State Dept. Testifies at Child Abduction HearingSmith: Negotiate MOU with Japan Concurently with the Hague Convention…

Posted on July 29, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Domestic Violence (DV), Hague Convention, Human Rights, Japanese Family Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

 

Washington, Jul 28 – The fate of more than 2,400 abducted American children was the emotional topic at a congressional hearing today held by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees international human rights.Top officials of the U.S. State Department explained U.S. administration efforts to return the children to the U.S. A heavy emphasis was placed on Japan, which is not one of the 85 signatory nations of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

It is on behalf of left behind parents –in recognition of the extreme pain they suffer as victims of international child abduction, and in recognition of our own duty as the U.S. government to help bring their children home—that we hold this hearing today,” Smith said. “I believe child abduction is a global human rights abuse—a form of child abuse—that seriously harms children while inflicting excruciating emotional pain and suffering on left-behind parents and families.” Click here to read Chairman Smith’s opening remarks.

Smith, who chairs subcommittee on human rights of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said international child abduction occurs when one parent unlawfully moves a child from his or her country of residence, often for the purpose of denying the other parent rightful access to the child. “Left behind” parents from across the country, including David Goldman of Monmouth County, N.J., who Smith helped win a five-year battle to bring his son home from Brazil in December 2009, Chris Savoie, who was arrested by Japanese law enforcement when he attempted to recover his own children in 2009, and other desperate parents.

Japan is the only G-7 nation to not sign the treaty.  Congress is not aware of any case where a Japanese court has issued and enforced an order to return an abducted child to the U.S. In fact, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, the European Union, Spain, U.K. & France have all pressed Japan to both sign the treaty and act to allow visitation, communication and a framework, or memorandum of understanding (MOU), to resolve current cases.

I and many others urge the Obama Administration to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with the Japanese to ensure that the 123 left behind parents are not left behind a second time—this time by treaty promises that won’t apply to them,” said Smith, who traveled to Japan in February with the family of Rutherford, N.J. resident and Iraqi war veteran Michael Elias to meet with U.S. and Japanese officials. Elias’s two children were abducted with the help of the Japanese Consulate in contravention of U.S. court orders in 2008.

Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State at the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the State Department, testified that the unaddressed issue of international child abduction to Japan remains a serious concern for the Department of State and the United States Government.

While the Convention will only apply to cases that arise after ratification, we continue at all levels to encourage the Government of Japan to implement measures that would resolve existing child-abduction cases and allow parents currently separated from their children to reestablish contact with them and ensure visitation rights,” Campbell said.

We are prepared to use all necessary political and legal means necessary to facilitate contact and access for parents and abducted children,” Campbell said. “Currently the left-behind parents of children abducted to or from Japan have little hope of having their children returned and encounter great difficulties in obtaining access to their children and exercising their parental rights and responsibilities.” Click here to read Campbell’s testimony.

Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor for Children’s Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department, told Smith and the human rights panel that the State Department welcomed Congressional support as it urges countries such as Korea, India and Japan to join the Hague Convention.

The prevention and prompt resolution of abduction cases are of paramount importance to the United States,” Jacobs said. Click here to read Jacob’s testimony.

Thursday’s  hearing follows the direct, emotional testimony at a May hearing of left-behind parents, who in most cases have never seen their children again after the abduction.

After returning from Brazil with abducted child Sean Goldman and his left behind New Jersey dad, Smith introduced “The International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2011”. The bill, H.R. 1940, would establish an Ambassador-at-Large dedicated to international child abduction, and office within the State Department to aggressively work to resolve abduction cases. The legislation would also prescribe a series of increasingly punitive actions and sanctions the president and State Department may impose on a nation that demonstrates a “pattern of non-cooperation” in resolving child abduction cases.  In September 2010 Smith cosponsored and managed the debate in the House chamber on a similar bipartisan measure, H. Res. 1326, calling on the Government of Japan to resolve the many cases involving American children abducted to Japan. The bill passed 416-1.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

When will American abducted children be returned from Japan? (video)

Posted on February 3, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Hague Convention, Video | Tags: , , , , |

