end up being 'kidnapped', even though the child had been abducted to Brazil in the first place. The irony of the Brazilian position will not be lost on those who remember the case of the abducted Cuban boy, Elian Gonzalez, ten years earlier, in which the Brazilian government argued that any attempt to keep that child in the US was a violation of international law. The similarities between the two cases become even clearer when one looks at the role of political networks. The Cuban exile lobby used its connections to find a sympathetic judge to rule on the Gonzalez case and keep Elian in the United States. Similarly, Sean’s stepfather, Lins e Silva, and his family used their connections to ensure a succession of rulings favorable to their claims.

Other children abducted to or within Brazil are Lorenzo Ayubo, Yehezkel Hanan, Israel Haim, and Yoshua Itai , Kelvin Birotte, Rebeca Boyle, Nadia Davenport, Nicolas, Laetitia & Anthony Gerber, William and Gabriella Gorgas, Lucas Larivee, Thiago Maciel/van Driel, Thiago de Sousa Maciel, Chelsea & Bailey Oliveira-Manzi, Nicole Pate, Emily Sanchez/Machado and Paul and Anna Weinstein. These children are still alive - or at least, there has been no report that any of them have died. However, the heartbreaking case of Sophie Zanger, below, shows the danger that children are in when they are abducted to Brazil and rely on the Brazilian state to protect them.


Lorenzo Ayubo was kidnapped and taken to Brazil from the US on August 23, 2004 during what was supposed to be a two week visit with his mother, Rita Guimarães. His father, Ariel Ayubo, a US resident, did not know that its was the last time he would see his son again. Lorenzo was only 3 and a half years old, then. He waited at the airport for them to come home, not knowing at the same time that Guimaraes was filing for custody rights in Brazil. He says he should have realized then that something was wrong when Guimaraes did not call to let him know that they had gotten to Brazil safely. Her attitude changed and when he asked to speak with his son, Lorenzo. She would say, "he's sleeping" or "not there", or "he's playing" or many many excuses. "I didn't know that Rita was going to do this. I have contacted our elected officials all the way up to the White House with no luck." In 2007, judge Fabricio Bittencourt, of the Federal Court of Guarapuava in Parana ordered that Lorenzo should be returned to his father after three years of judges passing the case from one court to another. Immediately after the order, though, the case had to go to a mediator who said that Lorenzo should stay in Brazil. The Guimaraes family immediately appealed. The appeals process against that decision took another year. Then, in 2008, the Federal Court (TRF) – 4th Region in Porto Alegre ruled that Lorenzo had already been in Brazil for so long that he had acculturated to it and that he should stay with his mother. This, has no basis in the Hague Convention, but it is a common strategy employed by Brazilian legal teams and something that is routinely used by Brazilian judges.In a newspaper interview, the mother, Rita Guimaraes, claimed that she had never kidnapped her son and that she had always maintained contact with the child's father. Ariel Ayubo, however, argues that the Guimaraes family wield considerable political power in the town they live in,that he was systematically denied access to his son and that he was not given adequate support by the bodies charged with maintaining his and his son's rights, such as Special Secretariat for Human Rights (SEDH), the US State Department and Office of Children's Issues and the US Consulate General in Brazil. It is also clear that the level of legal assistance that the Guimaraes family received was of the highest quality, with Rita de Cassia Guimarães lawyer being Flavio Pansieri, Professor of Constitutional Law at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná, one of the main law schools in the state of Parana, and President of the Brazilian Academy of Constitutional Law, or the Academia Brasileira de Direito Constitucional. The fact that the Hague Convention overrides the Brazilian Constitution does not seem to have been considered by the judge in this case.

Yehezkel Hanan, Israel Haim, and Yoshua Itai were born in Israel. The family moved to Florida in July 2006. Eight months later, on March 20, 2007, Smadar Hameiry abducted the 3 children to Sao Paulo, Brazil. The left behind parent filed for divorce in Florida and was granted full custody of the children. Smadar Hameiry was represented at the Florida divorce trial by her Florida attorney.

