Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) today praised the determination by the Trump administration to accurately reflect the conditions in Japan on international parental child abduction, and thereby to support left-behind parents.
“For the first time, the State Department has held Japan accountable for its repeated failures to return abducted American children, including the Elias children who were abducted from their family in New Jersey in 2008,” said Rep. Smith.
The State Department on Wednesday released its Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction—by a law Smith authored in 2014—the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (P.L. 113-150). The report listed Japan as “non-compliant” with their duties under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Smith has held more than a dozen hearings in Congress to highlight the plight of parents and children left emotionally and financially destitute by international parental child abduction. Sgt. Michael Elias and his family have testified at these hearings as has Jeffery Morehouse and James Cook—both of whom won court rulings in Japan only to have the rulings unenforced. Cook testified at a recent hearing chaired by Rep. Smith on “No Abducted Child Left Behind: An Update on the Goldman Act,” which focused on Japan’s failure to resolve child abduction cases and obey the court-ordered return of children to a parent.
While the State Department report acknowledged progress in Japan, it underscored that “there were no effective means to enforce the [return] order[s], resulting in a pattern of noncompliance.”
In March, Japan’s Supreme Court ruled that it is illegal for a taking parent to refuse a court order to return a child, but Japan still lacks an enforcement mechanism.
The State Department also indicated that it is working with Japan to resolve the 21 long-standing abduction cases that predate Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and must be resolved through other means.
“With this report, the State Department wields the truth in service of broken and bereft American families, laying bare the records of countries that allow abductors to get away with ripping a child from his or her home and other parent, often in contravention of standing U.S. court orders on shared custody,” said Smith. “Child abduction is child abuse.”
Other countries listed by the report as non-compliant with the Hague Convention are Argentina, the Bahamas, Brazil, China, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, India, Japan, Jordan, Morocco, Peru, and United Arab Emirates.
Smith’s Goldman Act mandated the yearly submission of the report on international child abduction to inform judges around the world who are presiding over cases of child custody and travel, and to put pressure on countries that fail to return abducted children. The Goldman Act is named after a New Jersey father (David Goldman) and son (Sean Goldman) who were successfully reunited after the father’s five year-long battle in foreign courts to regain custody rights, without the decisive support of the U.S. government.
According to the law, a country that has adopted the Hague Convention should be listed as non-compliant if it has consistently failed to enforce the court-ordered return of children to a parent or if its judiciary has consistently failed to apply the Hague Convention, or if 30 percent or more of child abduction cases within that country are unresolved.
Between 2008 and 2017, nearly 11,000 children were unlawfully removed from their country of residence by one of their parents, without the consent of the other parent or the permission of the courts; the children in such cases almost always deprived of contact with their other parent. According to State Department reports, there are around 600 new abductions from the U.S. under such circumstances every year.
According to the Goldman Act, today’s report will be followed by a second State Department “Actions Report” detailing what actions the State Department has taken in relation to non-compliant countries such as Japan. Actions include, but are not limited to:
· a demarche (a petition or protest through diplomatic channels);
· an official public statement detailing unresolved cases;
· a public condemnation;
· a delay or cancelation of one or more bilateral working, official, or state visits;
· the withdrawal, limitation, or suspension of U.S. development assistance;
· the withdrawal, limitation, or suspension of U.S. security assistance;
· the withdrawal, limitation, or suspension of foreign assistance to the central government of a country relating to economic support; and
· a formal request to the foreign country concerned to extradite an individual who is engaged in abduction and who has been formally accused of, charged with, or convicted of an extraditable offense.