Assistant Secretary Campbell briefs the foreign press at the DC Foreign Press Center on U.S. Foreign Policy Goals and Objectives in Southeast Asia for 2011, at the National Press Club Building. The big question of the day happened to be the last question. Global Future asked, with all of the speculation about signing the Hague Convention, do you (Mr. Campbell) have any idea when the abducted American children will be returned from Japan? (The question was asked at the 32:01 minute mark; move the slider at the bottom of the screen to the 32:01 minute mark to hear the question and Secretary Campbell’s response) Click on the link to watch the video : Campbell video

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

International Child Abduction Testimony by Ernie Allen (2009)

Posted on January 24, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Hague Convention, Parental Alienation Syndrome | Tags: , , , , |

 

ERNIE ALLEN, President & Chief Executive Officer for THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN testifies in Washington, D.C. before the TOM LANTOS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION about “INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION AND PARENTAL ACCESS”

December 2, 2009

According to the latest research from the Department of Justice, there are more than 200,000 family abductions per year.  In these situations, a non-custodial relative abducts a child from his or her custodial parent.  This is a crime under both state and federal law.  Family-abducted children suffer extreme emotional abuse, ranging from lack of identity to grief over the loss of a parent.  In many instances the abductor tells the child that the left-behind-parent is dead or no longer wants the child. Abductors frequently move the child from city to city, or take the child to another country, making it difficult for law enforcement and the searching parent to locate and recover the child.

To help illustrate the scope of the problem of international child abduction, I’d like to share some additional statistics with you.  NCMEC is currently working cases involving 1,214 children who were abducted by a non-custodial parent from the United States to a foreign country. The majority of these children were taken to the following countries: Mexico (533 children); Japan (54 children); India (32 children); Egypt (30 children); the United Kingdom (24 children); and Canada (23 children).

To read Mr. Allen’s full testimony please click on the link below.

Ernie Allen testimony

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

U.S. Government Initiatives to Address Children’s Rights Issues by Tony Del Vecchio

Posted on January 23, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Hague Convention, Parental Alienation Syndrome | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Introduction

The government of the United States is deeply concerned about the issues of international parental child abduction and child custody/visitation with respect to its close friend and ally, Japan. Due to its sole-parent child custody system, its reluctance to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction[1], and the fact that it has never returned a single child abducted from abroad to his or her rightful home, Japan has earned an international reputation as a safe haven for kidnappers. Over the past several years, U.S. lawmakers have begun making concerted efforts to end the tragic situations affecting a great many American families due to Japan’s antiquated family law system and its inexplicable disregard for international norms.

The U.S. State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues states there are 100 active cases involving 140 American children who have been abducted from the U.S.A. and who are now being held in Japan in violation of American law.[2] Many of the Japanese nationals guilty of these abductions have court orders against them and are subject to arrest by the F.B.I. and prosecution by federal courts for kidnapping should they again set foot on U.S. soil.[3] In the United States and most advanced nations child abduction is an extremely serious crime. Japan lags far behind other developed countries by failing to recognize this common sense, international consensus and by not legislating child abduction as a punishable criminal offense.

In addition, it is estimated that at least 3,200 American children residing in Japan are being denied access to one of their parents post-divorce.[4] This is due to the Japanese child custody system that awards shin ken (parental rights) to only one parent upon divorce and also severely limits child access to the other parent thereafter. In the case of international marriages, foreign parents are greatly disadvantaged in Japanese courts,[5] and Japanese nationals almost invariably receive sole parental rights. Once shin ken is granted to one parent, the other has no further legal rights with regard to his or her child’s upbringing, and the shin ken holder may deny that other parent access to the child at his or her whim. Since no specific provision for visitation exists under Japanese statute, and since Japanese courts in any event lack any real enforcement powers, the left-behind parent – i.e., the parent without parental rights – is at the mercy of his or her former Japanese spouse. Child visitation is frequently denied outright or severely curtailed, and in any event is always subject to the caprice of the shin ken holder.

