The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor (Euro-Med) called, this week, on the Norwegian government to immediately investigate the death of 17-year-old Palestinian Shatha Barghouti, who died last Wednesday, while in custody of the Norwegian Child Welfare Services, Barnevernet.

Shatha Barghouti was taken, along with her two younger siblings, from her parents about seven years ago, by Barnevernet, on grounds of parental neglect, although Shatha’s parents tried desperately to prove otherwise and showed great remorse over the reasons which led to such situation, said Euro-Med in a statement.

Barnevernet has been widely criticized, on both national and international levels, for many reasons, one of which has been over how the agency takes over custody too easily, where it has a too low threshold for taking action and confiscating children from their parents. The agency has been also ill-reputed for the suffering and abuse some children experience while living in its orphanages, it said.

According to Shatha’s parents, she had petitioned Barnevernet to be reunited with her parents, as she was close to the age of becoming legally responsible for herself. However, two weeks before her reunification, Shatha was found dead and her death was explained as a suicide.

The family refuses such explanation and consistently demands an immediate independent and transparent investigation into the death of their eldest daughter. The family also fears for the fate of Shatha’s two younger siblings and demands to regain custody over them again, immediately, to provide the necessary safety that Barnevernet crucially failed to provide for their late elder sister, said Euro-Med.

Therefore, Euro-Med Monitor called on the Norwegian government to immediately intervene and to launch a serious investigation into the circumstances which led to Shatha’s death, in order to hold accountable anyone who might have contributed to this fate.

WAFA reports that Euro-Med Monitor also demanded the immediate release of Shatha’s two younger siblings, Mohammad and Ahmad, to be reunited with their deeply aggrieved parents, who’ve been living in terrible fear and trauma ever since the three children were taken away from them.

Euro-Med Monitor emphasized that giving the parents another chance to prove themselves worthy of the custody over their two remaining children is the least the Norwegian government could do to compensate for the negligence that led to Shatha’s death.

It also called on the Norwegian government to thoroughly revise the mechanisms and structures that govern Barnevernet’s conduct, and to undertake immediate disciplinary actions, against Barnevernet, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children  held by the agency, so that the terrible incident of Shatha’s death would be the last of such kind.