the left behind parent also filed a Petition for the Return of his children under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. An Application for the Return of the Children was filed by the children's father through the U.S. State Department on June 13, 2007, and was received by the Brazilian Central Authority on July 13, 2007. The Brazilian Federal Court has found that the children were illegally removed from Florida and illegally taken into Brazil because Smadar Hameiry traveled to Brazil without the permission of her husband and without the permission of the Florida Court. The Brazilian Federal Court has also recognized the Florida divorce, that the left behind parent has legal custody of his children, and that the children are being illegally retained in Brazil by Smadar Hameiry. Nevertheless, the Brazilian Federal Court has stated that because the children have been in Brazil for such a long time (after an unexplicable 20 month delay in starting the trial) without having any contact with their father, that it would be in their best interest to stay in Brazil with their mother. According to the Hague Convention, the children should have been returned to Florida, USA, by August 2007. Brazil has been determined to be non-compliant with the Hague Convention in this case.

While the Brazilian Federal Court handling this International Parental Kidnapping case has so far refused to return the abducted children, they have also made it very clear that Smadar Hameiry must allow the children to communicate with their father every day. Furthermore, on 7 August 2009, the Brazilian Federal Court issued an Order stating that Smadar Hameiry can return to Israel with the children if she wishes to do so. But the children are still in Brazil, and Smadar Hameiry and her family in Brazil have stated that they will never let the children talk to their father again.


Kelvin Birotte was born in Las Vegas to Kelvin Birotte senior, a chef at Caesar’s Palace, and Hilma Aparecida Caldeira, a former member of the Brazilian international volleyball team in 2005. In 2006, his mother took him to Belo Horizonte in Brazil with the agreement of Birotte senior for what was meant to be a three month visit to her sick brother. When she did not return to the US after four months, Birotte senior went to the Brazilian consulate in Houston for advice and was laughed out of the room and told that he should contract a Brazilian lawyer. Caldeira had used the four months stay to claim Brazilian residence and citizenship for the child. Denied any assistance by the US Department of State Office of Children’s Issues and the Brazilian Special Secretariat for Human Rights (SEDH), he went to Brazil and was prevented by Caldeira and her family from being alone with Kelvin junior and had to return to the US alone. He went to court in Brazil but the judge did not know what the Hague Convention was and refused to make a ruling, passing the case up to another court. In 2008, a judge from the 19th Federal District Court in Belo Horizonte, Joao Cesar Otoni de Matos determined that Kelvin Birotte junior should return to the US under the terms of the Hague Convention. Caldeira immediately disappeared with the child and appealed to a higher court through her lawyer, Gilberto Antonio Guimaraes, who at the same time claimed to the press that he did not know where she was. The case dragged on until April 2010, when Minister Nancy Andrigui of the Brazilian Superior Court of Justice (STJ), ruled that the child should stay with his mother in Brazil in complete contravention of the terms of the Hague Convention. Caldeira and her lawyer gave a highly emotional interview to the R7 TV channel in Brazil. Guimaraes claimed that Article 13 of the Hague Convention meant that the child should remain in Brazil since he had become acculturated and that a return to the US would be traumatic.He also asserted that the Brazilian judiciary ws a model for the rest of the world. Caldeira, who is in breach of the Hague Convention and may be arrested if she enters the US, cried and claimed that she had been slandered as a kidnapper and that she only wanted the best for her child, that Birotte senior had shown no interest in the child and that he was unemployed in the US and could not keep her in the style that she felt she and her son deserved. "There is no kidnapping. They want to finish me off. No mother kidnaps her child. A mother always seeks wrefhave a husband helping, bringing the child up with love, with financial support, with everything,"


