July 10th Decides Fate of Abducted Children

Ever since her ex-husband abducted her children to his home country of Tunisia on November 11th, 2011, Édeanna Johnson-Chebbi has done everything within her power to bring her two children back home under her custody. At long last, the Tunisian Ministry of Justice has granted her the ability to take her fight to court overseas.

Nearly 20,000 Care2 activists have helped Johnson-Chebbi rally support and spread awareness about parental child abduction, but her family still needs help overcoming this hurdle. Tomorrow, July 10th, 2012, Johnson-Chebbi will finally have the chance to go to court and hear if Tunisia will return Eslam and Zainad to the United States with her as their legal guardian.

The culmination of a half year battle

The Tunisan Ministry of Justice’s false promises to expedite her case have kept Johnson-Chebbi waiting on tenterhooks for over six months.

“We expected a decision in May, when all of the legal documents and arguments were submitted,” says Johnson-Chebbi.  “Nothing relevant to the case has been submitted since, yet we are still waiting for a judgment.”

She has worked to combat a situation the Tunisian embassy could have prevented. Chebbi managed to weasel birth certificates and passports out of the embassy so that the children could leave the United States with him, despite the embassy originally assuring Johnson-Chebbi that security measures should prevent such an act.

This drawn out experience has turned Johnson-Chebbi into a fierce advocate for preventing parental child abduction in addition to getting her own children back. The personal nature of these abductions often stem from domestic causes that can make speaking out difficult for everyone involved. Johnson Chebbi notes:

Faical had voluntarily relinquished his legal rights to the children; he didn’t fight it once during two years of court divorce processes. The courts reinforced our mutual agreement.  The abduction was solely to hurt and punish me.

Is it out of America’s hands?

Interpol has set a Red Alert for Chebbi, and the state of Virginia and American FBI have warrants out for his arrest. But American legal action only plays a part in the battle for custody and return of Eslam and Zainad.

Given the circumstances, Johnson-Chebbi should not have to count herself fortunate for getting a court date — but the sad reality is that similar child abductions receive little to no attention. International laws tend to twist these cases into a complex series of legal snarls. In this case, we’re left wondering whether or not Tunisia will uphold American court orders regarding divorce and custody.

At this stage, increasing preventative measures is paramount to stopping embassies from allowing these children out of the country without a legal guardian’s presence and consent in the first place. If Eslam and Zainab return to America, this case could springboard new security measures. “Parental child abductions to Tunisia are increasing by the month.  This judgment will affect many families suffering these heinous acts for years to come,” says Johnson-Chebbi, condemning the Tunisian consulate’s lax practices that contribute to international child abduction.

Can anything be done in America while Johnson-Chebbi waits for the court’s decision in Tunisia?

Johnson-Chebbi firmly believes so. “A phone call from Secretary Clinton or President Obama on our behalf could help ensure that the Interpol alerts are responded to, and my babies and I come home.”

Take a moment to contact your Senators and Representatives about the Johnson-Chebbis’ case today before tomorrow’s trial.

Related Stories:

American Children Kidnapped and Taken to Tunisia By Father

Jan. 11, 2012 Update On Children Kidnapped by Tunisian Father

Madeleine McCann, Etan Patz: Investigators and Parents Still Hoping



Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

A few years back, a father kidnapped his children after their mother were granted sole custody. He was stupid enough to return and the Authorities caught him at the airport. He was sentenced to sprison for abduction. After serving his sentence, he was released, only to be arrested again. And sent to prison. And released. And arrested. And so on. He was given an ultimatum: Either have those kids brought back or spend the rest of your life going back to prison every time you get out. The kids came back. This happened in Sweden.

Lynn Squance
Lynn S5 years ago

@ John M --- At what price? Who would do the 'stealing'? Who would fund it if the parent doesn't have the resources? What would happen to the children if something were to go horribly wrong? How much does such action further endanger the child(ren)?

I think I understand your intent and have a glimpse of your frustration, but 'stealing' back poses too many dangers.

International protocols have to be in place and enforced by ALL countries, regardless whether child abduction by a parent is regarded as a crime or not. This is about the children, not about a country's sensibilities.

Alex W.
Alex Watson5 years ago

Georgia A. That's a very simple way to look at the complexity in these cases. I wish it was that easy. In the Grin case, she was an American citizen only when the American man married her. They were two Americans marrying in the US. She acquired Russian citenzship many years into the marriage in order to buy property in St. Petersburg. Since the US is made up of many generations of different nationalities, many US citizens can apply for citizenship to other countries at any time.


Georgia Armstrong
Georgia a5 years ago

Simple solution: don't marry people who are in a position to kidnap your children and take them to other countries. I do not understand, with the high divorce rate, why American women continue to wed men of other questionable countries (and I'm sure I'll hear about that remark) knowing full well if there are children and a divorce results, those children run a high risk of being kidnapped and getting them back is darn near impossible. The same goes for men marrying women of other countries. I have seen too much of it in recent years to ever consider it, no matter how much I loved the guy. No way. I don't believe in setting myself up.

Alex W.
Alex Watson5 years ago

There is another case of American children being abducted, this time from Italy, by their non-custodial mother and kidnapped to Russia. It has been almost one year since four children were taken away from their father and the Russians are not honoring the Hague Convention principles as it is not illegal there to kidnap your own children!
The Italian courts issued the sole custody decree, after the mother was found psychologically unstable, as the couple is divorcing there. the Italian police are looking for her with Interpol.
The community in Florence is helping and the case has had publicity in newspapers and on national television in Italy, but if this organization can help as well to get more exposure it may help push Russia to follow international laws and conventions. The family is seriously concerned for the physical and psychological health of the children. 

There is a dedicated blog on the abduction:

Barbara S.

This happens quite often, but a lot of the cases we do NOT hear about, because the parent left childless is not a pretty woman, has little support and money, and is afraid if she makes a big case in the news, it will hinder her case with the foreign government. One of my friends was in a spot like this when her husband took their only son and went to Jordan for a year without her permission. She is a naturalized American citizen from Mexico, and given the hostile environment against all Mexicans during the past decade, her attorney said she was an "unsympathetic" voice during these times. He advised her to wait a year or two and see what would happen. When her son turned 13, he begged his father to bring him back to America, and when that didn't happen, he appealed to his grandparents in Jordan, who finally convinced his father he should be brought back to the land of his birth. He's been home now for 6 years, but lots of cases do not end this way. My friend and her son are lucky; many are not.

Abbe A.
Azaima A5 years ago


Terri Hughes
Terri Hughes5 years ago

''SIGNED''.....these children should be brought back to there mother. Her ex-husband kidnapped them and he should be punished. Praying for the safe return of these children to there mother!!!!

Chris Cole
Chris C5 years ago

Marianne C - as usual, VERY well said. Thank you!

Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago

Thanks for the info and please keep us informed.