Application No. 12366/86
                      by Antero RIEME
                      against Sweden

        The European Commission of Human Rights sitting in private
on 5 July 1989, the following members being present:

              MM. J.A. FROWEIN, Acting President
                  F. ERMACORA
                  G. SPERDUTI
                  E. BUSUTTIL
                  A.S. GÖZÜBÜYÜK
                  A. WEITZEL
                  J.-C. SOYER
                  H.G. SCHERMERS
                  H. DANELIUS
                  H. VANDENBERGHE
             Mrs.  G.H. THUNE
             MM.  F. MARTINEZ
                  C.L. ROZAKIS
             Mrs.  J. LIDDY
             Mr.  L. LOUCAIDES

             Mr.  J. RAYMOND, Deputy Secretary to the Commission

        Having regard to Article 25 of the Convention for the
Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

        Having regard to the application introduced on 28 July 1986 by
Antero RIEME against Sweden and registered on 1 September 1986 under
file No. 12366/86;

        Having regard to the report provided for in Rule 40 of the
Rules of Procedure of the Commission;

        Having regard to the written observations submitted by the
Government on 26 February 1988 and by the applicant on 26 April 1988
as well as the parties' submissions at the hearing held on
5 July 1989;

        Having deliberated;

        Decides as follows:


        The facts of the case, which do not appear to be in dispute
between the parties, may be summarised as follows:

        The applicant is a Finnish citizen born in 1940 and a resident
of Tumba, Sweden.  He is metal worker by profession.  Before the
Commission he is represented by Mr.  Lennart Hane, a lawyer practising
in Stockholm.

        The applicant has a daughter, Susanne, together with Mrs.
AG.  Susanne was born on 28 October 1976.  When she was eleven
months old, the Southern Social District Council (södra sociala
distriktsnämnden) of Södertälje, on 26 September 1977, decided that the
daughter should be taken into care pursuant to Sections 25(a) and 29
of the Child Welfare Act (barnavårdslagen).  Shortly thereafter
Susanne was placed in a foster home.  She still lives in this foster
home.  Mrs. AJ had the legal custody of the daughter from her birth.

        On 30 November 1981 the applicant instituted civil proceedings
before the District Court (tingsrätten) of Södertälje requesting that
the custody of the daughter be transferred to him.  By a judgment of
28 September 1983 the District Court ordered that the legal custody of
Susanne be transferred to the applicant.  Mrs.  AJ appealed against the
judgment to the Svea Court of Appeal (Svea hovrätt), which on 21 June
1984 confirmed the judgment of the District Court.  This judgment
acquired legal force.

        Provisions regulating the custody of a child appear in the
Parental Code (föräldrabalken).  A decision on taking a child into
public care does not affect the legal status of the parent or
parents as custodians, even though they cannot exercise all their
rights and obligations as custodians in the same way as other parents.
Similarly, a decision on the custody of a child does not affect a
care order.  Care orders can only be issued by the social authorities
and the Administrative Courts.  A decision to alter a parent's legal
status as a custodian can only be made by a court order issued by
an ordinary court.

        On 19 October 1983 the applicant submitted a request to the
Social District Council that the care of his daughter be terminated.
The Social District Council held a hearing at which the applicant, his
wife and his representative, Mr.  Hane, were present.  On 16 October
1984 the Social District Council decided to terminate the care of the
daughter but, pursuant to Section 28 of the Social Services Act
(socialtjänstlagen), to prohibit the applicant from taking Susanne
from the foster home, on the ground that there was a risk which was
not of a minor character that the daughter's mental health would be
harmed if she were separated from the foster home.

        Section 28 reads:

"The Social Council may for a certain period of time or until
further notice prohibit the custodian of a minor from taking
the minor from a home referred to in Section 25 (i.e. a foster

home), if there is a risk, which is not of a minor nature, of
harming the child's physical or mental health if the child is
separated from that home."