Nicolas, Laetitia and Anthony Gerber were born in France and were abducted in September 2006 in Fortaleza, Brazil by their mother during a family holiday. The Brazilian wife tricked her French husband, Alain Gerber, into leaving the children in Brazil on the pretext that she needed minor surgery and wanted them with her. Gerber was so coned, though, that he asked the French pro-consul in Fortaleza for advice. On September 27, Gerber returned to France. His wife and children failed to follow him and it was not until March 2007 that he discovered through diplomatic channels that his wife had obtained custody of the three children in the Ceara state courts in contravention of international law. At the same time he discovered that his wife had withdrawn 100,000 Euros from his bank account to give to her extended family in Brazil. In the meantime, in December 2006, the French Central Authority Ministry of Justice had contacted the Special Secretariat for Human Rights (SEDH) in Brazil to ask them to locate the missing children. SEDH responded that they were unable to do since they had disappeared (they had always been at their grandparents’ house in Fortaleza). In March 2007, in an interesting parallel to the Boyle case, below, SEDH said that their work was finished and that they could do no more since the wife had proven to them that Gerber had agreed that she could move to Brazil with the children. Evidence from documentation held by the police in Fortaleza, though, shows that his wife did not initially understand what the Hague Convention was and refused to respond to SEDH and to her husband’s phone calls for this reason but that, once she had understood, she changed tack and claimed that she had moved the children to Brazil legally and with Gerber’s approval. She also claimed to the Fortaleza police that her address was the same as her parents’ while the parents claimed to SEDH that she had disappeared without leaving an address. Despite this, and despite proof that the family home was in France, SEDH initially refused to reopen the case. However, in May 2008, SEDH did reopen the case and acknowledged that the children had been abducted but that they were unable to order the return of the children to France. In February 2009, after five lawsuits, theCeara State Court of Justice annulled all their previous decisions on the grounds that they had finally realized that they were not competent to judge what was a case for the federal courts. Gerber immediately filed a lawsuit in the federal courts for the immediate return of his children under the Hague Convention and on February 14, 2009 he went to Brazil, convinced that he would be able to return to France with his children. Instead, on arrival he was arrested by the Brazilian Federal Police on a charge of non-payment of child support (see Boyle, below) and only the intervention of the French pro-consul and his lawyer resulted in his release.

He was not allowed to be alone with his children and was supervised and filmed and recorded by his ex-wife, her brother and an unknown armed man. He was also visited by a ‘Judicial representative’ who threatened him in front of his children with arrest if he did not pay spousal support of 75,000 Euros within three days. In an interview with Le Figaro, Gerber says,

“I have done nothing more than ask for justice all these years. I control my pain as hard as I can. In three years, my ex-wife not even sent a short note about our children. They no longer speak French or know anything about French culture. Both have been completely eradicated from their lives. From birth, I always looked after our children, parental authority was always been shared between us and now, as part of the divorce (which she never had the dignity to respond to) I have ‘right of custody’ under the law in France. I have submitted to the Brazilian court more than 70 sworn statements of good moral standing under the quality of a man, father and husband. How long will Brazilian courts take to solve such cases as mine and make so many people suffer (grandparents, uncles, cousins, father, and of course, our children in the first place)? How long the courts will deny their international commitments? How much longer will the courts allow one of the parents to practice parental alienation the consequences of which are so serious and harmful to children?�?


On February 7, 2009, Nadia Drummond was due to be brought to her father’s home in North Carolina, in the US for one of her 3 day-per-week visits. When Nadia did not arrive, her father, Devon Davenport, went with an officer from the local Police Department to the mother’s home, which they found empty. The US Department of State later confirmed that Nadia had been taken from North Carolina to Brazil on February 5, 2009. An emergency order granting Davenport sole legal and physical custody of his daughter, as well as the immediate return of her to her habitual residence in North Carolina, USA, was signed on February 12, 2009.


Robert Martin Pate of Houston, Texas, met Brazilian woman, Mônica Dutra, in Manaus, Amazonas, in 2000 and they had a daughter, Nicole Pate, When Nicole was six months old in April 2001, the family moved to the US and in 2004 Dutra asked for a separation. Counter accusations flew, with Dutra claiming that Pate had told her she would pay for the divorce and Pate accusing Dutra of being a spoiled tropical princess who could not live without servants. In May 2006, Dutra returned to Brazil for a short visit, saying that her father had cancer. When she did not return, Pate filed a request under the terms of the Hague Convention and Dutra was accused of child abduction. When the case came to court in Brazil, Pate lost. A lawsuit Pate has filed alleges Dutra's employer at the time, El Paso Corporation helped her make that plan a reality.


In 2001, François Larivee met Ione, a Brazilian woman who had been working as an architect in Montreal for 5 years. Two years later, when they found out she was pregnant, the couple bought a house, began living together and had a son, Lucas Larivee. In January 2004, Ione left and spent 12 weeks in Brazil and when she returned to Montreal their relationship imploded. In August, Larivee moved out and an agreement was signed in which he was allowed to visit his son three to four times a week. Before they had a chance to negotiate the child's custody, though, Ione, alleging she was going on a "short-trip" to the United States, abducted their son to Brazil. Larivee found out about this only when he returned to the house where his ex-partner lived and realized that his sons belongings were missing. He called the police but his attempts to get his son back to Montreal, even to negotiate basic custody, were in vain. He issued a request for return under the Hague Convention and it was sent by the Canadian central authority to SEDH, the Brazilian central authority. “At the time, I thought it would take a month or two to bring him back�?, he said “I never wanted to make this public, but I don't think there is anything else I can do but go to the media�?. According to Canadian legal sources, international abduction cases between Canada and other countries are sorted out quickly and efficiently except in the case of Brazil, “the difficulty with this Brazilian case is that we are buried in delays. There is always another appeal available to the mother.�?

