USA: Why Michigan Amber Alerts are issued only in most serious abduction cases


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DETROIT – Why are Amber Alerts issued only in the most serious abduction cases?

Amber Alerts are only for abductions of children who are under 18 years old and are in danger. A vehicle license number is no longer required.

Amber Alerts are urgent bulletins that interrupt radio and television broadcasting and send wireless emergency alerts to cellphones.

Other cases use an endangered missing advisory, which has no age restriction and can be issued for children or adults. In those cases, law enforcement notifies the media about the missing person. Unlike during an Amber Alert, there is no emergency alert system to interrupt broadcasting on radio or television, and there is no alert sent to cellphones.

There are several different types of missing cases, including runaways and parental abductions. Each case is evaluated separately.

“That’s why it’s a hard job, and I get a lot of pressure to put an alert out on every kid that goes missing, but could you imagine just the volume of them that are going out?” Michigan State Police spokeswoman Sarah Krebs said. “We really have to have criteria in place to decide what ones get an alert and what ones do not.”

Krebs said parental abductions happen every day. She said that in those situations, there is a big difference between a parent who takes a child because they want parenting time with them and a parent who takes a child because they want to harm them. In a parental situation, an Amber Alert would be issued only if there is a threat to the child.

During an Amber Alert, personal cellphones receive alerts. Krebs said the alerts reach the general public, and often the people being sought, during a particular Amber Alert.

“Our suspects are getting that wireless alert,” Krebs said. “We have seen many children returned almost immediately after that wireless alert going out. The child is recovered, and it’s because it gets their attention, too. I think, sometimes, in the heat of the moment and the emotion of it, they don’t realize what a big deal this was until they get that Amber Alert on their phone.”

For more information on Michigan’s missing child alert policies, click here.

USA: Failure of state parental kidnapping bill may leave some parents with little recourse


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Utah legislators considered a bill this year that, if passed, would have made it a criminal offense for one parent to keep a child from the other parent in a way that deprived the other parent of seeking relief from the courts.

The inspiration behind House Bill 173 is a little girl now living in rural Cache Valley. She is the daughter of Kurt Falslev of Benson, and at age 9, she now wears a tracking device so she can be found if her mother attempts to flee the area with her again.

Rep. Val Potter sponsored the bill with support from the Cache County Attorney’s Office after they were unable to prosecute the child’s mother last year, but it failed to reach the floor of the Utah Senate.

“The state really should not be weighing in on what parent gets custody and how much time … that should be determined by private parties and by the court,” Cache County Chief Deputy Tony Baird said. “What we do have an interest in is making sure both parties have an opportunity to go before the court and assert those rights. This bill penalizes someone for not allowing the other parent to get into court and litigate that issue.”

Falslev said he and his former wife, a native of Mexico, were married there in 2007. Their daughter was later born there, and when the baby was four or five months old, the family moved to Benson.

About a year later, Falslev said his then-wife approached him at the family farm and said her great-grandmother was seriously ill, so they returned to Southwestern Mexico to be with her family.

However, on their arrival, Falslev said, his wife’s great-grandmother appeared to be in good health. Less than 10 days later — just before the couple was to return to Utah — he said he was presented with divorce papers that he refused to sign and he found himself on the street.

 

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It would be 8 years before he saw his child again.

When Falslev returned to Utah, he filed locally for divorce and custody of his daughter. The papers were served to his estranged wife through a stake president near her, and she reportedly signed them and the divorce was granted in February 2009.

Over the next eight years, Falslev said he had phone contact with his daughter twice for mere minutes. His former wife continually changed her phone number, and when she eventually moved back into the United States, he was not notified.

Last year, a photo of the child surfaced on Facebook, and with some detective work, it led authorities to his daughter in Minnesota, where she was living with her mother.

Once they knew where she was, Falslev was able to hire an attorney and obtain a court order authorizing him to pick her up and bring her home.

“It’s a miracle we got her back, but this just shouldn’t have happened,” Falslev said.

The child’s mother was arrested and transported to Utah, and the Cache County Attorney’s Office charged the woman with custodial interference, a third-degree felony — but the charges were later dismissed.

In the meantime, the child’s mother has supervised visitation with the child.

Terryl Warner is a victims’ advocate for the Cache County Attorney’s Office, and she explained to the Senate what happened.