        The decision of the Council was based on a report, submitted
to it by the social welfare officers responsible for the matter.  This
report reflects the different views and considerations that should be
taken into account if Susanne were to move to her father.  A
psychiatric statement by an authorised psychologist, Jaakko Rantanen,
and a senior physician, Dr.  Sari Granström, both at the Institution
for Child and Youth Psychiatry in Stockholm (PBU) is appended to the
report.  It contains the following statement (pages 2 and 3):

"A change of home for Susanne would mean many anguishing
changes for her, for instance the loss of objects of
security (her foster parents and foster siblings), loss of
friends at home and at school, loss of a familiar
environment and daily routines, etc.  At the same time it
would mean that all the new things she would need to be
acquainted with, for instance new friends, a new school and a
new physical environment, new daily routines, etc. would be
heavy stress factors that her insufficient inner structure
would scarcely be able to cope with in a satisfactory way.
She would also lose the ego support from secure adults (her
foster parents) that she still needs.  She has not yet been
able to develop an equivalent relationship with her biological
father and his wife.  Her chances of mastering everyday life
and of being able to develop would thus be rendered more
difficult in two ways:  on the one hand her insufficient
ego functions would be confronted with an unreasonable
adaptation task through too many changes at one time, and on
the other, much required support for her ego development
would be taken away from her immediately when facing such
strains.  Susanne has shown that she has a tendency to react
with her body to significant changes.  A probable consequence
of a move would be that the psychosomatic problems she had
today, enuresis, would be aggravated, for example by her
starting to wet herself during the day too.  Another
probable consequential psychosomatic symptom is recurring
stomach pains.  There is also a risk of increased reserve
and depression.

A move to Susanne's biological father requires that the
relationship between him, his present wife and Susanne be
developed and deepened.  Furthermore, it requires that
Susanne is sufficiently mature for the move to be discussed
with her, with its advantages and disadvantages and related
feelings of loss and sorrow, which has as yet proved
impossible in her case according to the investigation at
PBU.  As a consequence, Susanne should be allowed to
continue to develop and mature within the family frame that
has been her home for more than six years.  This also means,
in our opinion, that she should not be subjected to new
examinations connected with her return home within the next
few years, but Susanne's contact with her father needs to be
continued and developed in collaboration with her foster
parents.  The regular contact between Susanne and her
biological father has meant that Susanne has been able
to create psychological childhood ties with her biological
origin.  If this development, which has already begun, shall
have a chance to continue, Susanne's biological father needs a
great deal of support in order to be capable of maintaining
and further developing his contact with his daughter based on
the daughter's needs."

        The applicant appealed against the prohibition on removal to
the County Administrative Court (länsrätten) of the County of
Stockholm.  The Court held a hearing in camera on 22 January 1985 at
which hearing the applicant and his wife were present and represented
by Mr.  Hane.  The foster parents were heard as witnesses at the request
of the applicant.  Furthermore, at the request of the Social District
Council, the chief doctor Sari Granström and the psychologist
Jarkko Rantanen were heard.   In the judgment dated 25 January 1985,
the County Administrative Court rejected the applicant's appeal and
stated as follows in its reasons:

"The District Council has decided to terminate the care of
Susanne.  It follows that (the applicant's) personal
circumstances do not as such constitute an obstacle to sending
the girl home. (The applicant) is of the opinion that Susanne
is not at ease in the foster home which is sometimes expressed
in her bashful attitude towards other children.

From the District Council, it has been alleged that a removal
of Susanne would involve a risk of harm to her mental health
which is not of minor character.  In support of this, the
Council has invoked a child psychiatric certificate issued by
Sari Grauström and Jaakko Rantanen.  The information given in
the certificate has been confirmed by them at the hearing.  It
suggests that an immediate removal of Susanne would involve
the serious consequences alleged by the District Council, i.e.
that Susanne - who is a sensitive, fragile, and vulnerable
girl - will lose her security and show psychosomatic symptoms
such as enuresis - bedwetting - and stomach pains as well as
depressive tendencies.  In addition, it must be recalled that
the placement in the foster home - where Susanne apparently
feels safe and at home in all respects - must be assessed to
be entirely compatible with her best interests.  Against this
background, bringing the child home must at present be
considered to involve a risk which is not of a minor
character.  When balancing this risk against the interests of
the custodian - for which the Court, as such, has great
sympathy - the County Administrative Court finds the
preponderant reasons to be in favour of letting Susanne, until
further notice, stay in the (foster home)."

        The applicant appealed against the judgment to the
Administrative Court of Appeal (kammarrätten) of Stockholm.  The
applicant requested that the psychologist Lars Billing should be
appointed as an expert.  By a decision of 13 June 1985 the Court
rejected this request stating that there were no reasons to ask for an
opinion from an expert under Section 24 of the Administrative Court
Procedure Act (förvaltningsprocesslagen).  The Court noted however
that the applicant was not prevented from submitting such an opinion
himself or otherwise from submitting the evidence which he wanted to
invoke in the case.

