Egypt

Parental Child Abduction: A Mom Makes A Heroic Rescue Of Son

I am pleased to be able to finally share the wonderful news that my good friend Kalli Atteya has safely reunited with her young son, who was previously internationally snatched by the child’s father during a despicable and cunning scheme that lured Kalli and her son to revolutionary Egypt two years ago (the abduction took place on August 1st, 2011) under the guise of the extremist father, Mohamed’s, claims that his mother was dying and that she wanted to see her grandson before her death.

Kalli’s efforts are nothing short of heroic.  The love she holds for her son is what is right about our world.

This is what occurred in short form.

Kalli had met Mohamed (an Egyptian national reported to be part of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood) in 1999 while he worked in a restaurant in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A year later they married. And a year later, Niko was born (2001).

“Three months after our boy was born, he left,” Kalli Atteya told FoxNews.com. “He moved back to Harrisburg, and he dated many, many women. I tried to save my marriage but it didn’t work. Basically, he married me for a visa.”

Finally, in 2005 Kalli was granted a divorce from the child’s father, who quickly moved from the United States to China, leaving Kalli – who is a few classes short of receiving her Masters in Education, alone to raise her young son.

During the next six years, Kalli kept in touch with Mohamed in order for her child to know his estranged father under remote circumstances.

Then, in 2011, Kalli and her son’s nightmare occurred.

Mohamed was able to convince Kalli to travel with their son to Egypt in order to see his alleged dying mother.  What was really going on unknown to Kalli was that Mohamed was planning to snatch his son, and bring him into the world of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Shortly upon Kalli and her son’s arrival, Mohamed’s long-planned scheme went into place and culminated with him tossing out of the car Kalli and her sister Maria (who traveled with her sister and nephew from Pennsylvania to Egypt), while they were on a desolate road while in route from Alexandria to Port Said on August 1st, 2011.

Kalli stated that Mohamed had complained of car trouble and forced herself and her sister (Maria Panagos) out of the car in extreme heat, leaving Niko, himself and a driver to speed away. “Mohamed threw me off on the side and ran to the car. I remember seeing Maria dragging behind the car as my son pounded on the windows. It was so unreal to me. At that very moment, I knew this was all preplanned.”

And so, Mohamed, disappeared into the turbulent sea of the Egyptian Revolution, leaving Kalli and Maria (what am amazing sister) looking into the foreboding eye of the cyclone of abduction.

Unfortunately, at the very same time in Egypt, the Spring Uprising also essentially tossed out any rule of law, and despite the fact that Kali was able to obtain an array of national court orders and arrest warrants against Mohamed, the political atmosphere resulted in nothing being done against Mohamed for his act of abduction.

In the meantime, Kalli was rightfully petrified for her life, as threats by Mohamed were not to be taken as hot-winded words, but a reality.

Still she persisted. How could she not? She had a child to protect: one whom she loved with all of who she is.

Perhaps that’s the one thing about being a targeted parent of international parental child abduction that most others don’t really know: as a parent you know you’re about to chase the cyclones of the biggest storms conceivable – you know you’re going to get battered if you are lucky enough to simply walk out of it – but you do it anyway because love is worth risking everything for.

Welcome to the world of international parental child abduction where schemes such as Mohamed’s are the norm, not the atypical.

In fact, young Niko is quoted by Fox News as saying, ““My Dad forced me to be Muslim, which I did not want to do.”

“My son told me [it was] to make him a Muslim,” Atteya stated when asked why she thought her ex-husband snatched the boy. “He said that we lack the morality and the values that their system has. And he said that Americans were so violent, he said we are a rotting society.”

So just how did Kalli regain her son?

Well, she traveled to Egypt on three separate occasions, only letting her most trusted friends familiar with her intent to know what she was doing.

Along the way, she sadly paid over $100,000.00 to a company that helps recover internationally abducted children.  According to Kalli that company took her money but did nothing.  Fox News added, “Kalli turned to a Norwegian company for help. With each new bit of hope came a new charge until she had spent more than $100,000, depleting her savings and funds borrowed from relatives. Still, she seemed no closer to reuniting with her son.”