“We found a loophole recently when we went to prosecute a woman who had taken her child for eight years. The woman had never been properly served under the Hague Convention — actually, we believe it was a proper service — but under the Hague Convention there are 49 parts of a proof of service,” Warner said.

The Hague Convention is an international agreement that preserves existing court orders regarding the custody of children under the age of 16 in order to discourage parents from taking a child to another country as part of a custody dispute.

“The child was rescued, the mother was arrested and the case was dismissed because prosecutors could not prove that she had been properly served with the custodial papers.

“So we will prosecute somebody for not returning a child overnight or withholding visitation, but we could not prosecute a woman who had run off for eight years,” Warner said.

House Bill 173 was an amendment to the existing custodial interference statute that attempted to correct that loophole in the law.

Passage of the bill will not affect the Falslevs, but it could make a difference for three other children in the state, including one other Cache Valley child.

Brenda Gomez Madrigal was reportedly abducted by her non-custodial father in 2004, when she was three years old. He possibly took the child to Mexico, but local authorities don’t even know if she is still alive at this point, Warner said.

While the bill passed easily through the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee during this year’s legislative session, some members of the same Senate committee were not prepared to move the bill forward.

There was concern about how the proposed change in statute would affect law enforcement, with a belief that officers would be required to weigh in on a dispute and be the judge in the absence of a court order.

state_flag_utahHowever, Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen said the bill would have little impact on how police handle disputes — something they already do every day.

Officers try not to become involved and will direct people to confer with their attorneys, but occasionally decisions have to be made with some immediacy.

“But we don’t make decisions with finality,” Jensen said. “That is for the courts to decide.”

Another concern about the bill is the ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a parent was unable to exercise the civil remedies available to him or her.

Senators Lyle Hillyard and Todd Weiler were in favor of moving the bill out of committee.

“I would rather err on the side of safety for the poor (parent) who doesn’t have money, who doesn’t have resources and doesn’t know where (his/her) child is or if the child is safe or unsafe,” Hillyard said.

But, with two nays and three members absent, the bill failed in the Senate committee.

“I wish it would have passed but it gives us the opportunity to continue to try to improve it,” Baird said.

The amendment as it was written this year makes it a Class B misdemeanor if the child is not removed from the state and an A misdemeanor if there has been a prior offense. A child who is taken out of state (or out of the country) under this section of the statute could be charged with a third-degree felony.

USA: Shoreline dad fights to get his son and other abducted kids back


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SHORELINE, Wash. — Jeffery Morehouse’s memories are aging. That’s the nature of a seven-year wait.

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Morehouse last saw his son, Mochi, on Father’s Day 2010. The boy was 6 at the time. His mother, Morehouse’s estranged wife, then abducted him to Japan where they remain today.

Morehouse took the fight to Japanese court, where he says a judge ruled in 2014 that his U.S. custody order has legal effect in Japan. But it was never enforced by the Japanese government or authorities.

Mochi’s story is part of a larger issue of parental abductions overseas. Morehouse helped start Bring Abducted Children Home (BAC Home) in 2011 to help other parents left behind. There are more than 1,000 U.S. children kidnapped each year.

The organization has enlisted the help of politicians in Washington state and D.C. Last year, Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell signed onto a letter to President Obama asking that he bring up the issue on a trip to Japan.

More than 400 American children have been kidnapped to Japan since the U.S. State Department began tracking cases in 1994.

Morehouse says he doesn’t know what came out of that effort.

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“It’s incredibly frustrating,” he said. “Because it seems very simple to me, to bring him home. It really at this point would change everything if President Trump would speak out publicly on Mochi’s kidnapping, and all the other children that have been kidnapped to Japan.”

Morehouse made his ninth trip to Washington, D.C., last week. He’s asking more politicians to go public in the fight for parents left behind.

He says he met with White House staff, who he hopes will take on parental abductions overseas. He believes public pressure from U.S. politicians could lead other countries to return American children.

Morehouse also met with Seattle Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. Her staff says she will write a letter to the Department of Justice, asking them to renew extradition efforts for Mochi.

“I have this overwhelming feeling that he’s here somewhere,” Morehouse said. “I just can’t find him.”

Morehouse also took part in a hearing with the House Foreign Affairs Committee titled ‘Enforcement Is Not Optional,’ led by Representative Chris Smith, R-N.J.

