Sunday, February 13, 2011

Emily Koyama - a Perverse Twist

Emily Koyama was released from foster care and returned to her mother, Trina Atwell who originally kidnapped Emily to Costa Rica in February 2009. Emily had been taken into protective custody in preparation for her repatriation to the U.S. after her father, Roy Koyama had won custody in Missouri and the Hague Convention application in Costa Rica.

The case is being watched with intense interest by the U.S. Government in Washington D.C. and the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, and not least by the dozen or so other left-behind American parents with children kidnapped to that country.

Emily Koyama was the first child to be ordered home by Costa Rica.

The abducting mother, Trina Atwell successfully solicited the support of the Defensoria de los Habitantes, a non-governmental group which represents the rights of women. The Defensoria was responsible for filing two writs of habeas corpus, the first of which was heard on Friday by the Costa Rican Constitutional Court (Sala IV).

That hearing heard the first of the Defensoria's claims on behalf of Atwell - that the return of Emily Koyama to the United States was unconstitutional.

The court threw out the mother's claims and ruled Emily's repatriation to Costa Rica was correct and constitutional.

In a perverse twist, the same court also ordered the immediate release of Emily BACK to Atwell because the Defensoria had filed on her behalf a second writ claiming refugee status for both her and Emily.

The claim for refugee status has raised eyebrows in both the U.S. and Costa Rica. Atwell had previously publically declared she was going to return to the United States and raised around $2,000 to do so from donations. The question is how serious is her claim for refugee status when she was clearly prepared to voluntarily return to sort out her mess?

There are also questions being raised about the timing of the Defensoria's move. The spokesman for the Defensoria, Ahmed Tabash stated that the Defensoria had been involved since the December hearings which ultimately ordered the return of Emily to America. Why then has neither the Defensoria nor Atwell at any time in the last two years raised the issue of refugee status before? Clearly there is a large amount of gaming the system going on in Costa Rica, and something which is to be hoped will be dealt with summarily.

The controversy surrounding the Atwell claim to be a refugee from the United States is nothing new. Chere Lyn Tomayko was successfully granted refugee status after kidnapping her child from Texas and like Atwell, claiming abuse. Very troubling, the Defensoria did not make inquiries of the Texas judge in that case - the Texan judge stated that no allegations of abuse had ever been brought before him, and the Defensoria has failed to ask the Missouri judge in the Koyama case too.

The question must be asked - is Costa Rica really serious about performing its obligations under international law, or is it another country which has just signed up to look good?

I trust it is the former, but Emily remains unlawfully retained there and her father is now asking for trade sanctions to be applied in the same way a $2.75 billion deal with Brazil was vetoed by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) - 48 hours afterwards, Sean Goldman was finally returned from Brazil after 5 long years.

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