As you may imagine, Kalli’s despair and concern for her son grew as her funds quickly depleted.

But there was one thing that Mohamed did not bank on: the unbowed love Kalli had for her son, and her will to bring her son home.

Along the way, Kalli kept certain government non-government organizations abreast of her plans, always making sure that whatever she was doing, was in fact, legal and in accordance to international law (I applaud this act at the highest level).

As to the exact details of how Kalli was able to find and reunite with Niko, needless to say, she walked a hire-wire act that included finding, watching, and planning on when and how to approach her son, who was being carefully guarded – yes guarded (remember, the reality is that children of abduction are in fact ‘prisoners’).

In fact, there were a few times that Kalli actually got to close to Mohamed for comfort. Fortunately, he did not recognize her underneath the veil of the Burqa she was required to wear in Muslim-controlled fundamentalist Egypt.

With careful timing and awareness of Mohamed’s whereabouts, Kalli had a limited opportunity to rescue her son.

Her plan came together as Niko was exiting the school he was attending that Kalli had successfully tracked him to.

Seeing her son on the street as school was letting out the children, Kalli quickly approached her son while she wore her Burqa.  Eyeing him, she said, “Niko. Its mommy. Come with me quickly.”

Under the dark veil, the child saw his mother’s piercing blue eyes. He knew it was his mother. He listened.

“My first reaction was [to wonder] if that was my mom or not, and then I saw her eyes,” Niko said. “I thought, ‘Thank God. I’m going to finally get out of here. I’m going to be free.”

Quickly walking to a rickshaw, Kalli put her on the back seat of the three-wheel bike commonly found in Egypt, and peddled as fast as she could away from the town where the child had been detained.

Once the school was a distance away, Kalli changed Niko’s clothing.  “I dressed him up as a girl. We made it back to a safe house,” she told Public Opinion.

But the journey was far from over.

Now alone in Egypt with her son, and knowing that the father would soon be looking for her and her child, Kalli needed assistance from home, while trying to create a plan that would cause Mohamed to misdirect his own fanatical search.

United State Department of State officials have publicly stated that they are aware of Atteya’s case, but declined to provide further details due to privacy concerns.

“One of the Department’s highest priorities is the welfare of U.S. citizens overseas,” the statement reads. “This is particularly true for children, who our most vulnerable citizens.”

Read what you will into this statement, but one thing was certain: Kali was going to operate within the rules of international law. And today, with the assistance of her friends combined with the unbowed love and courage she has for her son – both mother and son are home.

How lucky are they?

Well, according to heavily reliable sources, Mohamed Atteya and his henchmen have attempted to track down anyone who assisted Kalli bring her son home, leaving a trail of heavy violence in his path, as he and his goons have attacked anyone he thinks may have helped his ex-wife.

Mohamed Atteya, 38, who speaks Arabic, English and Chinese, and is wanted by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security Service for making false statements and providing forged documents to obtain a U.S. passport, amongst a series of criminal complaints against him.  Should he attempt to enter the United States, he will be immediately detained.

In the meantime, the friends of Kalli celebrate openly her and Niko’s return.  It has been a long road for mother and child, but for all those who have supported them.

When Fox News shared part of the story today of how Kalli reunited with Niko, it was time to finally share the news we have guarded carefully to our vest.

With reflection on Kalli’s story, the question must be asked: How far are extremist parental kidnappers willing to go?

Below is a portion of a story I shared yesterday concerning this very topic. I am including it here for further reading.

There is a significant and growing side of international parental child abduction that makes me shudder at the very notion of kidnapping I am too familiar with: the alarming act of cross-border parental child kidnappings committed by political extremist and religious zealots.

It has taken a while for society to grasp the notion that when one parent illegally removes a child from the child’s country of habitual residency, this is a cruel criminal act of kidnapping.  And the abducted child is not simply with one of their parents, but instead, is a hostage held by an abductor who generally does not have the child’s best interest in mind.

Tragically, and most alarming is the reality that children of abduction are being put into extraordinarily dangerous situations.

Previously, I have shared the reality that filicide – child murder by a parent – along with suicide amongst child abduction victims is a real issue.