These two issues – international parental child abduction and child custody/visitation – are beginning to strain the friendly relations the United States and Japan have enjoyed since the end of World War II. In response to the seriousness of this situation, the U.S. House of Representatives has recently begun taking steps to address what the United States considers to be gross violations of the human rights of American children and their parents by the Japanese nation.

H.Res. 1326 (House Resolution 1326

H.Res. 1326[6] is a non-binding resolution approved on September 29, 2010, by a vote of 416 to 1 in the U.S. House of Representatives. The resolution 1) “condemns the abduction and retention” of American children by Japanese nationals and demands their repatriation, 2) calls upon Japan to create enforceable laws that guarantee American parents the right to visitation with their children, and 3) urges Japan to accede to the Hague Convention so that established legal mechanisms can be relied upon to resolve custody disputes arising from the dissolution of international marriages. H.Res. 1326 reflects the overwhelming feeling among the American public and its lawmakers that Japan should immediately address these very serious issues for several reasons.

First, removing American citizens from their domiciles in the United States without the consent of the American parents is, as the resolution states, “a violation of their human rights and international law.” As a friend and ally of the United States, Japan should act immediately to end this tragic injustice and restore the family relationships its policies have damaged or destroyed, and thenceforth ensure that the rule of law applies in a reciprocal fashion between the two countries.

Additionally, Japan is viewed as an outlier among the community of advanced nations for not providing for joint custody or enforceable child visitation following divorce. The end result of these policies is frequently the American parent’s complete loss of access to his or her child. Essential family bonds are thus traumatically severed, and the children affected by this tragedy often have to contend with the effects of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), a psychological condition which can result in depression; loss of community; loss of stability, security, and trust; excessive fearfulness, even of ordinary occurrences; loneliness; anger; helplessness; disruption in identity formation; and fear of abandonment.[7]

Finally, Japan is currently the only G-7 country that has not signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, adopted thirty years ago in 1980. This multilateral treaty, in which 82 countries participate, provides a legal means to effect the expeditious repatriation of children abducted from their domiciles in their home countries, termed in the treaty the child’s “place of habitual residence.” Japan’s resistance to becoming a signatory to the convention and its oft-repeated claims that it is “studying” or “considering” the issue are adversely affecting the country’s diplomatic and economic relations with its strategic allies and important trade partners. Over the past year, through a series of démarches, or diplomatic initiatives, America has joined with 11 other nations plus the European Union to pressure Japan to accede to the treaty and also to resolve outstanding child custody and visitation issues.[8] These démarches are evidence of the increasing frustration the global community now feels over Japan’s lack of progress with respect to this important human rights issue.

H.R. 3240 – The International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009

H.R. 3240, entitled The International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009[9], is a bipartisan bill pending before the U.S. House of Representatives that specifically addresses the joint problems of international parental child abduction and loss of child custody/visitation under the Japanese legal system. If approved by the House, H.R. 3240 would, as a federal statute, have the force of law, and would require specific action on the part of the U.S. government to resolve these issues. Among other things, H.R. 3240 would establish an Office of International Child Abductions in the U.S. Department of State and provide for punitive measures for countries deemed to have exhibited a “pattern of non-cooperation” with respect to the protection of children’s rights.

As explained in one summary of the proposed bill,[10] H.R. 3240 would create an Ambassador at Large for International Child Abductions whose primary responsibilities would be to:

1) promote measures to prevent the international abduction of children from the United States;

(2) advocate on behalf of abducted children whose habitual residence is the United States;

(3) assist left-behind parents in the resolution of abduction or refusal of access cases; and

(4) advance mechanisms to prevent and resolve cases of international child abduction.

In addition, the act would direct the President of the United States to:

(1) annually review the status of unresolved cases in each foreign country to determine whether the government has engaged in a pattern of non-cooperation, and if so, designate such country as a Country With a Pattern of Non-cooperation;

(2) notify the appropriate congressional committees of such designation; and

(3) take specified presidential or commensurate actions to bring about a cessation of non-cooperation.