“One of the things that really does give me hope is when we have these great moments of progress,” Morehouse said.

He hopes they’re one step closer to bringing Mochi home.

UK: Man arrested on child abduction charges to be returned to Norway


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The Norwegian resident who was arrested at the airport on child abduction charges is due to return to Norway. A warrant of committal was granted at the Magistrates’ Court today which 36 year old Mustapha Badri did not oppose. Badri was arrested at Gibraltar airport attempting to travel to Morocco with his 3 year old son who he had taken from Norway without the knowledge and consent of the child’s mother.

He has 15 days to appeal the order however he has indicated he will not do so as he is keen to return to Norway as quickly as possible. The child has been returned to his mother’s care.

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Man arrested as he boarded Tangier flight

March 21, 2017

A 36 year old man of dual Norwegian and Moroccan nationality has been arrested by officers of the Royal Gibraltar Police following a request by the Norwegian authorities.

Mustapha BADRI, resident in Norway, was detained as he attempted to board a flight from Gibraltar to Tangier on Thursday the 16th March 2017. His presence was detected by Borders and Coastguard Officers.

BADRI appeared before the Magistrates’ Court yesterday and was remanded in custody pending the consideration of the extradition request.

The Norwegian authorities allege that BADRI abducted his 3 year old son, with whom he was intending to fly to Morocco. The child has been placed in care following the execution of police emergency protection powers, said the RGP.

Australia: How to prevent the risk of international child abduction in family law matters


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April 6 2017

With the number of kidnapping cases rising and children being unlawfully taken overseas, divorced and separated parents are being urged to look for the warning signs, according to a leading international family law expert.

Barry.Nilsson. Special Counsel Terrence Trainor said with more people traveling and emigrating overseas and the incidence of divorce and separation increasing, international child abduction was a growing problem.

The warning comes in the wake of a case currently before the courts which dates back to 2013 involving an Egyptian national who claims he was involved in a ruse to lure him to Cooktown while his child was recovered from Egypt back to Australia.

Mr Trainor said awareness was often the best protection, and he advises separating couples with international passports or working abroad to consider whether their child/children may be at risk of abduction.

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“For some, child abduction back to the country of origin can become a desperate reality and, depending on the jurisdiction in question, there is no guarantee the foreign courts will support the return of an abducted child,” Trainor says.

Australia has one of the highest per capita rates in the world of parents unlawfully kidnapping their children and taking them overseas1.

In the last financial year, 137 Australians applied to Hague Convention signatories to have their children returned2.

According to the latest figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics3, the number of marriages between two people born in Australia has decreased from 61.4% in 2005 to 54.2% of all marriages in 2015.

Conversely, the number of Australian marriages between two people born in the same overseas country has increased over the same period, from 8.7% in 2005 to 13.9% in 2015. Marriages of people born in different countries accounted for 31.9% of all marriages in 2015 compared with 29.9% in 2005.

So what are the danger signs?

“If you feel that you’re having relationship difficulties and your partner has a strong heritage connection with another country then you need to start asking questions,” says Trainor, who specialises in international family law matters which include Hague Convention4 cases.

“You would also be more troubled if your spouse/partner’s extended family is living in another country which is not a signatory to the Hague Convention.

“Generally there are signs and odd behaviours that could indicate a potential child abduction risk.

“More phone calls home, money shifting out of accounts, a partner asking to update passports all of a sudden or disclosing that he or she wants to visit a family member in their home country who they haven’t seen for 20 years, should raise some red flags.”

“The most important thing is to understand the risks and to keep your eyes wide open to the possibility that one parent may take their child out of the country with no intention of returning them.”

Here are Trainor’s five tips to help prevent the risk of international child abduction:

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1. Understand the risks Do the children have multiple nationalities and either a current or lapsed passport? Do the countries in question allow for one parent to have a passport issued or reissued or visa issued?

2. Know where the passports are held Hang onto them if you are concerned and sometimes they can be held by a relative.

3. Contact the embassy or passport service If you are concerned a new passport may have issued.

4. Speak to your solicitor They can apply for the children to be placed on the family law watchlist which means the children and passports will be flagged with the Australian Federal Police. Note you will need to have evidence or reasons to support an application. This has practical issues if the parents are still together.

