Defensoría moved to halt return of U.S. child

he Defensoría de los Habitantes said Wednesday that it has filed a habeas corpus action to prevent a U.S. child from being returned to her father in Missouri.

The Defensoría said that it wants the Sala IV constitutional court to declare that during the long legal process the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was interpreted incorrectly. A judge ordered the return earlier this year.

The father, Roy Koyama, has been waging a legal battle to recover his young daughter who came to Costa Rica with her mother.  The Defensoría states without attribution that he has been guilty of domestic violence, something he has denied.

Koyama said earlier this month that he is the first person to receive a judicial decree here based on the Hague Convention. He raised money to bring home the child accompanied by a Costa Rican child welfare escort.

The Defensoría also went to bat this month to win a pardon for a woman who had admitted she helped kill a family member in a dispute over witchcraft. The woman claimed she could not understand the legal process where she admitted her guilt because she is a member of a native group and does not speak Spanish. Instead of having the courts order a new trial with an interpreter, the Consejo de Gobierno issued a pardon. Three men also sentenced in the case, including the woman’s husband, remain in prison. The Defensoría praised the pardon.

The independent Defensoría also supported Chere Lyn Tomayko in her effort to avoid U.S. justice for child abduction. In that case, then-security minister Janina del Vecchio awarded the woman refugee status based on her claim of domestic violence. The U.S. judge involved in the Texas case then told the daily La Nación that he was unaware of any domestic violence claim.

The Hague convention basically says that child custody cases should be handled in the country and by the judge that became involved initially.  The aim is to prevent a parent from shopping for a jurisdiction and to burden unfairly a parent who might be forced to present a case in a distant land.

In Koyama’s case, a Green County, Missouri, court judge granted Koyama sole custody, but the mother claims she never was served and was unaware of the suit. She was in Costa Rica at the time.

On a Facebook page the woman, Trina Atwell
McCall, accuses Koyama of drug use, all kinds of abuse, including sexual, and violence. She had a sister in Costa Rica, which is why she came here. She and Koyama were not married, but the
Defensoría notes that the child, Emily Alina, carries his last name. The mother also is called  Trina Atwell Chavarria.

The woman fled Feb. 9, 2009, to come to Costa Rica. The child was seven months old at the time.

The Defensoría said that the Hague Convention was interpreted incorrectly because the court decision to return the child is a violation of the rights of women and children.

Among other arguments, the Defensoría said that the child has lived longer in Costa Rica than in the United States and that the mother fears that the child will be a victim of violence.

The agency said it expected a court decision shortly. Although the Sala IV is in recess for the Christmas vacation, there are magistrates on duty who can issue a temporary order. The action probably will delay any return of the child until the full court can hear the case in January.

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