Japan

Japan Moves Toward Ratifying The Hague Convention

Japan Moves Toward Ratifying The Hague Convention. Will This Help Abducted Children Wrongfully Detained In Japan Today?

After more than a decade of urging from the U.S., including a unwaivering protest by a large number of American parents, primarily victimized fathers, Japan’s parliament on Wednesday finally gave the go-ahead for the government to ratify the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects Of International Child Abduction – an  international treaty for settling international child custody parental abduction disputes. The move by Japan’s parliament offers hope to many chasing parents who were left-behind as their children were whisked away across the Pacific primarily by their Japanese mothers. But realistically, how much can present chasing parents left behind in the wake of their child’s abduction count on unification with their children?

The move by the Diet (Japan’s parliament) will make Japan the 85th signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on Aspects of International Child Abduction appears on the surface to be a step in the right direction; however, Japan’s final ratification of the treaty is not expected for another year. And during that time a lot can go wrong, including, potentially, women right activists in Japan who wrongfully think that every mother abducting their child to Japan was fleeing abuse.  As study after study has demonstrated – both women and men equally cite abuse when they try to have a court sanction their act of kidnapping. The vast majority of these claims are not true.

Is there hope? Yes. But we need to be reminded that there is a long way to go and now is not the time to stop putting pressure on Japan’s government to ratify the Hague Convention under any circumstance.

For years, Japan has come under fierce criticism mainly from the U.S. fathers and more recently, American lawmakers, for its reluctance to join the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abductions due to cultural differences on how divorce and child custody is viewed and handled in their own homeland. Traditionally, during times of divorce in Japan, the courts grant the mother full sole custody, and the father of the children is permanantly removed from the child’s life.

Welcome to insanity Japanese style.  In fact, it is estimated that there are well over 300,000 Japanese fathers seeking to reunite with their own chldren who have been removed from their lives by the courts.

Legal experts welcomed Wednesday’s decision, but said the treaty would have little effect unless it is accompanied by changes in Japan’s domestic law. Courts in Japan routinely favor the Japanese parent – usually the mother – in custody cases involving international marriages.

“I am concerned that Japan won’t implement the convention at face value,” says Takao Tanase, a law professor at Chuo University in Tokyo. Mr. Tanase points to numerous loopholes in Japanese family law that could be cited to prevent the return of children to their original country of residence, including the suspicion – without any burden of proof – that the child could be exposed to harm or that the mother’s welfare could be affected.

“Japanese law and the convention contradict each other, and this can be used as an excuse not to return the child,” he said. “The tradition of awarding sole custody was introduced 60 years ago, but Japanese society has changed dramatically since then.”

Yuichi Mayama, an upper house politician who has pushed for the legal change, was more optimistic. “This is a meaningful development,” he said. “I’m delighted that Japan is finally catching up with the rest of the world.”

But he added: “The tradition in Japan is to award sole custody, and that’s supported by the law. Unless we change that we won’t be able to use the convention properly. We take a very traditional view of the family in Japan, and changing that is going to take time.”

The convention is intended to protect children from being taken to another country by one parent without permission in bitter custodial battles. While 89 countries have signed the convention, Japan has been the last member of the Group of Eight major nations holding out. But with Wednesday’s parliamentary approval, Tokyo is expected to ratify the treaty by next March, 2014. (Of the Group of Eight, it should be noted that Germany is consistantly considered a non-complying signatory member of the Hague Convention).

Japanese parliamentarians have long argued that the country’s single-custody tradition is incompatible with the Hague Convention. Unlike in the U.S. and many European countries, Japanese family law doesn’t recognize joint custody of children after divorce, and typically gives the mother full custody.

Like many other countries, Japan has seen an increase in mixed marriages—-a five-fold jump over the past 35 years. While these international marriages only account for about 4% of all marriages in Japan, they have a higher-than-average divorce rate. In 2011, about 40,000 international couples got married. In the same year, about 19,000 divorced, according to Mr. Mayama.

Given that a disproportionate number of American husbands make up the other half of mixed marriages, typical cases that would violate the Hague Convention consist of a divorced Japanese mother flying back to Japan with her child without permission or not allowing her child to return to the U.S. from Japan after a visit, then severing all contact with her American husband. Japanese women married more American men in 2011 than any other nationality except for Korean men, who are mostly permanent residents of Japan.