So where does the use of a child come into play amongst political extremest, social revolutionaries, and religious zealots?

What I am about to share should not be classified as a rare occurrence. They are not.

Let this image sit with you for a moment: a young girl is internationally kidnapped by one of her parents: a parent who possesses extreme religious beliefs that all things born from the West are evil, including his daughter.  In that parent’s religious zealot fever, he thinks that the only way to have penance is to do the unthinkable. Meanwhile, the young girl’s mother, frantic at knowing the truth of the monster who took their child, along with knowledge of his intent, seeks any way to rescue a child now taken to a world where women have no rights, and foreign women have even less.

But here is an innocent child now delegated to becoming a sacrifice.

Welcome to the unforgivable world of international parental child abduction.

Now imagine a young boy abducted to the nation, if you can call it that, in the midst of a bloody civil war in impoverished Africa. The child was taken by his mother, who left him behind, as a bargaining chip in the conflict between two of that nation’s leading militant tribes. As bombs exploded and casualties rose, the child is taught to think that his left-behind parent not only did not love him and that he was an evil man; while the brainwashing ordeal unfolded, war’s bloodshed continued to fall.  And for the father who searched, he knew that returning back to the country his child was held hostage could lead to his immediate death, and further harm to his family that remained in his country of origin.

So here is another innocent child delegated to becoming a pawn in a nation’s civil war.

Welcome to the brutal world of international parental child abduction.

A young child just learning how to ride a bicycle is snatched from a Norman Rockwellesque mid-America town and taken to a nation of zealot fundamentalist revolutionaries who preach intolerance for the West.  The child is taught to hate the peaceful world he was taken from.  Gone is the loving, peaceful, and gentle world he was born and raised in. In its place is a world filled with daily bombings and gunfights, violent protests that lead to deadly stampedes, and an unforgivable God (the God the kidnapper teaches his child is not a loving God, nor does it represent the kind God taught in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths).  As this child lives an imprisoned life terrified by everything around him, his left behind parent knows that entering the world of the brutal abductor in order to find her child if caught means entering a world so brutal, that your imagination’s notion of brutal punishment and torture, simply could not conjure the realities that would await her if caught.

Sadly, another defenseless child imprisoned into the worst of nightmares. Except it is his reality.

Welcome to the world where the God worshipped is a God filled with hatred.

And do not think that a child is not at risk of death. They are.

Perhaps this reality is the one singular thing that drives all child abduction prevention advocates the most: the hope to prevent the death of a child either at the hands of their parent abductor, or at their own hands later in life due to the brutal psychological trauma they endured during the time of their abduction.  I know my own activism in this arena is greatly due to my desire to help protect children from all forms of harm.

As you can see, the common denominator in the scenarios I presented above is that the child was used as a pawn to advance the abductor’s own agenda.

This is something that occurs in every international parental child abduction case.

For the taken child, they are indeed brought into a harsh world that emotionally and spiritually resembles the lonely, wind-swept barrier prison known as Alcatraz.  Short-term and long-term trauma is real. So too are the challenges the majority of children face going forward.

One of the things that appears to not have been spoken about in the dialogue concerning international parental child abduction is the general view by the abducting parent that life in the country of the child’s habitual residency is one that they often dislike, or in some cases, despise.

In these types of situations, the abductor’s (who is nearly always a foreign-born national living in another country) resentment toward most things in the country they are residing in prior to the act of kidnapping grows significantly.

Eventually, some of these parents sermonize their view to the child: preaching – and brainwashing – their views to a child is a necessity for all abductors since they need to justify the act of kidnapping to the child under the guise of ‘liberation’.

And extreme cases of ‘liberators’ does exist, creating a potentially greater danger to society than what anyone is talking about.

The question needs to be asked: What are the long-term social risks if a zealot abductor kidnaps a child born in the West, removes that child to a nation of political and religious extremism which the abductor is an active part of, and who evangelizes the messages of hatred and intolerance toward the child’s country of previous habitual residency to the point that the child buys into the parent abductor’s sermons as ‘liberator’ that is preached in order to justify the international abduction?

Well, we have a potentially serious problem on our hands.