Ione was able to obtain custody of the child in the Rio de Janeiro family court, alleging on perjured evidence that Larivee had abandoned them. Because of this, Larivee had to transfer the case from the Family Court to the Federal Court. In March 2007, almost two and a half years after the original petition, the Federal Courts determined that the child should be returned to Canada. The child could not leave the country until all the appeals had run out, though. In October 2007, the Federal Court of Appeals rejected Ione's arguments and demanded that the child be returned to Canada and Larivee travelled to Rio de Janeiro to pick up his son. It should have been a simple operation, but when court officials went to pick up the child, Ione had fled with the child again. Her lawyer who was, in the meanwhile, inside a car parked in front of the house informed officials that the door was open. According to Larivee, his ex-partner's father was in the house and told authorities: “François is a nice guy, but my daughter is a lioness and will fight until the end, you will never get that child�?.

Two days later, Ione obtained a decision from the vice-president of the Federal Court of Appeals suspending the decision to remove the child to Canada. After receiving another reprimand, she prepared two more appeals - one in the Federal Supreme Court in Brasilia and another in the Federal Supreme Court of Rio de Janeiro to try to suspend the previous decisions.

In May 2010, Brazilian Supreme Court (STJ) judge Paulo Furtado formalized an interim agreement between Larivee and Ione over the now seven year old Lucas under which Lucas would return to Canada to live with his mother from March 2011 with all expenses paid by Larivee and that he would travel there before that to spend the school holidays. Under the agreement, Ione agreed to suspend an application to the Supreme Court to reverse a previous decision to enforce Larivee’s rights of custody under the Hague Convention.

According to the judge, the agreement was "the best way to guarantee the welfare of the child" and thus the Hague Convention will be fulfilled. The judge explained also that the arrangement is temporary because the decision may be reviewed by the Canadian courts when the mother returns there. The Brazilian Supreme Court described Ione’s actions in this matter as being motivated by ‘bitterness’.


In February 2004, Robert Zensen formally authorized his daughter, Maria Carolina's, mother to take her to Brazil, based on a shared parenting agreement that they had negotiated and signed in front of the Superior Court of New Jersey, USA. He trusted that Maria Carolina's mother would comply with the agreement. His daughter has been illegally retained by her mother and has been in Brazil since July 2004 without Zensen’s authorization or approval. Zensen is not asking for custody; he only wants his daughter to spend her school vacation with him, as was agreed. Child support payments were suspended by the Superior Court of New Jersey in 2004, but he does pay voluntarily into his daughter's college savings fund so she can study in the future. Zensen tried to enforce the shared parenting agreement in a Brazilian court, spending over $60,000 (sixty thousand dollars) in six years of court battles, but without being granted any kind of parenting time with his daughter by the Brazilian court.


Timothy Weinstein married a Brazilian woman in 1996 in Pittsburgh, in the US. Paul Weinstein was born in 1998 and Anna Weinstein was born in 2001, in Pittsburgh. Both Paul and Anna have Brazilian passports due to their mother's nationality. Throughout the marriage, the wife regularly took the children to Brazil each winter and summer. In June 2006 the wife left for Brazil with the children, promising to return in August 2006. Weinstein visited Brazil as usual in July 2006. About the date of her return, the wife notified Weinstein that she would be staying in Brazil with the children. In September 2006, Weinstein sought a court order in the United States to establish their habitual residency, seek their return, and obtain primary custody. The court established residency, ordered the return of the children but gave primary custody to my wife. Although he did not obtain primary custody, Weinstein’s custodial rights were preserved as required to allow him to petition under the Hague Convention. His wife was properly notified and had legal representation at the hearing.