        By a judgment of 2 August 1985, the Administrative Court of
Appeal rejected the appeal.  In its reasons, the Court stated as

        "The aim of the provisions of Section 28 of the Social
        Services Act is to safeguard the best interests of the
        child.  Among the circumstances which must be considered
        in that context is the age of the child, its abilities and
        emotional ties.  Furthermore regard must be had, inter
        alia, to the child's own wishes and the time that the
        child has been cared for in the home from which it is
        supposed to be removed.

        (Susanne) has been cared for in the foster home since
        October 1977 and thus for the major part of her life.
        She is considered to be a sensitive child and has had
        certain psychosomatic symptoms.  After the County
        Administrative Court's examination of the question of
        the removal of Susanne, it appears that the relationship
        between Susanne and (the applicant) has developed in a
        favourable manner.  The Administrative Court of Appeal
        finds, however, that an enforced removal still involves
        a risk of harming Susanne's mental health, a risk which
        is not of a minor character.  The request to lift the
        prohibition from taking Susanne away from the foster home
        cannot therefore be accepted.  The question as to when
        the prohibition can be lifted is dependent upon how the
        contacts between (the applicant) and Susanne will develop in
        the future.  The Administrative Court of Appeal finds that
        the prohibition cannot at present be limited in time."

        The applicant appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court
(regeringsrätten) which, on 26 March 1986, refused to grant leave to


1.      The applicant alleges a breach of Article 6 of the Convention.
He submits that he has not been entitled to an impartial hearing
within a reasonable time.  The main argument against his request for
having his daughter returned to him is the long time that the child
has spent in the foster home.  However, in 1978 the applicant was
already capable of taking care of his daughter.  Ever since the
proceedings concerning the legal custody were instituted on 30
November 1981, the proceedings have deliberately and with success been
delayed not only by the social authorities but also by the courts.  As
an example, it took a remarkably long time for the Supreme
Administrative Court to refuse leave to appeal.  Such a decision would
normally take six weeks, but in this case it took almost eight months.
The case concerning the legal custody in the District Court, the
outcome of which ought to be self-evident since the mother was not
capable to retain custody, took almost two years.

        Moreover, the Administrative Court of Appeal has refused to
appoint a psychiatrist as an expert.  This seriously weakened the
applicant's procedural position.

2.      The applicant also alleges a breach of Article 8 of the
Convention.  He submits that the insurmountable difficulties which he
has met since 1978 show that the social authorities do not respect his
and his daughter's family life.  The same is true of the handling of
the case thereafter.  No health reasons have been proven.  The
applicant has had his own home for many years and his situation is
well-established.  He is competent to take care of and take the
responsibility for his daughter.  But he has been treated almost as a
dangerous delinquent with the inclination of seriously harming his
daughter.  The child psychiatric investigations which support the
social authorities' power over the daughter do not fulfil any
reasonable demands on scientific methods or knowledge but are an
adaptation to the bureaucracy's request for power and superiority and
serve the bureaucracy's and the child psychiatrist's own

        Moreover there is a violation of the family's rights since a
right of access in the sense that the child should have a right to
live together with the father has not been arranged.  If a comparison
is made with separated parents, the separated father is normally
entitled to have his child with him regularly as well as during
vacations, if there are no special reasons against it.  However, when
the bureaucracy acts as substitute parents, it is not possible for the
natural parent to have a right of access comparable to that of a
separated parent.

3.      The applicant also alleges a violation of Article 17 of the


        The application was introduced on 28 July 1986 and registered
on 1 September 1986.

        On 6 October 1987 the Commission decided to communicate the
application to the Government and to ask for written observations on
the admissibility and merits limited to the complaints under Article 8
of the Convention.

        The Government's observations were dated 26 February 1988 and
the applicant's observations in reply were dated 26 April 1988.

        On 9 December 1988 the Commission decided to invite the
parties to a hearing on the admissibility and merits of the

        The hearing was held on 5 July 1989, when the parties were
represented as follows:

        The Government

        Mr.  Hans CORELL             Ambassador, Under-Secretary for
                                    Legal and Consular Affairs,
                                    Ministry for Foreign Affairs,

        Mr.  Leif LINDGREN           Legal Adviser, Ministry of Health
                                    and Social Affairs

        Mr.  Pär BOQVIST             Legal Adviser, Ministry for
                                    Foreign Affairs

        The applicant

        Mr.  Lennart HANE            Lawyer

        The applicant and his wife were also present.


