A 17-year-old Palestinian Shatha Al-Barghouti died last Wednesday while in custody of the Norwegian Child Welfare Services, Barnevernet.
Shatha Al-Barghouti and her two younger siblings, Mohammed and Ahmed, were taken from their parents about seven years ago by Barnevernet on grounds of parental neglect, according to the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor. The parents tried desperately to prove otherwise and showed great remorse over the reasons that led to such situation, but the authorities were strict with their decision.
According to Shatha’s parents, she had petitioned Barnevernet to be reunited with her parents as she was close to the age of becoming legally responsible for herself.
Two weeks before her reunification, Shatha was found dead and her death was explained as suicide.
Shatha’s father said in an interview with Al-Arabiya.net, “a court hearing to regain custody over our daughter Shatha was due next month. My daughter was supposed to be present to testify. But our lawyer believes that she was previously forced to provide false testimonies to prevent our reunification.”
The parents also said that they found several bruises on Shatha’s body, and refused refuse to accept this “suicide” explanation and demanded an immediate independent and transparent investigation into the death of their eldest daughter.
Al-Barghouthi family express their concerns about the fate of their two other children, and are demanding to regain custody over them again immediately to provide the necessary safety for them.
According to a report issued by the Euro-Med, Barnevernet has been widely criticised on both national and international levels over how the agency takes over custody too easily, where it has a too low threshold for taking action and confiscating children from their parents, and for the suffering and abuse some children experience while living in its orphanages.
The Euro-Med Monitor, in its report, has called on the Norwegian government to immediately investigate the circumstances that led to the death of Shatha al-Barghouthi, and demanded the immediate release of Shatha’s two younger siblings to be reunited with their “deeply aggrieved parents, who’ve been living in terrible fear and trauma ever since the three children were taken away from them.”