In response to the order in the United States, his wife obtained a court order in Brazil giving her full custody of the children and legitimizing her presence in Brazil with the children. Her attorney cited as evidence a United Nations law that has never been accepted as valid by the United States. He was not notified of the hearing and did not have legal representation.

In October, 2006, Weinstein petitioned the US Department of State Office of Children’s Issues under the Hague Convention. He registered his children and wife with Interpol. They immediately transmitted my request to the Brazilian central authority, SEDH. Despite providing two valid addresses and multiple phone numbers, SEDH failed to file a case against the wife until July, 2007. Patricia Lamego De Texeira Soares, the coordinator at SEDH, claimed that Brazilian Interpol took that long to locate the children. In March 2008 Weinstein was given ten days’ notice to be in Brazil for a hearing about the case.

As of June 2010 and since the Weinstein children’s abduction, there has not been a ruling and none is foreseeable in the near future, Weinstein’s wife continues to be in defiance of the order of court in the United States, there have been four different case workers at the Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues and, because communication between them and SEDH is strained, Weinstein has had to rely on unofficial channels to learn of developments in his case – either by contacting SEDH directly or asking the Brazilian federal attorney handling his case his children or his wife.

Weinstein has been able to maintain a relationship with his children, despite the difficulties placed in his way.

van Driel-Maciel

Thiago De Sousa Maciel has been held in the state of Amazonas, Brazil by his mother’s sisters, Maria Azilna Duque Maciel, who is a Brazilian civil servant, and Maria Auxiliadora de Sousa Maciel. His parents, Kees van Driel, a Dutch citizen, and Maria Acilda de Sousa Maciel, a Brazilian, were officially resident in Bilthoven in the Netherlands. They divorced on June 18, 2008, the mother refused to agree to any custody and visitation arrangements and and took Thiago and his half-sister, Maella, from there to Brazil on September 19, 2008. Although Kees van Driel had no custodial or legal rights over Maella a Dutch court ordered a report and investigation by the Department of Child Defense on Maella’s behalf to so that van Driel could gain contact and at the same time contact was made with the Brazilian central authority, the Special Secretariat for Human Rights, (SEDH), anda request for the return of Thiago made under the Hague Convention. In January 2009, Maciel returned to the Netherlands without van Driel’s knowledge in January 2009 to start an appeal procedure in a superior tribunal. The Dutch police did not put her on a wanted list until February 2009. During the time she was in the Netherlands, the Dutch police were unable to locate her. While in Brazil, Maciel issued a police statement against van Driel and the Office of the Solicitor-General in Brazil (Advocacia Gerald da Uniao) postponed the Hague Convention case due to this for several months. According to van Driel, when they did eventually take on the case they did not know what to do and the Dutch central authority had to explain the case again to SEDH. On October 19, 2009, after three enquiries, the Dutch central authority received a letter from SEDH stating that the case had been lodged with the Federal Court of the State of Amazonas under number 2009.32.00.007253-4. On October 20, 2009 the Dutch central authority asked for an indication of the date of the hearing and the exact whereabouts of Thiago. It seemed that in time Thiago had been sent to live with another sister in the state. SEDH responded to the Dutch central authority’s inquiry of November 30, 2009 on January 5, 2010 stating that the Brazilian Solicitor General had filed for return of the child before the Federal Court of the State of Amazonas. The judge informed the mother about the procedures, but no hearings were scheduled. The Dutch central authority responded to SEDH’s incomplete information requesting to know the exact dates when documents had been filed as well as why there had been such a long delay by SEDH. As of June 2010, they have received no response from SEDH.


