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Abdi Ibrahim v. Norway, No. 15379/16, ECtHR (Grand Chamber), 10 December 2021


A custody order that does not take into account the wishes of the biological mother to place the child with a foster family in line with the child's religious identity violates Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Normative references

Art. 8 ECHR 
Art. 9 ECHR 


1. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, interpreted also in the light of Article 9, states that finding a foster family corresponding to the biological mother's cultural and religious origins is not the only way to ensure respect for her rights, since the national authorities are bound by an obligation of means and not of result.

2. In the decision-making process leading to the division of the mother and the child, the competent authorities must give sufficient weight to the applicant's right to respect for family life and to the best interests of the child to maintain a link with his or her family of origin. Family ties may only be severed in very exceptional circumstances and an attempt must be made to preserve personal relationships and, if and when appropriate, to "rebuild" the family.

The case arose from the decision of the Norwegian authorities to proceed with the adoption of a child without the consent of the mother, a Somali refugee, who, although not contesting the decision to entrust her son to another family, requested that the child's religious identity be taken into consideration when choosing a foster family. The mother asked that the child be placed with a Muslim family or maintain contact with his culture and faith. In spite of this request, the child was placed in the care of a Christian family and finally adopted by the Supreme Court.