Bianchi v. Switzerland  | 2006

Reforms to protect family life after father was unable to see his child

Article 8 implies the right for a parent to measures aimed at reuniting him or her with the child and the obligation for national authorities to implement these measures

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, June 2006


When Stefano Bianchi separated from his wife, the courts awarded him custody of the couple’s three-year-old son. However, the mother took the child and fled from Italy to Switzerland. She then refused to say where he was.

Stefano complained that the Swiss authorities were not doing enough to find his son. 

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

When the European court considered the case, Stefano had been unable to see his son for almost two years. The court ruled that the Swiss authorities had taken a passive attitude to locating the child. Even when the mother had come in for an interview, the police did not use that opportunity to locate the boy. The lack of contact between the boy and his father was not in the child’s best interests.

The inaction of the Swiss authorities had violated Stefano's right to family life.


Swiss law was changed, taking effect in 2009. The procedure for dealing with international child abductions was reformed and return procedures were speeded up through a variety of different measures.