Not all abductions involve moving the child to Brazil from another counry. In the case of Rebeca Rezende Boyle, the abducting parent, Mara Silvia Oliveira Rezende, broke off all contact with the child’s father, Martin Boyle, a British citizen. Boyle and Rezende had divorced and signed full agreement with the family court in Sao Paulo granting Boyle visitation rights and requiring Rezende to keep him fully informed of his daughter's whereabouts. However, with the connivance of her parents, Maria José Oliveira Rezende, a lawyer, and Milton Pessoa Rezende, a director of the US multinational, the L.S. Starrett Company, in Itu, she abducted the child and repeatedly moved the child around from location to location while refusing to respond to requests for information from the Secretariat , the British Consulate General in Sao Paulo and International Social Services. This was done so that time would run out on the request that the child’s father had made under the Hague Convention; Rebeca was 14 when the request was first made in April 2006 and, by the time she had reached the age of 16 in July 2008, SEDH had still not managed to locate her, despite repeated assurances to the father that Interpol had been informed. In May 2008 the matter was passed by Patricia Lamego de Texeira Soares, the SEDH case co-ordinator, to the Brazilian Solicitor-General Advocacia-Geral da União, who rejected it on the grounds that the abducted child was ‘almost’ 16. The mother’s strategy of playing for time had worked, despite the father’s increasingly desperate calls and emails to the Secretariat warning them that the mother was clearly playing for time and their promises that they would not give her more time (even though they had no idea where she was living). In desperation and frustration, the father went to Brazil to search for his daughter and was arrested on landing at Guarulhos International Airport on a trumped-up charge of non-payment of child support which had been issued by Maria Jose Oliveira Rezende in order to physically prevent him from contacting his daughter (see the Gerber case, above). Boyle was kept in prison for 15 days in a 3m by 4m cell with 20 hardened criminals and it was while he was there that he was told that Rebeca had been fraudulently adopted by her stepfather José Augusto Dos Santos Sá, an employee of Petrobras in São José dos Campos and that her birth certificate had been changed and his name had been removed from it on the basis of perjured court evidence in which Mara Sirefrence">


Michael Sanchez met Nigia Machado, a Brazilian woman, in English class in Berwyn, Illinois in the US in 2002 and dated until they graduated in 2004, after which they started living together. A few months later, Machado became pregnant and gave birth to Emily Sanchez Machado. Machado’s parents were extremely upset about the pregnancy. Machado’s parents obstructed Machado from seeing his daughter. In December 2005, Sanchez contracted a lawyer to assure his rights as a father. Not only had Machado not listed him as Emily's father on her birth certificate, but she refused to allow Emily to participate in a paternity test. In court, the judge ordered a DNA paternity test. Based on the results of the DNA test, the judge ordered her to put Sanchez’s name on Emily's birth certificate. On January 4, 2007, after nearly 2 frustrating years of negotiations, they were finally able to agree on terms for a parenting agreement.

One year after the parenting agreement, however, on March 27, 2008, Nigia informed Sanchez that she would be leaving for Brazil because of ‘frustration with the courts’ and the fact that he knew she was an illegal immigrant in the US. Sanchez’s experiences with authorities in the US and Brazil reflect others’ experiences. The Illinois State Police, the FBI and the NCMEC all listed Emily as missing and then removed her name from their lists. On February 16, 2009, Emily was finally located in Brazil. Sanchez’s story is familiar; he states that he has made over 10,000 phone calls, sent over 2,000 E-mails and 5,000 text messages to people and issued 2,500 press releases and accumulated $14,000 in legal fees. On March 20, 2009, he submitted a petition for Emily's return under the Hague Convention but has faced difficulties with the Brazilian Central Authority.


Not all Brazilian abductors are women; in November 2006, Roberto Manzi, a Brazilian man, abducted his two daughters two daughters, Bailey, aged 6 and Chelsea, 13, to London in the UK. After a year-long battle a court ordered him to return the girls to the USA. Instead, using false passports, he decided to flee to Brazil, where the family is originally from. According to his wife, Brazil is a country ‘where you could get away with mostly anything’. As of June 2010, the case was being considered by the 6th Family Court of the Supreme Court in Goiania, Goias, in Brazil.


Sascha Zanger, an Austrian citizen, married Brazilian woman Maristela dos Santos after meeting her in Brazil in 1993. They had two children in Austria, Sophie Zanger and Rafael Zanger. After their divorce, Zanger paid child support of 1300 Euros a month but his ex-wife failed to give him adequate shared custody. Then, in January 2008, she disappeared, kidnapped her children and took them to Brazil. Zanger then made a request for his children's return using the Hague Convention. Under the convention, his children should have been sent to Austria within six weeks of the kidnapping. That didn't happen. He fought in the courts, went to Brazil four times and spent 100,000 euros on travel and legal fees. Though Maristela was located in March 2008 in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian courts granted custody to her sister, Geovana dos Santos Vianna and Lílian Vianna. Maristela suffers from mental illness, and her sister was given responsibility of the children by the local family courts in her place. Maristela disappeared again in April 2009, and was only located in June 2009. Meanwhile, a Brazilian court granted a warrant for the children to be located and taken into care, but the warrant was never put into effect, and law enforcement agents failed to act. Just two days after the warrant had been issued, four year-old Sophie was pronounced dead at a hospital in Baixada Fluminense. She had been severely beaten and had signs of cranial fracture, broken wrists, heavy bruising and was also malnourished. Her legal guardian, her aunt Geovana, and her cousin, Geovana's daughter, were arrested and charged with murder. They claimed Sophie had fallen in the bathtub and that Sophie's younger brother had beaten the her. Zanger flew to Brazil refused to leave Brazil until he was given his son back, as well as his daughter's body. However, after the murder, the local family court gave custody of the boy to Maristela's adoptive mother and Zanger had to return to court to demand custody. As of May 2010, Geovana dos Santos and Lílian Vianna remained at liberty.

