The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ghana has been embroiled in a child abduction-related case that may provoke the activation of diplomatic rules and conventions.
The issue, which has the potential of drawing the attention of human rights activists and adherents of international protocols and conventions on the rights of the child, involves a German national, Ralf Slomski, who once worked in Ghana and sired a son by a Ghanaian woman, Rose Hackman.
Slomski, said to have arrived in Ghana on October 17 this year, managed to get the assistance of police officers in Tema to pick the seventeen-month-old boy, Jeremy Yaw Slomski, who was under the care of a nanny at the time, and subsequently managed to fly him away to Germany without the consent or knowledge of the child's mother.
The police in Tema confirmed the incident but tried to establish their innocence.
In an interview with The Chronicle last Friday, Chief Superintendent J. T. Dogbeda, Crime Officer at the Tema regional command of the Ghana Police Service, confirmed that the child and his nanny were both brought to the police station on October 17.
The regional crime officer explained that the police assisted in bringing the child and the nanny to the station because Slomski had lodged a complaint to them that he had heard the child was not being properly cared for by his mother.
“The man told us he had been informed that the mother had left the child with a nanny who was not being paid, and so as the father, he had come to take the child. We asked the nanny and she also said she did not know the whereabouts of the mother,” the crime officer further explained.
Mr. Dogbeda told The Chronicle that because the police wanted to ensure the safety of the child and ascertain that little Jeremy was not taken out of the country without due process, the Police took Slomski and the child to the German Embassy in Accra to first confirm his (Slomski) nationality claims and then to get a guarantee from the Embassy that man and child were going to be under the guard of the Embassy till the issue of the child's custody was properly resolved.
The paper gathered that while at the German Embassy, Slomski was made to sign an undertaking to the effect that he would not take the child away.
A copy of Slomski's undertaking sighted by this paper, bearing an endorsement by an official of the Embassy, stated, “I, Ralf Slomski, declare hereby that I will follow the legal procedures in Ghana to obtain custody of my son Jeremy Yaw Slomski.
I further declare that I will not travel anywhere until the procedure is complete.
“I further authorize the German Embassy to assist the police to trace me in case they don't find me.”
To strengthen the Embassy's guarantee, Anja Malchereck-Gassel, Acting Head of the Consular Section, wrote, “This is to confirm that this Embassy will only issue passports for children upon application by the legal guardian, e.g. both parents. Furthermore, this Embassy confirms its readiness to assist the competent Ghanaian authorities in the event of an illegal child abduction within its limits and possibilities should such a need arise.”
The Chronicle gathered that copies of these documents together with a passport supposedly belonging to Slomski were made available to the Tema police to serve as guarantee that the child was not going to be abducted.
Despite these measures, Slomski succeeded in outwitting the police and flew out with the child to Germany on the same day.
Available evidence suggests that Rose had earlier lodged a complaint with the police about the loss of the child's passport in August this year.
The Crime Officer at the Tema regional police command told the paper during the interview that the police later deduced that the abductor possessed multiple passports and merely turned one of these over to them.
It was however revealed that the passport handed over to the police by Slomski did not contain a Ghanaian entry visa, meaning he did not enter into the country on that particular travel document but another.
It is however not known whether the police inspected the passport before accepting it as a guarantee.
Rose Hackman, mother of the child, said she had hired the services of a nanny to help her take care of the child. She told the paper that on the day the boy was taken away, she was away from their residence in Tema.
“I left the child and the nanny on Monday to go on a trip and I returned the following Wednesday only to be told by the nanny that two police officers and Slomski came to pick her and the child, the police had taken the child and handed him over to Slomski,” Rose said amid sobs.
In an electronically-mailed response to a questionnaire on the issue, the Press Officer of the German Embassy, Jana Orlowski, said, “Under the German data protection act, it is not possible to pass on any personal details of the persons involved to the public (e.g. concerning visa applications) in specific cases.
“I therefore regret to ask for your understanding that I am not in a position to go into details at this point to answer your questions much to my regret.”
Orlowski however indicated that the Embassy was prepared to support the appropriate authorities to deal with all legally complicated issues such as those related to the abduction of the children.
The paper's questionnaire to the Embassy included questions on whether the embassy was aware of the incident; what it was doing about the case since Slomski had deceived the Embassy and taken the child away; whether Rose had made efforts to secure a visa to go to Germany to meet with Slomski since the child was taken away, and what their response had been in that regard.
It also asked for the Embassy's response to claims that Slomski had abducted the child with their collusion.
All the questions were however parried by the Embassy.
Rose had told the paper that she had made efforts to get a visa from the Embassy to travel to Germany to meet Slomski over the child, but to no avail.
Immigration officials say they could not be blamed for not being able to track down the abductor at the Kotoka International Airport.
Mrs. Maud Quainoo, Public Relations Director of the Ghana Immigration Service, told the paper at the Immigration Headquarters that the Immigration Officials at the Airport could have only prevented the man from taking the child away if they had been alerted by the police or other security agencies.
“If the immigration at the Airport were not alerted and the child had a passport and was not crying or causing a scene at the time he was in the company of the man to raise any suspicions, then we cannot be blamed for not arresting the man,” Mrs. Quainoo said. Investigations continue.