1.      The applicant alleges a violation of Article 6 para. 1
(Art. 6-1) of the Convention, which reads as follows in its first

"In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or
of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a
fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an
independent and impartial tribunal established by law."

        The applicant alleges that his case has not been determined
"within a reasonable time" as required by Article 6 para. 1 (Art. 6-1).
He refers to the fact that he instituted proceedings on 30 November
1981 for the purpose of having the civil custody of his daughter
transferred to him, and that the issue concerning the prohibition on
removal was terminated finally on 26 March 1986 when the Supreme
Administrative Court refused leave to appeal.

        The Commission considers that the present case involves, on
the one hand, proceedings relating to the legal custody of the child
and, on the other hand, proceedings concerning the prohibition on
removal.  These two sets or proceedings were handled by different
courts and must be separated also for the purposes of the examination
under Article 6 (Art. 6) of the Convention.

        It is another matter that this issue of the length of the
different proceedings is also a significant element in the examination
of the applicant's complaint under Article 8 (Art. 8) of the
Convention.  In that context the different proceedings must be seen as
a whole. Consequently, the Commission's examination under Article 6
(Art. 6) of the length of the proceedings will not prejudge its
examination of the complaints under Article 8 (Art. 8) of the

        Under Article 26 (Art. 26) of the Convention, the Commission
may only deal with a matter which has been submitted to it within six
months from the final decision on the domestic level.  As regards the
proceedings concerning legal custody they were terminated on 21 June
1984.  Since the present application was introduced on 28 July 1986,
which is more than six months later, it follows that the complaints
concerning the proceedings over the legal custody have been introduced
out of time and must be rejected pursuant to Article 27 para. 3
(Art. 27-3) of the Convention.

        As regards the duration of the proceedings concerning the
prohibition on removal, the Commission notes that the Social Council
decided on 16 October 1984 to prohibit removal.  The applicant's
appeal to the Administrative Courts was finally rejected when the
Supreme Administrative Court refused leave to appeal on 26 March 1986.
The time to be taken into account is thus approximately 17 months.  In
this period the applicant's appeal was examined by three courts;
first by the County Administrative Court which, after a hearing,
delivered judgment on 25 January 1985, then by the Administrative
Court of Appeal which delivered judgment on 2 August 1985 and finally
by the Supreme Administrative Court.

        The Commission considers that, although it is of great
importance that matters of this nature are dealt with speedily, the
duration of the proceedings, in this instance, cannot be said to have
exceeded a "reasonable time" within the meaning of Article 6 para. 1
(Art. 6-1) (cf. Eriksson v. Sweden, Comm. Report 14.7.88, paras. 237 -
238 and Eur. Court H.R., Eriksson judgment of 22 June 1989, Series A
no. 156, para. 77).

        The applicant further complains that the Administrative Court
of Appeal did not appoint a psychologist as an expert in accordance
with his request.

        The Commission observes that the Court refused to obtain an
opinion from the proposed psychologist as a court expert.  However,
the Court reminded the applicant that he could himself submit such an
opinion to the court, or any other evidence he wished to invoke.  The
applicant apparently never submitted such an opinion (cf. No. 11119/84,
Dec. 17.10.85, unpublished).

        In these circumstances, and noting that the applicant was
represented by legal counsel before the Administrative Court of
Appeal, the Commission finds no indication of a violation of Article 6
para. 1 (Art. 6-1) in this respect.

        The applicant finally maintains that he did not receive a
"fair hearing".

        In accordance with Article 19 (Art. 19) of the Convention, the
Commission's task is only to ensure the observance of the obligations
undertaken by the Contracting States in the Convention.  The
Commission is not competent to deal with an application alleging that
errors of law or fact have been committed by domestic courts, except
where it considers that such errors might have involved a possible
violation of any of the rights or freedoms set out in the Convention
(cf. e.g.  No. 458/59, Dec. 29.3.60, Yearbook 3 pp. 222, 236 ;
No. 5258/71, Dec. 8.2.73, Collection 43 pp. 71, 77 ; No. 7987/77,
Dec. 13.12.79, D.R. 18 pp. 31, 45).