Certain patterns and strategies seem to emerge from these cases and these involve abducting parent playing a game which switches from simply ignoring requests for the child's return and disappearing to appealing with counter claims against the left behind parent in an attempt to prolong the matter until they can rely on a spurious appeal to Article 13b of the Hague Convention. This article is often used by Brazilian lawyers to argue, using a logical fallacy, that the child would be traumatized by being returned to his home country after such a long time in Brazil. This allows abducting parents and Brazilian courts to present their international counterparts with a fait accompli in complete violation of the provisions of the Hague Convention. SEDH argues that, because of its remit, it is often unable to move matters forward because decisions are down to the courts. However, it has also demonstrated unwillingness and a lack of urgency in getting abducted children's mothers to respond and to say where children are.

Complaints by European Countries

On October 19, 2010, the French MEP, Michele Striffler, tabled a question in the European Parliament on Brazil's refusal to abide by its international treaties in this regard: The Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, of 25 October 1980, known as the Hague Convention, seeks to guarantee the immediate return of children unlawfully removed or retained by one of their parents in a contracting State. It also seeks to ensure that the custody, visitation and accommodation rights of children in contracting States are respected. Under Article 3, the removal abroad of a child by a parent is considered unlawful when it takes place in violation of the custody rights granted to the other parent, or to any institution or body, under the laws of the State in which the child normally resided before being removed. Furthermore, the Hague Convention lays down a simple and swift procedure for resolving the removal of minors outside their country of usual residence, without exhaustive examination of the dispute between the parents. Rulings on the custody of such children can only be issued by a judge in the child's usual place of residence Moreover, a best practice guide has been drawn up by the Hague Permanent Office (responsible for monitoring implementation of the convention), to avoid disparities in the scope and level of services offered by the various central authorities entrusted with the task of enforcing the convention. Nevertheless, the legal systems in numerous States which have signed the Hague Convention (in particular the Brazilian legal authorities) continue to consider these cases as child custody disputes, in flagrant contravention of the letter and spirit of the convention, thereby significantly delaying the implementation of its provisions and the resolution of disputes. It should be borne in mind that these displaced children are the main victims in such situations. Their prolonged removal has serious psychological repercussions which may dramatically affect their future lives. There are many unresolved cases involving European children who have been taken to third countries which are signatories to the convention (particularly Brazil) and whose return is being obstructed by poor application of the Convention. What measures does the Council intend to take to ensure that third countries, in particular Brazil, comply with the Convention, with a view to putting an end to these unacceptable situations and securing the swift return of abducted children?

External links

  • "Brazil helps kidnap American children". Wall Street Journal. June 17, 2009.
  • "Kidnappings: Little Hope for Sao Paulo". PBS. August 29, 2006.
  • "Brazil's evolving kidnap culture". BBC News. April 13, 2006.
  • "Sao Paulo Becomes the Kidnapping Capital of Brazil". NY Times. February 13, 2002.
  • "Success in Goldman Case Unique in International Child Abduction Cases". HG Articles. May 10, 2010.
  • "Brazil Uncooperative in Extradition of Suspected Murderer". Wake Up America. December 6, 2007.
  • "Brazil: Extradition refusal threatens relations with Italy". Global Voices. January 27, 2009.
  • "How Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele cheated justice for 34 years". Signs of the Times. March 9, 2008.
  • "Josef Mengele in Brazil: "Angel of Death" Diary Shows No Regrets". Spiegel Magazine. November 29, 2004.
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