Thus, passage of H.R. 3240 in the House will radically alter the friendly and cooperative relationship America and Japan have traditionally enjoyed, absent a sincere effort on Japan’s part to resolve the fundamental human rights issues the bill addresses. It is hoped that Japan will voluntarily do the right thing and, as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell cautions, not “wait until the situation has become so tense and so difficult that it appears that Japan is only responding to pressure from the United States.”[11]

[1] see http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.text&cid=24

[2] see http://travel.state.gov/abduction/country/country_5227.html

[3] e.g., http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/parent/ryoko-uchiyama/view

[4] see http://www.iapcr.org/japan-stats/

[5] see http://travel.state.gov/abduction/country/country_501.html

[6] see http://thomas.loc.gov/home/gpoxmlc111/hr1326_eh.xml

[7] see “Parental Child Abduction is Child Abuse” by Nancy Faulkner, Ph.D. presented to the United Nations Convention on Child Rights in Special Session, June 9, 1999, at http://www.prevent-abuse-now.com/unreport.htm

[8] see http://tokyo.usembassy.gov/e/p/tp-20101022-71.html

[9] see http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-3240

[10] see http://www.washingtonwatch.com/bills/show/111_HR_3240.html

[11] see http://www.state.gov/p/eap/rls/rm/2010/10/149051.htm

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

U.S. may up child custody pressure

Posted on January 20, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Japanese Family Law | Tags: , , , , , , |

Japan and India are among America’s key allies. Yet to scores of embittered parents across the U.S., they are outlaw states when it comes to the wrenching phenomenon of “international child abduction.

The frustrations of these “left-behind” parents run deep. They seethe over Japan’s and India’s noncompliance with U.S. court orders regarding children taken by the other parent to the far side of the world, and many also fault top U.S. leaders for reluctance to ratchet up the pressure for change.

More than 80 nations have signed an accord aimed at curtailing such incidents, but only a handful of Asian countries are among them. Of the continent’s nonsignatories, Japan and India pose the biggest problem for the U.S. — accounting for more than 300 cases, involving more than 400 children, opened by the State Department since 1994. The State Department says it cares deeply about international parental child abductions, and a surge is expected.

The department’s special adviser on children’s issues, Susan Jacobs, and its top official for Asia, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, have raised the topic on multiple occasions.

Campbell used the word “kidnapping” in protesting the many cases in Japan where mothers living overseas with foreign husbands returned home with their children and kept the fathers from having contact with them.

“This is a hard job — we don’t get as many successes as we want,” said Stefanie Eye, chief of the State Department’s Eastern Hemisphere abductions division. “We want every child in the right place.”

Yet many of the parents feel current U.S. efforts are inadequate, as does their most vocal champion in Congress, Republican Rep. Chris Smith.

After Republicans take control of the House in January, Smith hopes to become chairman of a subcommittee with oversight of human rights issues and use that post to push a bill that would toughen the U.S. approach to child abductions.

The bill would establish the Office on International Child Abductions within the State Department, and create a mechanism for imposing sanctions on uncooperative countries.

“We need the full weight of the federal government behind each and every one of these left-behind parents,” Smith said. “My bill doesn’t guarantee success, but it guarantees their cases will not be ignored. . . . We’re not going to quit until it’s law.”

Smith wrote to President Barack Obama on Nov. 10 — prior to Obama’s recent Asia trip — urging him to step up pressure on Japan to resolve the pending cases. Simply encouraging Japan to join the Hague Convention isn’t sufficient, Smith said, because it wouldn’t be retroactive and thus wouldn’t help parents like Patrick Braden and Scott Sawyer.

Another frustrated father is Michael Elias, 26, a former marine who served in Iraq and now works as a sheriff’s deputy in New Jersey. According to his testimony to Congress, Elias obtained a court order in October 2008 awarding him joint custody of his two children amid the breakup of his marriage to a woman he had met in Japan. He said the woman flew to Tokyo with the children two months later, in defiance of the order, and he has been unable to see them or speak to them by phone even though he has now been awarded full custody by a U.S. court. Elias — whose son is 3 and daughter almost 5 — has attended several informational meetings convened by the State Department for left-behind parents. “Every meeting I’ve ever been to, everybody tells me they’re working better, but I don’t see any progress at all,” he said.