Make no mistake, all forms of international parental child abduction are severe forms of child abuse.  Under no circumstance should child abduction be tolerated.  Fortunately, this notion is beginning to take hold by society due to the stewardship of the realities of abduction by concerned parents and advocates alike.

In fact, by raising awareness of international parental child abduction the cross-border kidnapping rate has declined in the United States by 15% per year for two years in a row, after nearly thirty years of steady growth.

So our voices are making a difference in the United States.  And unquestionably, the United States Department of States’ Office of Children’s Issues has to be given a great deal of credit in their outreach efforts attempting to increase the threat of abduction amongst targeted parents.

Nevertheless, our children remain at great risk. For example, imagine being a mother who living in the United States trying to prevent your daughters from being abducted to Saudi Arabia – a nation where women have essentially no rights. Or a father trying to find your child is Japan or South Korea – nations known to not return abducted children. The realities and hard-truths are disheartening: between the reported and unreported cases on international parental child abduction, it is estimated that only 10% of all kidnapped children ever come home.

In ending this article I would like to share this message: as the summer approaches, now is the time that would-be abductors are planning their scheme to illegally snatch their child.  Raising awareness of the risk factors and knowing the warning signs of abduction are so important.  Parents involved in multi-cultural relationships are particularly at risk of abduction.  The last thing any parent wants to do is find themselves Chasing The Cyclone of abduction.  The best defense against abduction is to educate yourself.

One final note: as the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation, I am pleased to share with you that the children I mentioned above in the examples I provided are all now at safely home.  Since inception, the I CARE Foundation has assisted a large and growing number of children and their families at risk of abduction. Our work continues.

Click here to read more about The I CARE Foundation.
Click here to read more about Chasing The Cyclone.
Click here to visit the official website of Peter Thomas Senese. 

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U.S. Senate Resolution 543 Condemns International Parental Child Abduction

On the evening of December 4th 2012, U.S. Senators unanimously took a stand against international parental child abduction.  This is a big day for those of us that devote our lives to advocating for those innocent children that are targets of international child abduction.

The I CARE Foundation is pleased to share that U.S. Senator Barbara Boxter’s International Parental Child Abduction Resolution (Senate Resolution 543) first introduced to the Senate on August 2nd, 2012 passed unanimously yesterday, December 4th, 2012 a Senate vote. Previously, Senator Boxter stated before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee Business Meeting presided over Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) that, “The International Parental Child Abduction Resolution condemns the abduction of a child by one parent to another country. It also calls on our nation and the international community to do more to resolve current and future abduction cases.” Senator Boxter also stated she “Introduced this resolution to help shine a light on child abduction and to urge immediate and sustained action to address it.”

Senator Boxter’s comments made before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unequivocally shed light as to the great difficulties targeted children and parents face.  Senator Boxter, a known child advocate stated before Senator Kerry’s Foreign Relations Committee that, “The resolution (Senate 543) condemns the abduction of a child by one parent to another country. It also calls on our nation and the international community to do more to resolve current and future abduction cases. By approving this resolution, we are sending a clear, bipartisan message that the United States Senate stands united in its condemnation of child abduction and its commitment to help end this injustice.”

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a Senate Resolution 543 by a voice vote yesterday. Impressively, the resolution garnered 28 original cosponsors, and is a clear indication that the voices of the community of activists are reaching the halls of our nation’s Capitol.

Senate Resolution 543 reinforces several critical issues that are expected to come to the aid of targeted children and parents, as is discussed in a step-by-step summary analysis provided below.  However, on the surface, and with great light on the subject needed, Resolution 543 names Japan, India and Egypt as the worst offenders in the kidnappings of children from the United States to countries abroad.

Equally importantly, Senate Resolution 543 calls for several critical actions to be taken that will open up new avenues of child protection.  Specifically, Senator Boxter’s resolution calls for the immediate review of the protocols previously established by the United States Congress when our lawmakers agreed to become a signatory member of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction.  Specifically, Senate Resolution 543 (Article 2) (Section II) (Part E) states:

(E) review the advisory services made available to United States citizens by the United States Department of State, the United States Department of Justice, and other United States Government agencies—

(i) to improve the prevention of international parental child abduction from the United States; and

(ii) to ensure that effective and timely assistance is provided to United States citizens who are parents of children abducted from the United States and taken to foreign countries.

