Slovakia: Patterns of Noncompliance
Slovakia's noncompliance with the Hague Convention in 2008 is evident in its judicial performance. The Department notes systemic, lengthy delays in judicial proceedings in Slovakia. To meet the country's aim for the "prompt return" of children to their country of habitual residence, See Convention, art. 1(a), more efficient processing of Hague applications is necessary.
In 2008, one case in particular demonstrates this judicial pattern of noncompliance. In this case, which began in 2006, a first hearing did not take place until eight months after the wrongful removal of the child. Although the Slovakian court ordered the child returned, the taking parent appealed the decision twice. The appellate court in the first appeal, which it did not hear until nine months after the original decision, upheld the return. However, the court in the second appeal, heard yet another eight months afterwards, overturned the return order based on Article 13(a) of the Convention, which states that a child's preferences may be considered once he reaches the "age and degree of maturity." As a result, the child remains in Slovakia.
Ultimately, the length of the judicial process, which spanned more than two years in this case, may have led to the denial of the return. The Convention envisions returns taking place within six weeks. In the Department's view, when a lengthy court process enables a court to deny a child's return to his country of habitual residence, the principles of the Convention are not satisfied.
The Department notes positively that Slovakia plans to redesign its processes under the Convention during 2009, so that one centralized court will hear all Convention cases. This will allow specialist judges to develop expertise on the Convention and make rulings in the future that are in line with the Convention's requirements.