This website has been created to highlight the atrocious injustice which is being perpetrated in the case of Joanna van Bijsterveld and her daughter Maria and many others embroiled in international child abduction cases.

In March 2005, after a turbulent marriage breakdown ended in divorce proceedings, Joanna, having full custody of her one year old daughter at the time, fled to Greece with Maria.

Shortly after settling down in Athens, Joanna discovered to her horror, that she was wanted on Interpol by the RCMP for ‘kidnapping and crimes against children’.

While this revelation was daunting, Joanna was more concerned about Maria’s father being able to find them in Greece or Europe than the authorities (assuming she would easily be able to prove her innocence because the allegations were false). A colleague recommended that she and Maria should move to Jordan and keep a low profile there until she could resolve the situation and so Joanna and Maria left Greece and soon settled in Amman, Jordan, where Joanna taught English in Maria’s Kindergarten.  All went well for just over two years, until she discovered that Jordan had an extradition treaty with Canada, when the Jordanian authorities refused to renew her work permit.  Kind assistance enabled Joanna and Maria to leave Jordan instead of being handed over to the Canadian Authorities and they subsequently spent  Christmas in England, where Joanna’s mother lived, while deciding what the best course of action would be.

As Joanna is a Dutch citizen (she never applied for Canadian citizenship) and Maria had dual citizenship, it was thought the best way of sorting everything out legally would be in The Netherlands.  However, shortly upon their arrival in The Netherlands in February 2008, Joanna was arrested and Maria, four years old at the time, was taken into temporary foster care.  After two days in jail Joanna was released and applied to the court for Maria to be returned.  This was granted, however, within a few days, the decision was appealed and Joanna suffered a breakdown shortly before the re-arrest was to occur.  Maria was taken into temporary foster care again, taken against her will from her distraught grandmother by social services late at night (despite there not being any urgent reason for her removal, especially  in such a traumatizing and frightening way).

In April, the Hague Convention Case which ran alongside Canada’s extradition case, took place.  Technically, the application for Maria’s return should have been dismissed by the Central Authorities as Maria’s father did not have custody of Maria on the day Joanna fled with Maria.  However, Maria’s father gave incorrect information in his application form stating he had full custody of their daughter at the time.  The court’s decision was that there was no alternative but return Maria to her “habitual residence”, Canada with her father (despite the four year old not having resided in Canada for over three years), as Joanna would be extradited anyway.

Maria and her mother were allowed to see each other for the last time in April 2008, a few days before Maria’s departure.

In May 2009, The Supreme Court of the Netherlands annulled previous court decisions to extradite Joanna, following her appearance on a National news programme Hart van Nederland, where she showed all the evidence that had been previously ignored or overlooked by the courts.  Canada’s extradition request was finally rejected because Joanna had valid full custody at the time in question, and therefore could not be accused/guilty of kidnapping.

Following this brief sigh of relief and victory, Joanna attempted to have the decision to return Maria to Canada appealed.  Sadly, this appeal was deemed inadmissible as the Dutch courts no longer had jurisdiction regarding Maria.

Several attempts to file for international visitation rights through the Canadian Central Authorities under The Hague convention have been made, however, until now Maria’s father has refused to come to any agreement regarding visitation; he currently has no intention to allow Maria to visit her mother in Europe or to withdraw the charges against Joanna to facilitate visitation in Canada.

In the meantime, Joanna and other mothers with similar experiences in The Netherlands, have successfully inspired Parliament to change the ways in which the Hague Convention is carried out in the Netherlands, so that children will be allowed to stay until an appeal has taken place, and both the applicant and defendants in Hague Convention cases will have to be represented by lawyers (instead of the applicant being represented for free by the Central Authorities/Ministry of Justice) – this will ensure that both parties are on equal footing in future cases and hopefully, errors such as those that took place in Maria’s case and many others, will be avoidable in the future.

We hope that this site will shed light on The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction – and bring about more positive changes; most importantly, that a child’s best interest and his or her human rights will be taken into account and deemed more important than determining his or her “Habitual Residence”.

Maria currently resides in Quebec with her father, stepmother, two older half-brothers, two step siblings and the family dog.  Joanna lives and works in The Hague and she and Maria Skype each other every other Sunday for an hour.  We wish and hope that very soon, Maria’s father will allow Maria to visit her mother and maternal family during school holidays and Maria and her mother being reunited at last.

 

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17 Responses to Home

  • Walter says:

    Glad to see the site is up again!

  • Denise Austin says:

    I hope that Maria is returned to Joanna very soon as i feel it is heartbreaking that you have lost her and can not see her.
    When she is older her Father will have tell Maria what a nasty piece of work he really is to keep her mum away from her
    People forget that CHILDREN GROW UP and find out the truth. I hope you have her back soon- but if you have to wait be assured SHE WILL FIND YOU and YOU WILL HAVE HER BACK and HER FATHER AND THE COURTS WILL NOT STOP HER!!!!!!!! BE STRONG JOANNA MARIA WILL COME BACK TO YOU.
    Love and Best Wishes
    Another Mum xxx
    Queensland- Australia

  • Nancy says:

    Dear Joanna,

    I started looking for you a few years ago and was astonished to find a wanted poster with your name on it. I’m sorry to read that your situation still hasn’t improved. I would love to reconnect, but I understand if you’d rather not as you do have a lot to deal with. Much love from your kindergarten friend ps have some pics of you, me, Mel and Jacky from way back when 😉

    • Joanna says:

      Thank you, for your lovely message, Nancy!
      Of course I would love to reconnect. It is so lovely to be in touch with friends from childhood.again.