What (Article 2) (Section II) (Part E) (iI) makes it clear that:

A review of Congress’ existing declaration when it annexed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction whereas it declined to financially assist targeted parents who have had their child criminally kidnapped (International Kidnapping Crimes Act) reunite with their children.According to an I CARE Foundation recent study,  parents who have their children internationally abducted face severe and overwhelming costs in attempting to reunite with their kidnapped children, and the financial costs and economic impact on the U.S. economy over the next 10 years is expected to reach over 5 Billion U.S. Dollars.   Clearly the resolution’s (2)(E)(ii) is specifying that the United States government must “ensure that effective and timely assistance is provided to Untied States citizens” who have their children kidnapped – and this means financial assistance that may be required to locate an internationally kidnapped child, financial assistance for litigation expenses and any activity associated with a child’s recovery, including reunification assistance.  How important is this?  Enormous, particularly when we must consider that many of targeted parents fail to reunite with their abducted child because the stealing parent knows that so long as they can financially drain the other parent’s resources, and tie up the litigation into a long process, they should be successful in achieving their criminal act of abduction.  Should this portion of the Senate’s resolution be upheld, not only will it change the ability of a targeted parent to protect their child, but it will alter the dynamics of an abductor’s litigation strategy because they will not be able to financially drain the targeted parent.

Equally important, (Article 2) (Section II) (Part E) does something that could potentially make the greatest difference of all aspects of the resolution.  Specifically, the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues (OCI), which I believe is made up of some of the most dedicated and caring child advocates on the planet, presently have extreme limitations on what it can and cannot do to assist American parents who have had their child abducted.  Which leads to great frustration by the nation’s citizens who turn to OCI for assistance.By calling to “review the advisory services made available to United States citizens by the United States Department of State, the United States Department of Justice, and other United States Government agencies”, the Senate Resolution 543 is not only clearly identifying but acknowledging that the existing agencies charged with protecting our nation’s children need to be overhauled in that there is a need to provide OCI with more power to act on behalf of kidnapped children.  Surely, when this definitive review is conducted, there will be a clear disposition that OCI is underfunded, understaffed, and given limited power, which means as part of the Department of State, it is underutilized.

(Article 2) (Section II) (Part E) importantly states since international parental child abduction is a federal criminal act of kidnapping – this is not a child custody disagreement but a brutal act against a child – that review of existing protocols on how our national law enforcement agency may assist a targeted parent who has had a child abducted.

This section of Senate Resolution 543 is critical because today, and in the past, the vast majority of parental child kidnappers did not fear any retribution for the scheming, abusive, and destructive criminal act of cross-border abduction.  Without concern that they would be held accountable for their act, and with the financial playing field heavily tilted in their favor, there has been a sharp increase of child abductions that could see as many as 100,000 to 125,000 American children abducted abroad if we consider the current number of reported cases of abduction, the forecasted number of unreported cases of abduction, the growth rate of abduction, and underlying conditions such as immigration migration to the United States as well as general population growth as factors.

Critically supporting (Article 2) (Section II) (Part E) is (Article 2) (Section II) (Part A), whereas the resolution calls for:

(A)   Vigorously pursue the return of each child abducted by a parent from the United States to another country through all appropriate means, facilitate access by the left-behind parent if the child is not returned, and, where appropriate, seek the extradition of the parent that abducted the child.

Did you notice the key words, “Vigorously pursue the return of each child abducted by a parent from the United States?”

This is clearly indicating that the United States Senate is sending a message that children will no longer be considered collateral political damage and that the United States government will protect and defend its defenseless, innocent children who are kidnapped and held hostage overseas.

How?

By seeking “the extradition of the parent that abducted the child.”

As previously stated, parental child abductors have little concern that their actions will be prosecuted even though the acts of international parental child abduction violates federal laws including criminal codes on kidnapping, and, at times, laws prohibiting the aiding and abetting of a fugitive.  In addition, a state’s laws on abduction are also violated, as well as criminal codes of child abuse and child neglect.  Of course contempt of court and perjury are rampant in these cases, and are punishable by contempt of court charges.

