The Office of Children's Issues of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs has recently released the annual report on Hague Convention compliance. The report details various issues of non-compliance with member countries. It places countries under two categories; "Not Compliant" and "Demonstrating Patterns of Noncompliance," with the former category signaling more serious compliance problems. This year The Bahamas has been classified as "Demonstrating Patterns of Noncompliance." The text of the 2014 report follows, as well as case summaries from the report.
Patterns of Noncompliance:
The Bahamas demonstrated patterns of non-compliance with the Hague Convention in the area of judicial performance. Although the U.S. Central Authority has a strong working relationship with the Bahamian Central Authority and communication between the two has improved significantly this year, significant delays in the Bahamian courts remain a serious issue, as does the courts' treatment of Hague Convention cases as custody cases.
Bahamian courts require apostilles for documents supporting Hague Convention applications, which is inconsistent with Article 30 of the Convention. In addition, Bahamian courts tend to treat Hague Convention cases as custody cases, in part by regularly requiring home studies of both left-behind parents (LBPs) and taking parents before rendering a Hague decision. Significant delays also result from the Supreme Court requesting specific conditions outside the scope of the Convention to be met before a court will execute a return order. Such conditions often include significant economic burdens to LBPs and long delays to the resolution of Hague Convention cases.
Unresolved Return Applications, Case Summaries:
1. In June 2010, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) requested that the Department of Social Services in the Bahamas conduct a home study of the taking parent. The OAG did not receive the report until December 2010. The OAG requested that the left-behind parent (LBP) provide apostilles for Hague application documents, which caused further delays. The U.S. Central Authority (USCA) forwarded the LBP's apostilled documents to the Bahamian Central Authority (BCA) in January 2011, and the case was presented to the court in April 2011. The first hearing was scheduled for October 2011, but it and subsequent hearings have been repeatedly rescheduled for various reasons, including the misplacement of the case files by the court. The August 2012 hearing was adjourned because the court required that the LBP be present. Subsequent hearing dates were rescheduled due to conflict in both parent's schedules. In October 2013, the OAG filed new proposed hearing dates agreed by counsels with the court. As of the close of the reporting period, a hearing date was not scheduled. The USCA and U.S. Embassy Nassau have regularly requested updates from the BCA on court proceedings.
2. The Bahamian Central Authority (BCA) acknowledged receipt of the Hague application only in October 2010, and the Office the Attorney General (OAG) filed it with the First Instance Court in May 2011. The First Instance Court adjourned the July 2011 hearing until it received a home study report of the taking parent (TP). In a September 2011 hearing, the judge recused himself because he personally knew the TP. The OAG sent numerous requests to the court to request a new hearing date, but in January 2012, the court informed the OAG that the case file had been misplaced. After the file was found in June 2012, the OAG continued to submit new proposed dates to the court. In December 2013, the left-behind parent (LBP) sent a request to withdraw the Hague application. The BCA and OAG asked the U.S. Central Authority (USCA) to contact the LBP for clarification. As of the end of the reporting period, the USCA awaited a response from the LBP.
3. The court's requirements of apostilled documents and home studies of both parents caused initial delays. In June 2012, the Supreme Court ordered the return of the child to the United States and the taking parent filed an appeal. In August 2012, the President of the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. The Office of the Attorney General then requested that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court enforce the return order but to date, the court has not done so. The current order also requires the left-behind parent vacate the marital home and abide by the terms of a vacated June 2010 U.S. domestic violence protection order. The U.S. Central Authority and U.S. Embassy Nassau have regularly requested updates from the Bahamian Central Authority on court proceedings.