Smith, in September, helped push a resolution through the House of Representatives urging Japan to sign the Hague Convention and return abducted American children. “Americans are fed up with our friend and ally Japan,” Smith said at the time.

In response, the Japanese Embassy in Washington said Japan is making “sincere efforts to deal with this issue from the standpoint that the welfare of the child should be of the utmost importance.”

Many times previously, Japan has said it would consider signing the Hague Convention, but it also has expressed concern that doing so might leave some Japanese women and their children vulnerable to abusive foreign husbands.

Stefanie Eye said that in Japan, unlike many Western countries, it’s accepted practice that only one parent — usually the mother — has custody of a child after a divorce. That leaves many fathers, including foreigners, unable to see their children until they are grown up because of lack of visitation rights. “Part of what we’re doing is offering the Hague country perspective of why it’s important for children to have access to both parents,” Eye said.

The State Department says it knows of no cases where a child taken from the U.S. to Japan by one parent has been ordered by a Japanese court to return to the U.S.

Despite the slow movement in Asia, Eye said she found cause for encouragement: The Foreign Ministry recently opened an office to deal with abduction issues and has been asking “good questions” about the impact if Tokyo signed the Hague Convention.

By DAVID CARRY
The Associated Press

Click here to read the full story

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Articles by Timothy Maier

Posted on January 9, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

I would like to share some older articles written in 1999 and 2000 by Timothy Maier. He focused on Europe and the Middle East but the problems he writes about are the same problems left behind parents face today in Japan and many other countries all over the world. Mr. Maier constantly criticized the State Department for their incompetence. All of the obstacles left behind parents face today were present 10 years ago (the way State classifies cases, how countries are seen as compliant or non-compliant in relation to the Hague, misleading Congress, unwillingness to protect its own citizens, unwillingness to prosecute child abductors, etc.) From State Department attorney Tom Johnson, also a left behind parent, “The (State) Department’s bad faith is especially evident with regard to this point, since Congress itself estimated there to be 10,000 abducted American children abroad when it passed the 1993 International Parental Kidnapping Crimes Act. Congress knows that even the State Department admits to 500 to 1000 new cases annually, and Congress knows that the National Center’s estimate is up to 17,000 per year. These numbers include both Hague and non-Hague cases, but nevertheless indicate the extent of the Department’s attempt to mislead Congress with a report of only 58 unresolved cases.” Timothy Maier interviews parents and introduces their cases and pleas for help. He mentions States refusal to call these atrocities “human rights violations”. Maier talks about Sweden, Saudia Arabia, Germany, France and the parents who abducted their kids to those countries. He talks about how the FBI is reluctant to help it own citizens. He is insightful. Every article sheds light on the problems left behind parents face. Articles (in pdf)

http://www.pdf-finder.com/All-Talk,-No-Action-on-Stolen-Children.html

http://www.pdf-finder.com/FORGOTTEN-CHILDREN—Complicity-in-Child-Abduction.html

http://www.pdf-finder.com/Lady-MeyerStruggles-forParental-Rights.html

http://www.pdf-finder.com/Kidnapped-Kids-Cry-Out-forHelp.html

http://www.pdf-finder.com/Justice-Ignores-Stolen-Kids.html

http://www.pdf-finder.com/AGreat-Escape!.html

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Cherie Booth and Hillary Clinton Join Forces to Fight International Child Abduction

Posted on January 8, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction | Tags: , , , , , , |

In April of 1999, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Cherie Booth, the wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, were the principal guest speakers at the launch of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC). It was a new British-American initiative to find missing children worldwide and to stamp out cross-border child abduction. Secretary Clinton has finally spoken about our issue child abduction to Japan but she has not spoken with passion. One would think this issue is still important to her but we have not seen any significant progress over the last year even though Secretary Clinton is in a position to help. Left behind parents in America need to keep the pressure on the State Department and Congress so the issue continues to be a priority. Foreigners from other countries need to put the pressure on their legislatures in their home country and their embassy in Japan. To read the full article click on the link below.

http://www.icmec.org/missingkids/servlet/NewsEventServlet?LanguageCountry=en_X1&PageId=1236

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...