  • Wout Beekhuizen says:

    Dear Joanna,
    I found this website accidently, after digging a bit deeper when I came across the name van Bijsterveld. The injustice must be hurting terribly. My wife Felicity and I have known you in happier times as a small, and very smart child when you were living with your parents in Amerongen. We came to visit occasionaly on Sunday afternoons for a chat, a nice walk together in the nearby woods followed by a lovely meal prepared by your mother. We hope justice will prevail and you will be reunited with your daughter some day soon. You are referring to your father in the past sense, has he passed away? And how is your mum, now living in England, as I understand?

    All the best to you,

    Wout
    Auckland, New Zealand

    • Joanna says:

      Dear Wout – thank you very much for what you wrote. Those days in Amerongen certainly feel like a lifetime ago… We moved away when my parents separated. My father passed away several years ago and mum is indeed living in England.

      Greetings to you both from The Hague.

      Joanna

  • Chris says:

    Joanna

    I just found your story through Google. You are an inspiration. I am going through something similar…wrongfully accused of parental child abduction with a country that twists its in laws to suits its ends . If you have a moment it would mean a lot to speak with someone who has gone through the same thing. Thank you.

    • Joanna says:

      Chris – thank you very much for your kind message – I will be in touch and in the meantime, best wishes to you

  • Joanna says:

    Dear Kristine,
    Thank you so much for your lovely message – indeed a complete and wonderful surprise! Gerrit Cornelis van Bijsterveld, (born in 1905 in Schiedam) was my Grandfather, and my father had the same name as well.

    This is incredible!

    I look forward to keeping in touch and hopefully meeting in the future!

  • Kristine CLARA says:

    Dear Joanna,
    this message may come to you as a complete surprise. I became aware of your existence and your very sad story by surfing the web for my grand mother Johanna van Bijsterveld.

    In fact (I am almost sure) we share great-grand parents, Gerrit Cornelis van Bijsterveld and Jannetje Vrage who were the parents of both my grand mother (Johanna van Bijsterveld, born in 1898 in Schiedam) and your grand father (Gerrit Cornelis van Bijsterveld, born in 1905 in Schiedam). There is a long series of “Gerrit Cornelis”-en in the family, and I understand the youngest one was your father (with whom you lost contact as far as I understand). I never met your father, but I do know your grandfather because I saw him on several occasions when he came to see his sister Johanna.

    I’ve listened and read your horrible experience and feel very sorry for you, and for your daughter !
    I hope justice will be done to you and wish you a lot of strength.
    Kristine (I live in Switzerland, but my family lives in Belgium, where my grandmother Johanna went to live when she married.)

  • Mary Charalambides says:

    A comment from Grandma again.

    Having read the sad article in the Daily Mail written by Mr. Christopher Booker today 13.04.2012, I hope with all my heart that highlighting and making public these unlawfull judgements that take part in closed courts, will put an end to the suffering these children are put through the rest of thier lives, and punnish any guilty parties lying under oath or falsifying documents as in our case. What one forgets is that these children will grow up one day and read all this and make their minds up themselves who is guilty of all the pain and sorrow caused. I hope by then, that the children can take the state and guilty parties to court themselves. That I would galdly call JUSTICE.

  • Joanna says:

    Thank you, Dad & Ceci for your kind comments and unwavering support.
    Special thanks to Alan, who decided after watching Freedom Central’s interview to build this wonderful site for Maria & I, and to Mel at Freedom Central – can’t thank you enough!
    Am just overwhelmed by the kindness and support from those whom we have not met, as well as those who have been by our side throughout this nightmare.
    I look forward to the day we will all celebrate Maria’s return (albeit her just being allowed to visit us at last) ~ Hope that day comes soon.

  • Cecile Lynde says:

    I have know Jo-Jo since she was a beautiful, bouncy teenager in Athens. Jo-Jo used to ‘baby-sit’ our two Persian kitties when Richard, my husband, and I would go off exploring at weekends, leaving Jo-Jo free range of a beautiful apartment ( we were lucky ) and all my clothes etc ( I was smaller! THEN ). We loved that girl then and we love her now – we never had an inkling what the future had in store for us ( a blessing ) but we must keep hoping that we will all be happy again and that Jo-Jo gets her beautiful daughter home with her – where she belongs. Jo-Jo , stay strong
    and what a wonderful person you know to have put this site together. Thank you, whomever you are. Love , Ceci and Richard,

  • admin says:

    Thank you for your kind comment Mel. Do please feel free to share and repost any articles from Joanna’s website Kindest regards, Alan x

    • Dad says:

      Excellently put together Jojo and it certainly highlights how sad the whole business is and the awful personal consequences of it on everyone involved, especially Maria herself. Keep plodding away Jojo, I am sure your ex must be feeling not to good at how badly he treated you and the long term effects it will have had on Maria’s life.
      Dad xxx

  • Mel Ve says:

    Lovely, nice work guys xx

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