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March 29, 2023

Bodnariu case: Norwegian Parliamentary Ombudsman states there are no grounds for investigation

The Norwegian Parliamentary Ombudsman for Public Administration states in a reply to the Romanian Ombudsman that, right now, there are no grounds for initiating an investigation into the Bodnariu case.

“Norwegian Parliamentary Ombudsman for Public Administration Aage Thor Falkanger answered on January 8, 2016 the request addressed on December 23, 2015 by Romanian Ombudsman Victor Ciorbea, in the case of the five children taken from their parents by the child protection authorities (Barnevernet) of the Kingdom of Norway,” a statement by the Romanian Ombudsman informs according to Agerpres.

In the document, the Norwegian Parliamentary Ombudsman for Public Administration states that “it can investigate most cases handled by the public authorities for which they issued decisions in Norway. However, the Ombudsman can only investigate public authorities after the case is handled.”

The letter also states that “the orders to take children into custody are issued by the District Commission for Social Welfare”. Moreover, accordingly, “parents have the right to a fair trial, including to a lawyer paid for by the government, the right to be heard and the right to appeal the Commission’s decision at the District Court. However, the Ombudsman cannot investigate the decisions of the courts, according to Art. 4. Para. 2, letter c) of the Ombudsman Law, which states that the Ombudsman does not have jurisdiction over the functions of the courts. As supervisor of the Child Protection Service, this falls under the responsibilities of the District Governor. A copy of your message, as well as this answer were sent to the District Governor, in Sogn og Fjordane”, the document shows.

Given the answer provided above, the Romanian Ombudsman requested additional information from the Norwegian Parliamentary Ombudsman for Public Administration and asked him to continue to undertake the necessary steps, within his mandate.
Ombudsman Victor Ciorbea took notice of the case ex officio last December. In order to obtain clarifications, Victor Ciorbea turned to his Norwegian counterpart.

According to the Ombudsman’s press release, the five children taken away from their parents last November in order to be adopted by other Norwegian citizens were taken away on the basis of religious and criteria concerning corporal punishment applied to underage children. Marius Bodnariu, the children’s father, is a Romanian citizen and based on jus sanguinis the children of a Romanian citizen are in their turn Romanian citizens, the aforementioned source shows.

According to the Romanian Ombudsman, the manner in which the representatives of the Norwegian institution acted is susceptible of running counter to Article 99 of the Norwegian Constitution, which stipulates that no person can be detained except in cases and in the manner stipulated by law. Moreover, the case may have entailed abuse of power and law, abuses committed by child protection authorities, the Ombudsman points out, adding that several international rights of the children norms may have been violated.

Romanian ambassador discusses Bodnariu child protection case with Norwegian authorities

Romania’s ambassador in Oslo has discussed the Bodnariu child protection case at the Norwegian Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion and at the Foreign Ministry, where he proposed a political cooperation on the matter and proposed again placing the children in the custody of the father’s extended family, Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry (MAE) Spokesperson Raluca Lunculescu announced.

“At the [Norwegian] Foreign Ministry, the ambassador stressed that this social case has a very strong emotional and media impact; he proposed setting up political cooperation to manage this case; he reminded the proposition formulated by the ANPDCA [Romania’s National Authority for the Protection of the Rights of the Child and Adoption] on placing the children in the custody of the father’s extended family in Romania, which is in the interest of children to grow up together in a familiar cultural and linguistic environment. The ambassador asked for allowing the Romanian consul in Oslo to visit minors in such circumstances, and handed the firm message of Romanian authorities (…) about their wish to enhance the political dialogue, the practical cooperation on the level of relevant authorities to identify a viable solution for the optimal management of such cases,” Lunculescu stated at the MAE headquarters.

According to her, Norwegian authorities assured there were judicial guarantees for the parents and restated that the Barnevernet [Norwegian Child Protection Services] has not called into question any religious matters.

Lunculescu further detailed that the Romanian ambassador stressed at the meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion the superior interest of siblings to not be separated, and asked for the access of the Romanian consul as an observer in the current procedural steps.

“On this topic, the Norwegian part stressed that the request must also come from the family. He [the ambassador] asked for support to allow the consul to visit the children in foster homes. The Norwegian side pointed out this is possible, mentioning that such visits could be accepted by the child protection authorities, if the minor’s superior interest is not harmed,” she detailed.

The MAE spokesperson asserted that the Norwegians agreed to have a working meeting of representatives of the ANPDCA and of similar institutions in Norway, to identify coordination mechanisms for managing cases of Romanian children institutionalised in Norway.

Moreover, Lunculescu said that the Norwegian authorities showed openness toward holding talks with a delegation of the Romanian Parliament expected in Oslo next week.
She also said that the Romanian ambassador, the embassy’s consul and an expert from the MAE headquarters had met on Tuesday with the Bodnariu spouses and their lawyer in order to analyse the stage of application of the procedures and the means for supporting the family in this case.
“During the talks, the Bodnarius thanked the Romanian authorities for their support, for the assistance provided and for the approaches of the [diplomatic] mission and of the institutions in Romania. Two different Norwegian lawyers who have already dealt with similar cases and who are able to collaborate with the current counsellor in this case were recommended to the family. (…) Only the family is allowed to complain about possible abuses of the Barnevernet, through their counsellor, to the institution called Fylkesmannen [County Governor], which is the local representative of central authorities,” Lunculescu explained.

Romanian lawmakers’ delegation to visit Oslo

A delegation of Romanian lawmakers will visit Norway and plans to find out the truth about the situation of several Romanian families whose children have been placed in foster care, and to ask Norwegian lawmakers to put their legislation in line with European legislation, PNL MP Mircea Dolha stated, Mediafax informs.

The delegation, consisting of the members of the parliamentary commission for Romanians living abroad – Maria Grecea, Ovidiu Iane, Aurelian Mihai and Commission Chairman Mircea Lubanovici – will pay a three-day visit to Norway on January 19-22. On Wednesday, January 20, the Lower Chamber lawmakers will visit the Bodnarius, Liberal MP Mircea Dolha announced on Thursday at a press conference.

Dolha pointed out that the delegation plans to talk to the Bodnarius’ neighbours and with the children’s teachers, in order to see “what kind of family they are, in order to find out the truth.” The lawmaker added that he noted “with dissatisfaction” that there is a communication barrier between the Norwegian side and the Romanian side.

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