However, now it is clear that a parent can and should seek criminal remedy in conjunction with civil remedy available to them under the Hague Convention.

For a long time now, child abduction prevention advocates and chasing parents have all shared a very important message: by having an arrest warrant issued against a child abductor, by extraditing the abductor on kidnapping charges, by prosecuting abductors, and by having them sentenced, a strong message that will serve as a deterrent against abduction will be issued, and many would-be abductors will think carefully before they abuse their child.

Extradition means in many cases that in the simplest terms an abductor will have limited ability to hide under the rules of law of another nation.  Granted, part of the challenge is that each country has its own rules as to what type of crime it will allow extradition of; however, the underpinnings of Senate Resolution 543 is to use diplomacy that enables the laws of a child’s country of original jurisdiction to allow the child’s custodial parent the ability of protecting their child.

Obviously, it is critical that international parental child abduction occurs.  Which means new abduction prevention laws must be created while certain existing policies must be modified.  Clearly, new laws and policy modifications that occur will become worthless if judges presiding over courts of jurisdiction of a targeted child do not enforce the laws they are governed to uphold. Furthermore, it must become a mandatory policy for each child protective agency to develop a special division of trained personnel familiar with international parental child abduction in order to protect a child from abuse, including the common-place false claims made by a taking parent against a targeted parent.

Over the past 15 years the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, funded a study on child abduction murder cases. The number of cases of filicide – the murder of a child by one of their parents – was alarming.   A recent report issued by the I CARE Foundation provides acute insight as to the grave risk of murder associated with international child abduction cases.

Perhaps shedding light as to just how important Senate Resolution 543 is are the comments of Mr. Joel Walter,Esq., a Board of Director of the I CARE Foundation when he shared his insight on parental child abduction and the threat of parental child murder. “Once removed from their home, the child becomes a hostage who is put into more danger than being alienated from their other parent and family, being forced to live the life as a fugitive, having their identity stripped away – no, there is much more at risk than all of this: there is the risk that filicide – the murder of a child at the hands of one of their parents – will occur. And this is the reality that we all keep in the forefront of our thoughts: child abductors have demonstrated their cleverness and willingness to scheme and break the law as exhibited by their criminal act of kidnapping, the vast majority of abductors kidnap their child because they have lost control of their emotions and use the child as a pawn for revenge against the other parent and are willing to go to nearly any length to cause pain and suffering to their target, even if it is at the expense of their own child, and conceivably, as has been demonstrated in various forms and ways as exhibited by the number of filicide cases, a parental child abductor could murder their own child as the ultimate act of revenge – especially when a child’s return to their country of original jurisdiction has been ordered or is imminent.”

For targeted parents who have had their children abducted to countries such as Japan, India, and Egypt, who are not members of the Hague Abduction Convention, Senate Resolution 543 made it clear that the United States legislative branch no longer is willing to sit idle while American children are kidnapped or illegally detained abroad while laws in their country and courts that oversee these laws do nothing to uphold the legitimate claims of law based upon a child’s original jurisdiction and the prevailing laws and court orders issued from such jurisdiction.

A portion of the preamble of Senate Resolution 543 reads:

Whereas Japan, India, and Egypt are not parties to the Hague Abduction Convention and were also among the top 10 countries to which children in the United States were most frequently abducted in 2011;

Whereas, in many countries, such as Japan and India, international parental child abduction is not considered a crime, and custody rulings made by courts in the United States are not typically recognized by courts in those countries; and

Whereas Japan is the only member of the Group of 7 major industrialized countries that has not yet become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention: Now, therefore, be it –

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) sponsored Senate Resolution 543, which garnered 28 original cosponsors and passed the Senate by voice vote Tuesday evening. Senator Boxer has been the Congressional leader on this issue since 2006, consistently raising legislative awareness. The renown child advocate Senator Boxter said, “I am so proud that today (Tuesday evening, December 4th, 2012) the Senate took a stand to condemn the tragic and devastating crime of child abduction,” Senator Boxer said. “This resolution is a resounding call to the international community to join together to prevent and resolve abduction cases.”

