The applicant, Rita Ignaccolo Zenide, a French citizen who was born in 1953, lived in Metz (France). After the divorce, the French courts made a decision, which became final, that two children are awarded to her for safekeeping. During the summer holidays in 1990, the children went to visit their father who had French and Romanian citizenship and lived in the United States.
However, at the end of summer, he refused to return the children to their mother. Having changed several addresses to escape the US authorities, to whom the case was filed in accordance with the Hague Convention, he managed to move to Romania in March 1994, where he lived since then. The first instance court in Bucharest on 14 December 1994, ordered that the children are supposed to be returned to the applicant. However, the efforts of the applicant to carry out the order was unsuccessful. Since 1990, she has seen her children only once, at the meeting which was organized by the Romanian authorities on 29 January 1997.
This case is very important since the reasoning given by the European Court made it clear that the Article 6 of the ECHR (right to fair trial) applies not only to court proceedings but also imposes an obligation on states to ensure that the decision of the court is executed. The case is also significant because, although there have previously been a number of decisions on the admissibility of applications, this is the first case in which the Court ruled referred to the application of the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention aims to ensure that children who are wrongfully removed to the territory which is outside the jurisdiction of their country of residence, are returned as soon as possible.
Hague Convention does not determine which parent will get custody of the child, nor the country in which the child will eventually live. Based on that, the Court found that the Romanian authorities failed to take appropriate and sufficient measures to qualify the applicant to return to her children, and that, therefore, violated her right to family life guaranteed by Article 8 of the ECHR.