5. Are the countries Hague Convention countries? If yes, then you are better placed to have the children returned if they did manage to leave the jurisdiction.

For more on international child abduction, listen to Terrence’s interview on ABC Nightlife here.

1International Social Services, Living in Limbo, 2005 Report

2Hague Convention Application Statistics, Australian Government, Attorney-General’s Department

3ABS Marriages and Divorces Australia 2015

4The Hague Convention is an international treaty signed by multiple countries including Australia to ensure that parenting orders made by one country are upheld by the other. In countries which are not signatory to the Hague Convention, it can be difficult to locate and have children returned from these countries.

USA, Japan: Local Man Asking Trump Administration to Help Get His Children Back From Japan


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April 06, 2017 10:55 PM

A Maple Grove man is asking the Trump Administration to pressure Japan to give his children back.

James Cook was in Washington D.C. Thursday fighting for his kids.

He testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. They’re investigating international treaties to return children abducted by a parent.

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Cook’s wife took their four kids to Japan in 2014. He has been awarded custody, but can’t get them back.

Cook told the congressional committee he hopes Vice President Mike Pence will help when he visits Japan in late April.

“I hereby respectfully request that Vice President Mike Pence speak with these Japanese officials and ask them to have Japan meet their international obligation to comply with the Hague convention and return our children to their habitual residence in Minnesota,” he said.

“Excuses may be offered why they cannot, but I know Japan will force their return if required.”

Cook said Congressman Erik Paulsen has been supportive of his efforts.

“This is a situation no parent or child should ever have to go through, and I completely sympathize with James and his children during this trying episode,” Paulsen said in an emailed statement.

“My office and I have been exploring various channels to reunite James with his four kids and hope we can help the Cook family reach a resolution soon.”

The issue of international family abduction is complicated. And it’s something many don’t hear much about.

Cook has been working with Jane Straub from the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center to figure out how to get his children back.

The last time he saw them was 2015.

“I have two sets of twins,” he said. “I have 14-year old-boys and I have a 9-year-old boy and girl.”

Cook said his wife Hitomi Arimitsu took the children to see her family in Japan in September of 2014, then stopped communicating with him.

He showed court rulings he’s won locally and internationally, including Japan, that give him custody.

“So (in) total (I’ve) probably won 10 cases up to this point,” he said.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached Cook’s wife Hitomi Arimitsu in Japan.

She said international child abduction is not what is going on in this case. She claims she and James had an agreement she would take the children to Japan.

“I have made numerous attempts to facilitate contact between him and the children,” Arimitsu said.

“James does not take advantage of any of them. I want them to have a relationship with their father. Regardless of my disagreements with him regarding our marriage, I think it is important for him to be in their life.”

Arimitsu’s attorney said that in February a Japanese court reversed a previous order giving him custody.  Cook is appealing that decision to higher court in Japan.

Japan has signed treaties that are supposed to prevent international child abduction.

But Cook said Japan has been non-compliant from the beginning.

He said custody battles in Japan are considered private, and children basically belong to the parent who has them.

“And that’s how they view children, quite honestly – as possessions,” he said. “Not as human beings, but as possessions.”

Straub said a case like Cook’s doesn’t always get the attention in should.

“You know working at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, people think (the) only people that take children are strangers,” Straub said.

“We know parent-child abductions happen. And just because that person is a parent, it doesn’t mean that that child is safe.”

Cook said he won’t give up the fight for his kids.

“It’s important to remember these are four little people,” he said. “Four human beings, four U.S. citizens. They’re literally being held hostage in a foreign land.

“And we have the power as a country to get them back.”

Subcommittee Hearing: Enforcement Is Not Optional: The Goldman Act…


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Witnesses

Noelle Hunter, Ph.D.
Founder
iStand Parent Network
(Mother of Child Returned from Mali)
[full text of statement]
[truth in testimony form]

Mr. James Cook
(Father of Children Abducted to Japan)
[full text of statement]
[truth in testimony form]

Augusto Frisancho, M.D.
(Father of Children Abducted to Slovakia)
[full text of statement]
[truth in testimony form]

Mr. Vikram Jagtiani
Co-Founder
Bring Our Kids Home
(Father of Child Abducted to India)
[full text of statement]
[truth in testimony form]

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