Sentiment from several key United States Senators demonstrates a reshaping of Congress’ view on international parental child abduction with an intent to act.

“International child abduction is a tragic situation that impacts not only the parents who are left behind but also the children who have been illegally separated from them and denied any contact,” Senator Lugar said. “Bringing greater attention to this issue is important if we are to change other governments’ attitudes to these abductions.”

Senator Inhofe said,  “Unfortunately, some countries around the world are complicit in allowing these unacceptable acts.  The heart wrenching stories I have heard from parents is not just devastating for them, but destructive for the children.  It is time for the Senate to act in a way that will help end this injustice.  This well written measure is a high priority.  I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join in this effort.”

“International child abductions aren’t faceless crimes, they’re real and they’re tragic,” Senator Kerry said. “The United States must condemn international abductions and work to resolve them.  The international community must stand up and do all it can to make this right.”

New Jersey Senator Lautenberg said, “We need to gain the support of countries around the world in condemning this practice and agreeing to cooperate in the return of abducted children. This resolution will help us prevent these tragedies in the future.”

So now where do we go?

Well, obviously Senate Resolution 543 clearly indicates that the way our government, courts, and law enforcement handle international parental child abduction is not enough.  More – much more must be done as international child kidnapping spreads.

Prevention of abduction is critical.  This means that judges presiding over cases of abduction risk or act must become fully aware of the laws they oversee as well as the seriousness of this crime against children.  Education is critical.

The United States Senate has shared a very strong message: international parental child abduction is not a child custody case: it is criminal kidnapping, and it must be treated as such.

In addition, we need new laws that will help prevent abduction.  Two immediate legislative initiatives the I CARE Foundation is currently working on is to:

  1. Create a secondary secure screening list so that individuals possessing a right of U.S. citizenship and who are determined by courts or law enforcement to be high-risk child abductors  may be vetted prior to travel to ensure they are not abducting a child. This proposal is similar to the current Prevent Departure Program, which presently only permits the listing of individuals onto a secure screening list that do not possess a right of U.S. citizenship and who are in the United States.
  2. Under the current Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Policy, American children are permitted to travel outside of the country by land or sea to adjoining nations such as Mexico, Canada, and certain Caribbean-Island nations by presenting only a photocopy of a naturalization document such as a photocopy of a birth certificate.  We call upon the mandatory use of valid passports for all children entering into or traveling from the United States.

Obviously, bolstering the Office of Children’s Issues resources and capability are critical.  And using direct and ongoing diplomatic efforts to bring countries to the table of the Hague Abduction Convention, and ensuring that they comply with the treaty are also critical.

Senator Boxter’s Senate Resolution 543 Cosponsors was a bipartisan effort and included Senators Feinstein, Blumenthal, Rubio, Durbin, Kirk, Lugar, Moran, Roberts, Landrieu, Kerry, Cardin, Mikulski, Blunt, Lautenberg, Menendez, Gillibrand, Inhofe, Merkley, Wyden, Casey, Toomey, Reed, Whitehouse, Johnson, Hutchinson, Leahy, Cantwell, and Murray.

We applaud and thank Senator Boxter and all the Senators who passed Resolution 543 yesterday.  This is a major step in the right direction toward protecting our nation’s children, and equally, in doing so, sending a message to other nations that they too, must protect their child citizens.

We do take note that the statistical numbers of the number of cases of abduction cited in the legislative resolution are not accurate in that the cited 2011 numbers reflect the number of reported abductions that occurred in the year 2010.  We also take note that it is believe that the number of unreported cases of international parental child abduction are between 100% and 125% of the reported cases of abduction.  Finally, we believe that it is important to note that to state that international parental child abduction is on the aggregate rise of over 25% per year from the last known cited reporting years of 2006 through 2010.  The represented number of abduction cases in the senate resolution demonstrates that there is a critical need for more current research and shared updated information concerning just how severe international child abduction is today.Again, we are thankful for everyone’s efforts in making Senate Resolution 543 a reality.

The full text of Senate Resolution 543 is below.

