Activists call on Japan for US child abductions by one parent abroad
Just over 10,800 American children were victims of international parental abductions from 2009 to 2019, according to a 2020 report from the Congressional Research Service. (Pixabay)
A New Jersey congressman and other advocates have urged the State Department to use the most powerful enforcement tools adopted by Congress in 2014 to bring home American children abducted by a parent living in the United States. abroad – especially in Japan.
“Child abduction is child abuse,” Republican Representative Chris Smith said at a Human Rights Commission Tom Lantos hearing Wednesday. “These young victims, like their abandoned parents, are American citizens who need help from their government when normal legal proceedings are unavailable or have failed.”
The hearing aimed to examine ways in which Sean and David Goldman’s Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act could be better implemented.
Just over 10,800 American children were victims of international parental abductions from 2009 to 2019, according to a 2020 report from the Congressional Research Service. About 4,800 children were returned during that period, according to the report.
Smith, who chairs the bipartisan House committee, called on the State Department to start using sanctions “to promote law enforcement and fire Americans.”
The hearing focused on Japan, where thousands of U.S. military and federal employees are posted. During the session, Smith said he was helping draft a bill that would ârequireâ the State Department to use the enforcement provisions set out in the Goldman Act specifically with respect to Japan.
More robust actions the State Department can take under Goldman Act for countries like Japan with “a pattern of non-compliance” are issuing public statements detailing unresolved cases; public condemnation; delay or cancellation of official or state visits; suspension of US development aid; and formal extradition requests.
âEach county and each case, as we all know, is unique, as are the cultural values ââthat are reflected in the laws of each country,â Smith said. âWhy, for example, are we facing such challenges in Japan, a country with which we otherwise have not only good but excellent relations? “
Japan does not recognize the concept of shared custody, and its courts instead award custody to a parent on what is called the âprinciple of continuity,â he said.
âIn other words, if the child is in one household, it should not be disturbed,â Smith said. âIt’s time for that to change, absolutely change. Not only does the law not punish a parent who runs away with a child, it rewards the abducting parent.
The State Department declined the committee’s invitation to testify at the hearing, which Smith called “deeply disappointing.”
Advocates for parents of abducted children have also called for a stronger application of Foggy Bottom.
âJapan is internationally known as a black hole for child abduction,â Jeffery Morehouse, executive director of the nonprofit Bring Abducted Children Home, said in written testimony to the committee.
Citing figures from the US government, Morehouse said more than 475 American children have been kidnapped in Japan since 1994. He said Japan has yet to help with the reunification and return of child victims.
âFor seven years, the Goldman Act was not used to its potential by the State Department,â he said. “It is high time that an overhaul forced the state to be true to the intent of the act – to return our kidnapped children.”
Noelle Hunter, president and co-founder of iStand Parent Network Inc., another organization devoted to the issue, also criticized the State Department for enforcing laxity.
“As a lecturer on international relations, I would like to ask why the State Department seems delighted with the proceedings – the little stick with which they gently assail nations with diplomatic flaps on grounds of non-compliance in the return. America’s stolen children – when the Goldman Law is filled with increasingly heavy and growing enforcement tools, âHunter, a political scientist at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, said in written testimony.