Benjamin (Benny) Murray Clarke (4 years) and Lucia Marie Clarke (16 months) were both born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Both are Australian citizens and hold Australian passports.

  1. On 20 February 2019 (the family’s scheduled return date to Australia following a holiday in Colombia), Maria Nelly Yepez Oviedo (the children’s Colombian mother) abducted Benny and Lucia and illegally retained them in Ipiales, Nariño in the home of Maria’s mother, Mrs Irma Oviedo who is serving a 4-year home detention sentence for crimes she committed in Colombia.
  2. There was no agreement on the part of Robert Murray Clarke, the Australian father of Benny and Lucia Clarke, for his children to remain in, or relocate to Colombia.
  3. The children’s retention is wrongful under The Hague Convention and the Australian Family Law (Child Abduction Convention) Regulations 1986.
  4. Australia and Colombia are both Contracting States to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
  5. On 12 March 2019 (20 days after the children were wrongfully abducted and retained in Colombia by their mother), Robert commenced legal proceedings through the Australian Central Authority (ACA) and filed an Application for the Return of Children in accordance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Children Abduction for the Return of Children Wrongfully Removed from or Retained outside Australia.
  6. This is the first Hague Convention case of Australian children being abducted and unlawfully retained in Colombia.
  7. On 16 April 2019, the ICBF in Bogota received Australia’s fully translated complete Hague application (less than 2 months after the illegal retention).
  8. On 31 May 2019, the ICBF Ipiales completed its investigations and Maria (the mother) refused the voluntary return of the Australian born and raised children, Benny and Lucia Clarke.
  9. The ICBF has consistently been extremely slow and frequently unresponsive to the ACA’s requests and inquiries, with the ACA required to ask to the Australian Embassy to intervene to achieve any responses from the ICBF regarding court orders.
  10. The ICBF delayed sending Colombian court orders to ACA despite knowing that these orders had to be translated by the ACA before they could be understood and acted on. The ICBF should have been liaising with the Colombian Court to facilitate judicial proceedings.
  11. The ICBF failed to provide a complete copy of the court order.
  12. Despite repeated requests to have access to a copy of the mother’s statement to the court (Maria’s affidavit Doc ID – E301201 Dated 31/5/19)) this document has not been supplied providing the children’s father with no opportunity to see the mother’s statement to enable a detailed and accurate account of the matter to be submitted to court.
  13. The sudden refusal of all the dates originally proposed by Judge Hernan Rodriguez Reina for hearings in October came just 1-2 days after successful video linkup testing occurred raising unanswered questions.
  14. No court hearing was held until 29 November 2019. A six month delay.
  15. Concerns for the children’s welfare and safety are paramount. Benny and Lucia are the only known Australians currently residing in Ipiales – A Spanish speaking town on the border of Colombia and Ecuador where the children are at risk of serious harm as a result of their abduction and unlawful retention in Colombia.
  16. The children’s father, Robert and their extended Australian family (Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles) fear for the children’s safety and for the loss of the children’s Australian identity, culture and heritage.
  17. Studies on the harm caused to children who are illegally abducted and retained by a parent in another country show long-lasting and very significant harm in terms of their mental health, and that these effects are ongoing into adulthood continuing for many years after their abduction.
  18. The children are also at risk of physical harm due to the culture of the community where they have been illegally retained.
  19. The Colombian Central Authority (ICBF) the Colombian Court and Judge Hernan Rodriguez Reina and the ICBF have deliberately and knowingly delayed court proceedings in an attempt to justify the illegal abduction and retention of Benny and Lucia Clarke by their mother in Colombia.
  20. To date, the Colombian Government has failed to honour their agreement under The Hague Convention which has caused grave harm to young Benny and little Lucia as a result of their non-compliance.
  21. The unlawful retention of Benny and Lucia and the Colombian authorities’ failure to return the children to the place of their birth and habitual residence in Australia, is in serious breach of The Hague Convention created for the purpose of child protection.
  22. According to The Hague Convention, Benny and Lucia Clarke must be immediately returned to the country of their birth, Australia to preserve their safety and well-being.
  23. It is hoped that the Colombian authorities will honour their commitment to the principles of the Hague Convention and immediately return the children to their habitual residence in Australia.