RESOLUTION

Whereas international parental child abduction is a tragic and common occurrence;

Whereas the abduction of a child by one parent is a heartbreaking loss for the left-behind parent and deprives the child of a relationship with 2 loving parents;

Whereas, according to the Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of the United States Department of State from April 2010, research shows that abducted children are at risk of significant short and long-term problems, including “anxiety, eating problems, nightmares, mood swings, sleep disturbances, [and] aggressive behavior”;

Whereas, according to that report, left-behind parents may also experience substantial psychological and emotional issues, including feelings of “betrayal, sadness over the loss of their children or the end of their marriage, anger toward the other parent, anxiety, sleeplessness, and severe depression”, as well as financial strain while fighting for the return of a child;

Whereas, since 1988, the United States, which has a treaty relationship under the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, done at The Hague October 25, 1980 (TIAS 11670) (referred to in this preamble as the “Hague Abduction Convention’’) with 69 other countries, has agreed with its treaty partners to follow the terms of the Hague Abduction Convention;

Whereas the Hague Abduction Convention provides a legal framework for securing the prompt return of wrongfully removed or retained children to the countries of their habitual residence where competent courts can make decisions on issues of custody and the best interests of the children;

Whereas, according to the United States Department of State, the number of new cases of international child abduction from the United States increased from 579 in 2006 to 941 in 2011;

Whereas, in 2011, those 941 cases involved 1,367 children who were reported abducted from the United States by a parent and taken to a foreign country;

Whereas, in 2011, more than 660 children who were abducted from the United States and taken to a foreign country were returned to the United States;

Whereas 7 of the top 10 countries to which children from the United States were most frequently abducted in 2011 are parties to the Hague Abduction Convention, including Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Ecuador, Brazil, and Colombia;

Whereas Japan, India, and Egypt are not parties to the Hague Abduction Convention and were also among the top 10 countries to which children in the United States were most frequently abducted in 2011;

Whereas, in many countries, such as Japan and India, international parental child abduction is not considered a crime, and custody rulings made by courts in the United States are not typically recognized by courts in those countries; and

Whereas Japan is the only member of the Group of 7 major industrialized countries that has not yet become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That—

(1) the Senate—

(A) condemns the international abduction of all children;

(B) urges countries identified by the United States Department of State as non-compliant or demonstrating patterns of noncompliance with the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, done at The Hague October 25, 1980 (TIAS 11670) (referred to in this resolution as the “Hague Abduction Convention”) to fulfill their commitment under international law to expeditiously implement the provisions of the Hague Abduction Convention;

(C) calls on all countries to become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention and to promptly institute measures to equitably and transparently address cases of international parental child abduction; and

(D) calls on all countries that have not become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention to develop a mechanism for the resolution of current and future cases of international parental child abduction that occur before those countries become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention in order to facilitate the prompt return of children abducted to those countries to the children’s countries of habitual residence; and

(2) it is the sense of the Senate that the United States should—

(A) vigorously pursue the return of each child abducted by a parent from the United States to another country through all appropriate means, facilitate access by the left-behind parent if the child is not returned, and, where appropriate, seek the extradition of the parent that abducted the child;

(B) take all appropriate measures to ensure that a child abducted to a country that is a party to the Hague Abduction Convention is returned to the country of habitual residence of the child in compliance with the provisions of the Hague Abduction Convention;

(C) continue to use diplomacy to encourage other countries to become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention and to take the necessary steps to effectively fulfill their responsibilities under the Hague Abduction Convention;

(D) use diplomacy to encourage countries that have not become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention to develop an institutionalized mechanism to transparently and expeditiously resolve current and future cases of international child abduction that occur before those countries become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention; and

(E) review the advisory services made available to United States citizens by the United States Department of State, the United States Department of Justice, and other United States Government agencies—

(i) to improve the prevention of international parental child abduction from the United States; and

(ii) to ensure that effective and timely assistance is provided to United States citizens who are parents of children abducted from the United States and taken to foreign countries.

For more information on international parental child abduction, please click here.

Thank you –
Peter Thomas Senese
Founding Director
The I CARE Foundation