Jerusalem Family Court Judge Eran Shilo has been accused of recently threatening to put multiple children, ages three to 15, in handcuffs on an airplane to a foreign country to resolve an international child-custody battle.
The father in the custody dispute and his lawyer, whose names are under gag order, have told The Jerusalem Post in an exclusive that they are adamant that the judge used the word “handcuffs.” Without denying the use of that word, the court spokeswoman said: “The words attributed to the judge are not remotely exact.”
The transcript of the hearing, which is also under gag order but was acquired by the Post, does not record the judge having spoken. That raises further questions since the court spokeswoman did not deny that the judge spoke.
The father admits he had committed to having the children sent back to the mother’s country after a set period. But he says the children now insist they want to stay, and he has attacked the mother’s stability as a parent on a variety of grounds. Another child of the divorced couple above the age of 18 has filed ash police report against the mother, though the police have closed the file.
In any event, in international custody disputes with parents living in different countries, the Hague Convention requires a country, such as Israel, to send minor children to the country where the main case is being litigated regardless of the merit of the parties’ claims for custody.
Shilo had ruled that the minor children must be sent to the foreign country to comply with the Hague Convention, which according to the father and the lawyer, led to a verbal confrontation between the father and the judge.
According to both the father and the lawyer, in response to the father’s statement in English that “I will abide with the court ruling despite not agreeing with it, but I will not use physical force to do so,” Shilo replied in English: “We can do it the easy way or the hard way. Sometimes we can order the children to be handcuffed and put on the plane. They calm down after the plane takes off.”
When challenged by the lawyer, who said in English, “Surely you would not handcuff the children?” Judge Shilo replied: “It has been done in the past, why not.”
The Post asked the court whether Shilo’s alleged threat was legal, whether it would violate the children’s rights and whether children have been ordered handcuffed and put on airplanes in the past within the context of an international custody dispute.
In response, the court said: “This is a closed-door case... On March 5, an appeal was filed with the Jerusalem District Court.
Since the appeal is regarding a family-law case, it is being conducted behind closed doors under confidentiality and gag order regarding all of its details. Under these circumstances, we are prevented from addressing” the questions.
The court’s response leaves as an open question whether the alleged handcuffs threat was real or a bluff to obtain cooperation. It is unclear what law would permit this method to enforce a court order on children.
The police refused to comment on whether they have handcuffed children to bring them to an airplane to be sent to a foreign country within the context of an international custody dispute.
Neither the lawyer, who has more than 15 years of experience in family law, nor an outside expert on international custody disputes had ever heard of children being handcuffed as part of facilitating transporting them to foreign countries.
The mother’s lawyer noted that experts in the case supported Shilo’s ruling and said that while the judge had mentioned the possibility of involving the police, he did not mention handcuffs. Shilo only mentioned the police as a way to enforce the law and only after the father showed he could not be reasoned with, he added.
The father’s lawyer responded that he was 100% sure that the word handcuffs had been used because Shilo said it in English, and it was such an astonishing statement.
He denied that the father refused to comply with the court’s order and said the father had only said he would not physically force his children to go to the foreign country.
Moreover, he said, the English of the mother’s lawyer was not as good, and he might have missed portions of the exchange.
According to the court order, and absent a successful appeal, the children are due to be sent back to the foreign country in the coming days.