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Wunderlich v. Germany

Description:  In August 2013, more than 30 police officers and social workers stormed the home of the Wunderlich family. The authorities brutally removed the children from their parents and their home, leaving the family traumatized. The children were ultimately returned to their parents, but their legal status remained unclear as Germany is one of the few European countries that penalizes families who want to homeschool.

Tuesday, Apr 9, 2019
STRASBOURG, France – A German home schooling family Tuesday asked the European Court of Human Rights to refer their case to the Grand Chamber, the court’s highest level. Earlier this year, a lower section of the court ruled that their rights had not been violated in 2013 when more than 30 police officers and social workers raided their home and forcefully removed the children from their parents because they were home schooling.

“Despite the right of parents to direct the education of their children being protected in international law, the court ruled that the dawn raid on the family home was neither ‘particularly harsh (nor) exceptional,’” said ADF International Director of European Advocacy Robert Clarke, lead counsel for the Wunderlichs. “We will continue to support the Wunderlich family as they seek affirmation of their rights at the highest level of the European Court of Human Rights.”

In January, the court’s Fifth Section handed down its judgment in the case of Wunderlich v. Germany. Since then, the family has been embroiled in legal struggles seeking redress for the violation of their rights.

After courts in Germany ruled in favor of the government, the European Court of Human Rights agreed to take up the case in August 2016. The court ruled against the German family, disregarding their guaranteed right to private family life. Only a few weeks after the ruling, a German judge requested proof of the children’s school attendance despite the European Court’s acknowledgment that it would not be appropriate to remove the children again as “it would have a greater impact on the children than being home-schooled by their parents.” With this, the family potentially face yet even more legal proceedings.

“The Fifth Section’s ruling ignored the fact that Germany’s policy on home schooling violates the rights of parents to educate their children and direct their upbringing,” said ADF International Executive Director Paul Coleman. “It is alarming to see that the most influential human rights court in Europe didn’t recognize this. The ruling is a step in the wrong direction and should concern anyone who cares about freedom.”

“The previous ruling was very disheartening for our family and the many families affected by this in Germany,” said Dirk Wunderlich, father of the four children. “After years of legal struggles, it was extremely frustrating for us and our children. It is upsetting that the European Court of Human Rights did not recognize the injustices we suffered at the hands of the German authorities. We are hopeful that the Grand Chamber will see the ways we tried, for many years, to engage with the authorities, and the completely disproportionate action they ultimately took.”

“The European Court of Human Rights must do the right thing to protect families,” explained Mike Donnelly, international home schooling expert and director of global outreach for the Home School Legal Defense Association, which has long supported the family in their legal battle. “It is unconscionable that a human rights court would justify taking children by force from their family for no reason other than home schooling. Home schooling is a fundamental right of parents that is clearly recognized in international human rights law, which all governments are obliged to respect and protect.”
  • Pronunciation guide: Wunderlich (VUHN’-der-lish)

ADF International is a faith-based legal advocacy organization that protects fundamental freedoms and promotes the inherent dignity of all people.
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Legal Documents

ECHR 5th Section judgment: Wunderlich v. Germany

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ABOUT Robert Clarke
Robert E. Clarke serves as legal counsel and director of European advocacy for ADF International at its office in Vienna, Austria. He specializes in religious freedom issues and cases before the European Court of Human Rights as well as leading efforts across Europe in defence of life, family, and religious freedom. Prior to joining ADF International, Clarke was in-house counsel for the Nursing and Midwifery Council in London, prosecuting cases of medical misconduct. He qualified as a barrister at 2 Bedford Row in London, specializing in criminal and regulatory law. Clarke earned his LL.B with American law from the University of Nottingham with honours in 2012, having spent one year at the University of Virginia School of Law. He also completed the Bar Professional Training Course at Nottingham Law School. Clarke completed the ADF leadership development program to become a Blackstone Fellow in 2011. He is qualified as a barrister and is admitted to the Bar of England and Wales.
ABOUT Paul Coleman

Paul Coleman serves as executive director of ADF International, overseeing the legal advocacy of all ADF International offices. Specializing in international human rights and European law, Coleman has been involved in more than 20 cases before the European Court of Human Rights and has authored submissions before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, UN Human Rights Committee, and numerous national courts. Coleman earned his LL.M. and postgraduate diploma in legal practice from the Northumbria Law School, graduating with distinction. He also has a bachelor of laws from Newcastle University and graduated with first-class honours. Coleman is a solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales and is the author of two books and numerous articles.