These international parental child abductions havee landed a number of Japanese mothers suspected of child abduction on the FBI’s most wanted parental kidnappings list. The U.S. State Department says that as of 2011, there are 100 active cases involving 140 American children wrongfully detained in Japan by a parent.  However, activist groups in the United States, who have their heart on the pulse of the real situation, have estimated that the number of children wrongfully detained are well over 300 (this is due to the fact that many targeted parents may not have reported their child’s abduction to the Department of State since Japan is not a member of the Hague Convention). Additionally, the Asahi Shimbun reported Wednesday that Britain, Canada, and France each claim over 30 cases of their children being wrongfully kept in Japan.

Despite international parental child abduction being a U.S. Federal crime, parents who have fled to Japan with a kidnapped child have not faced concern of criminal charges because since Japan’s laws do not make international parental child abduction a crime, Japan would not allow extradition proceedings to go forward against any of its citizens.  This theme – failure to extradite  – is something that the I CARE Foundation has spoken out about in the past, particularly in courts during abduction prevention cases whereas a sitting judge may think that they and U.S. law would have far reach abroad: it does not.

With hardly any domestic attention given to the matter, though, there has been little incentive to ratify a treaty mostly detrimental to Japanese nationals. Lawmakers who have rejected submitting the treaty to parliament in the past point to the need to protect women and children from domestic violence and abuse should courts forcibly expatriate mothers and children to overseas residences they have escaped from. In itself, the domestic violence claim against women appears to be a deflective way for some of Japan’s politicians to not welcome change. And it clearly does not take into consideration the increase of domestic violence acts against men, or, more commonly, the use of false claims of domestic violence as a reason for a parent to abduct, knowing they may find protection under Article 13 of the Hague Convention.

But during a U.S. visit in February, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe surprised some by promising President Barack Obama he would seek approval for joining the convention. Mr. Abe’s visit was aimed at strengthening ties with Washington after a cooling in relations during the previous Japanese administration.

Progress?  Yes, however, Japan must still clear various governmental and legislative hurdles before the Hague Convention can take full effect. The government has said it aims for final ratification by the end of this fiscal year — March 2014.

A central authority will be set up in the foreign ministry to take charge of locating children who have been removed by one parent following the collapse of an international marriage, and to encourage parents to settle disputes voluntarily.

If consultations fail, family courts in Tokyo and Osaka will issue rulings.

The law will, however, allow a parent to refuse to return a child if abuse or domestic violence is feared, a provision which campaigners say is vital, but which some say risks being exploited.

It will also allow for parents who separated before its enactment to apply to get a child returned. But it contains a provision stating that the application can be refused if a child has been resident in the country for a year or more and is happily settled.

Few foreign parents have much faith in the Japanese justice system as a means of getting back their children once they have been brought to Japan.

Are there concerns about the Japan’s language in the new law passed that would make a child’s return difficult?  Yes.

There are others in Japan, primarily from women-rights groups that have concern about the Hague Convention.

Yumiko Suto, co-founder of a women’s rights group, took issue with the convention on the grounds it would leave youngsters open to violence when she said, “What’s worrying about the Hague Convention is that it won’t protect victims of domestic violence, mothers and children who barely escaped alive from their violent husbands. It is very difficult for women and children in shelters to hide their whereabouts for a year… so the provision is not very helpful to them,” adding that providing evidence of domestic violence in a foreign country is also difficult.

Kimio Ito, professor of sociology at Kyoto University, said he hopes Japanese domestic laws “will remove worries over domestic violence that the convention doesn’t fully address”.

Under growing pressure from Washington and other Western capitals, Japan has repeatedly pledged to sign the treaty into domestic law, but it has until now never made it through parliament.

With cautious reason to be excited that the nightmare of hundreds of children and their chasing parents left behind in the storms of abduction may soon be over for many, the reality still remains that Japan is at least one year away from final ratification, and in a country that has made promises to sign the convention many times in the past, there still remains a long road ahead for so many.

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The following information has been shared by Paul Toland regarding pro bono legal assistance that may be available to U.S. parents to obtain access to their children in Japan using the provisions of the Hague Convention once Japan ratifies the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Paul is the contact point for this and his email address is pptoland@yahoo.com.