        The Commission has examined the case in the light of the
applicant's submission on this point.  It notes that the applicant was
legally represented throughout the proceedings, that there was a
hearing before the County Administrative Court and that both the
County Administrative Court and the Administrative Court of Appeal
delivered fully reasoned judgments.

        In such circumstances, and in the absence of any elements
suggesting an unfair hearing, the Commission finds that there is no
indication that the procedure followed failed to satisfy the condition
of a "fair hearing".

        The Commission concludes that the applicant's complaints under
Article 6 (Art. 6) of the Convention are manifestly ill-founded within the
meaning of Article 27 para. 2 (Art. 27-2) of the Convention, insofar
as they are not inadmissible for failure to comply with the six months

2.      The applicant also complains under Article 8 (Art. 8) of the
Convention that the maintenance in force of the prohibition on removal
over such a long period constitutes a violation of that provision.
The applicant further refers to Article 17 (Art. 17) of the

        Article 8 (Art. 8) of the Convention reads:

"1.     Everyone has the right to respect for his private
and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2.      There shall be no interference by a public authority
with the exercise of this right except such as is in
accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic
society in the interests of national security, public safety
or the economic well-being of the country, for the
prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of
health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and
freedoms of others."

        The Government make no objection to the admissibility of the
application under Article 26 (Art. 26) of the Convention, apart from
the events which have taken place in the period after the Supreme
Administrative Court refused leave to appeal on 26 March 1986.  The
Government submit that, in respect of the period thereafter, the
applicant may submit a fresh request that the prohibition on removal
be quashed.  Since the applicant has not done so he has not exhausted
domestic remedies in this regard.  As regards the merits of the
complaint, the Government submit that, although the prohibition on
removal constitutes an interference with the applicant's right to
respect for family life as guaranteed by Article 8 para. 1 (Art. 8-1),
this interference is justified under the terms of Article 8 para. 2
(Art. 8-2) as being a measure taken "in accordance with the law" and
"necessary in a democratic society" to protect the child's interests.
The Government conclude that the complaint should be declared
inadmissible as being manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of
Article 27 para. 2 (Art. 27-2) of the Convention.

        The applicant submits that the Commission must also examine
what has happened after March 1986.  The prohibition on removal applies
until further notice, and there are no new circumstances, apart from
the lapse of time, which could justify a fresh application to have the
prohibition quashed.  Furthermore, the applicant fears that, if he were
to introduce such an application, he would be refused access to his
child and the social authorities might start proceedings to take away
from him the legal custody over the child.

        The Commission recalls that, according to its constant
practice, it will consider the facts of a case as they stand at the
time of the examination of the case.  In so doing, the Commission will
take into account facts which may have occurred in the course of the
proceedings before it and after the final domestic decision insofar as
those facts constitute a continuation of the facts on which the
application is based.  If those facts are susceptible of a possible
re-assessment under domestic law, the applicant would normally be
required under Article 26 (Art. 26) of the Convention to request a
reconsideration of the case.  However, where, as in the present case,
there are no significant new facts, apart from the lapse of time, it
cannot be required that the applicant again tries the remedy referred
to by the Government.

        It follows that this part of the application cannot be
rejected under Article 27 para. 3 (Art. 27-3) in conjunction with
Article 26 (Art. 26) of the Convention for failure to exhaust domestic

        As to the merits, the Commission considers that the
applicant's complaints raise in particular the issue whether, in the
circumstances of the present case, the prohibition on removal was
justified under the second paragraph of Article 8 (Art. 8-2), i.e.
whether it was "in accordance with the law" and "necessary in a
democratic society" in the child's interest.

        After an examination of this issue in the light of the
parties' submissions the Commission considers that it raises questions
of fact and law which are of such a complex nature that their
determination requires an examination of the merits.  This aspect of
the application cannot therefore be declared inadmissible as being
manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 27 para. 2
(Art. 27-2) of the Convention and no other ground for declaring it
inadmissible has been established.

        For these reasons, the Commission

        DECLARES INADMISSIBLE the complaints under Article 6
        (Art. 6) of the Convention

        DECLARES ADMISSIBLE, without prejudging the merits of the
        case, the remainder of the application.

Deputy Secretary to the Commission        Acting President of the Commission

          (J. RAYMOND)                              (J.A. FROWEIN)