The Defensoría de los Habitantes says it is confident that the Sala VI constitutional court will approve a request for habeas corpus in the Tina Atwell case that will allow her to be reunited with her daughter and remain in Costa Rica.
In a news release Thursday, the Defensoría noted that it had been working with Ms. Atwell as an adviser in judicial actions since December and recently placed its own action in favor of the woman and child in the Sala IV constitutional court.
However, Ahmed Tabash, who is in charge of the Defensoría press office also said that the agency had not talked to the U.S. judge involved in the case nor to the husband who is in Missouri.
“I can tell you no because our action is presented within the national jurisprudence and there we have resorted to the legal actions that our nation permits us in relation to the case at hand,” he said when asked if the agency had sought more information.
This is another one of those cases in which a U.S. mother brought a child to Costa Rica and is staying here even though a U.S. court has granted the father custody.
Costa Rican officials seem to accept without question the claims by the woman that they have been abused. In the case of Ms. Atwell, the Defensoría said that she was a victim of family violence and fled from the United States to safeguard her physical and psychological integrity and the lives of both.
Ms. Atwell is seeking refugee status for herself and her child. That is being considered by the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.
The case is in the news now because the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia has taken the child to a shelter until the legal situation is clarified. A Costa Rican judge already has ruled that the child should be returned to the father, Roy Koyama, in Green County, Missouri, under terms of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Costa Rica signed that treaty, but judges and others seem to want to try such cases here, usually without input from the father.
That was the situation with Chere Lyn Tomayko, who was granted refugee status in 2008 that allowed her to stay here even though the United States wanted her to answer for the 1997 abduction of her daughter Alexandria. In an unprecedented move, the security minister, Janina Del Vecchio, granted refugee status to Ms. Tomayko, based largely on the mother’s claim that her former boyfriend in Texas abused her. The original judge in the case disputed that characterization in an A.M. Costa Rica interview. No official here ever talked to that judge either.
The Defensoría also is arguing on technical grounds that there should be no return of the child while the refugee status is being considered. Costa Rica has an obligation to protect her because she is a victim of violence, said the Defensoría.
Both Ms. Atwell and Koyama have Web pages where they present their sides of the story. On her Facebook page, Ms. Atwell accuses Koyama of being a drug addict as well as being violent. The headline on the page is “Keep Emily safe in Costa Rica.” There are many messages of support.
In her last posting Monday, Ms. Atwell said, mentioning her husband, Henner Chaverría,:
“Emily has been sleeping away from our home, and in a foster care for seven nights and going on eight days now. Praying that God will bring back home to us very soon. Henner and I can tell the strain growing in her as the days go bye. She is extra needy, just wanting to be held lots when we are there for our visits. Not wanting to leave with out us at the end. Expressing this in the words she has, no quiere bye, bye or by asking for multiple one last hugs or kisses from Henner and myself. It is harder then words can express to have to say, hasta manana, cosita. Please continue to pray for her comfort in this, and that we will be bringing her home very soon. God Bless.”
Koyama’s Web page is titled “Bring Emily Koyama home to the U.S.”
“I am now fighting for my daughter in the jurisdiction of Costa Rica where they take the woman’s word over the man’s almost every time,” said Koyama. “I pray they see the light when I appear in their court with all legal documents to discount all allegations against me, all translated into Spanish to make it easier for them to understand my case and the crime committed against my family.”
Koyama also said that there is a federal warrant outstanding against Ms. Atwell. Both are seeking donations. At one point Koyama said he purchased tickets for his daughter and a representative of the Patronato to fly to Missouri. Court actions prevented that trip.
The Defensoría also intervened in the immigration case saying that the two refugee applications should be considered together and that returning the child to her father in the United States would be another form of violence against the mother.
The two Web pages make conflicting statements. For example, Ms. Atwell said she filed for no-contact orders against Koyama. He said he returned home to find Ms., Atwell and the baby gone Feb. 2, 2009, without explanation.
Compounding the situation is that Ms. Atwell was married to a Costa Rican when she met Koyama.
She also has said she was unaware of the Green County court action where she lost custody.
One of the main purposes of the Hague Convention is to make sure that the authority to resolve a child custody case rests with the judge in the initial jurisdiction. Although Koyama has a lawyer here and has visited here, he does not live here.