If you wish to have your case listed, the following is the information that should be submitted:

Contact Information
Name:
Address:
Phone Number:
Email Address:
Child/Children information
Child name:
Child Sex: (Male or Female)
Child Birth Date:
Child Abduction Date:
Abductor:
Last known address:

The following is the email from Paul Toland:

Subject: Article 21 Hague Convention Access Application – Requesting your response

All,
Please forgive the length of this email, but it is important to be a thorough and clear as possible. With Japan nearing ratification of the Hague Convention, we have the opportunity to gain access to our children under Article 21 of the Hague, which reads:

“An application to make arrangements for organizing or securing the effective exercise of rights of access may be presented to the Central Authorities of the Contracting States in the same way as an application for the return of a child. The Central Authorities are bound by the obligations of co-operation which are set forth in Article 7 to promote the peaceful enjoyment of access rights and the fulfillment of any conditions to which the exercise of those rights may be subject. The Central Authorities shall take steps to remove, as far as possible, all obstacles to the exercise of such rights.

The Central Authorities, either directly or through intermediaries, may initiate or assist in the institution of proceedings with a view to organizing or protecting these rights and securing respect for the conditions to which the exercise of these rights may be subject.”

I know this is not what everyone wants, we want our children returned, but my attorney, renowned Hague attorney Stephen Cullen, has told me that if done properly and en masse, simultaneous delivery of dozens or perhaps hundreds of Hague Access applications in the immediate aftermath of Hague Ratification by Japan would severely test Japan and put them on notice that we’re watching their compliance. Stephen is perhaps one the foremost Hague attorneys in the US (Baltimorean of the Year in 2004, American Bar Association Pro Bono Attorney of the Year 2003, Maryland Trial Attorney of the Year in 2008, etc.) having litigated over 200 Hague Abduction Cases, with well over 100 successful returns. He has VOLUNTEERED to submit Hague Applications for ANY AND ALL JAPAN ABDUCTION CASES PRO BONO.

The plan would be to hold an event in DC shortly after Japan ratifies the Hague, where we march en masse from his office on K Street in DC to the State Department to deliver the Hague Article 21 Access Applications. We would do this march in front of members of the press and garner as much publicity as we can. Additionally we would do a symbolic delivery of the Applications in front of the Japanese Embassy as well (although the actual applications would be delivered from our Central Authority, the State Department, to Japan’s Central Authority). First, though, Japan has to ratify the Hague and Stephen has to prepare the applications.

Questions and Answers:

1. Question: Who can submit an Article 21 Hague Application:

    Answer: ANYONE who is a US Citizen and has a US Citizen or dual-national child in Japan that they do not currently have access to. This includes what have historically been referred to as both “Abduction” cases and “Access” cases.

2. Question: Will performing an Article 21 Hague Application affect my ongoing legal case in any way?

    Answer: No, if you have Warrants out for the arrest of your former spouse, those warrants still stand. This is simply a request to have access to your child under Article 21 of the Hague.

3. Question: I am American, but I do not currently live in the United States, can I still submit an Article 21 Hague Application to see my child?

    Answer: Yes.

4. Question: Will this process subject me to the Jurisdiction of the Japanese courts, and affect the US Court jurisdiction over my case?

    Answer: It will not affect your US jurisdiction of your case, but the Japanese court system may be utilized under the Hague in facilitating the access to your child. The extent to which the Japanese court system will be used is really a matter of how the Hague implementing legislation is written in Japan.

5. Question: I am not a US Citizen. Can I participate?

    Answer: Yes and no. You cannot file via Stephen Cullen with the US State Department. However, you can file an Article 21 Hague Access application through your country of citizenship, and I highly encourage you to do so to further test Japan’s system. 

6. Question: What will this cost me?

    Answer: Stephen, whose normal attorney fees are about $800 per hour, is doing this PRO BONO. There will probably only be small costs associated with copying, and filing fees.

So what’s the first step? Stephen has asked me to collect as many names as possible of as many parents who would be interested in filing Hague Article 21 Applications. We are hoping to get at least 50, and if we get 100 that would be a tremendous success. I will collect your information centrally for Stephen and then his office will be contacting you to begin the process. I am not sure if he will begin the process prior to Japan’s ratification of the Hague or after. I will let you know when I find out.

For now, though, please provide some basic information to me so I can collect it for Stephen. Your name, your current address, phone, email address, and the names and ages of your children. Stephen’s office will collect more information after the process begins, but for now, I’m simply trying to get a parent and child head count and contact information.

Please distribute this request as far and wide as you can among the community of US Citizen parents who have had their children taken from them to or within Japan. The more parents we get, the better!

(End Paul Toland communication)

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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