US Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) calls for action against Japan’s child abductions, introduces legislation to US Congress

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Courtesy Paul Toland.  Emphases in original.  Arudou Debito

chrissmithletterhead

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jeff Sagnip (609) 585-7878

Sept. 29, 2009                                                                             http://chrissmith.house.gov

Smith Legislation Sanctions Countries that Refuse to Help Left-Behind Parents

Father Arrested in Japan Underscores Need for Reforms

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The case of an American father who has been arrested in Japan for attempting to regain access to his children, taken to Japan by his ex-wife in violation of a U.S. court order, is helping to raise awareness of the increasing problem of international parental child abduction and the heartbreak and frustration suffered by the parents left behind.

“International child abduction violates the rights of the left behind parent and the rights of the child to know both parents,” said Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), a senior Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a Congressional Representative to the United Nations.  “Sadly, international child abductions are on the increase.  In the last three years, reported international child abductions have increased 60 percent.”

Christopher Savoie of Tennessee was arrested earlier this week in Japan after he attempted to reclaim his two children who were taken to Japan by his ex-wife a month ago in direct violation of a U.S. court order. Savoie was taken into custody and is facing criminal charges.

Historically, parents left behind when their children are abducted to Japan have little hope and little recourse for justice because the Japanese government ignores U.S. family court rulings and will not honor the rights of American parents.  Even in “extreme cases” such as when the abducting parent passes away, the Japanese government has not returned the child to the left behind parent. In fact, there is no known case of Japan ever returning an abducted  Japanese-American child to the left behind parent.

“There is an opportunity here to turn a new page,” Smith said. “There is a glimmer of hope, and some encouraging signs that the new administration under the leadership of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will approach the issue of international parental child abduction in a way that recognizes the right of the adult parent.  The case of Chris Savoie sheds light on the more than 100 open cases  of American parents who have been blocked from their rightful access to their children in Japan.

“I urge the Prime Minister to see this incident as a catalyst,” Smith said. He should form a task force and deal expeditiously, compassionately and judiciously to bring reconciliation and reunification to children abducted to Japan and their parents left behind.”

Smith has been working to push the U.S. Congress and the Obama Administration to better address international child abductions in Japan and elsewhere around the world. In July, he introduced the “International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009”, H.R. 3240, at a press conference alongside left behind parents from across the country whose children have been abducted to Japan and Brazil (bill summary). One case has garnered significant attention: David Goldman the father of abducted American-born Sean Goldman, now 9, has been fighting to bring Sean home from Brazil for more than five years. There are currently over 2,800 American children being held in foreign countries against the wishes of a left behind parent.

“My legislation, HR 3240 empowers the United States to more aggressively pursue the resolution of abduction cases,” Smith said.  “Our current system is not providing justice for left behind parents or for children whisked away from their mom or dad. Congress must act so that more children are not further traumatized by parental abduction.”

Key provisions of the Smith legislation include:

  • Requires the President to respond with a range of mutually reinforcing penalties, including sanctions against a country, when that country has shown a pattern of non-cooperation in resolving child abduction cases
  • Creates the position of Ambassador at Large for International Child Abduction within the State Department to advise the Secretary of State and raise the profile of the more than 2,800 children who have been abducted.
  • Empowers the Ambassador at Large to pursue additional legal frameworks abroad, including bilateral agreements with countries that have not yet acceded to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
  • Authorizes greater resources for a new office within the State Department to better assist left behind parents and expand the State Department’s ability to collect detailed information on abductions.

Child abduction is child abuse,” Smith said. “The kidnapped child is at risk for serious emotional and psychological problems. As adults, they may struggle with identity issues, their own personal relationships and parenting.

“We can and must do better to help children abducted by a parent and to assist the parents left behind.

ENDS

4 comments on “US Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) calls for action against Japan’s child abductions, introduces legislation to US Congress

  • I was going to write a letter to my congressman requesting firmer measures be taken against child abduction, but I’m glad to see Christopher Smith is already on it. I’m going to ask my congressmen to fully support H.R. 3240.

  • I am not a US citizen so the law would not affect me directly but the first of the 4 points while sounding great would likely prove totally ineffective in practice. What seems the most practical idea to me is that there should be a requirement that in divorce proceedings where one of the parents is from a non-Hague country that parent must get confirmation (before being able to travel with the children to their home country) from the court in their home country that the decision already made is confirmed and that any future proceedings are to be continued in the habitual country.

    I agree this would be inconvenient for the parent from the non-Hague country but it would get many citizens from that country to put pressure on their own government to change. This is the best hope for getting change in countries like Japan.

  • More news:

    US Congressman Smith renews call for child-abduction act
    Thursday, October 01, 2009
    Erin Duffy
    http://www.nj.com/news/times/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-18/125437592397210.xml&coll=5

    The case of a Tennessee man who was arrested Monday in Japan for attempting to reclaim custody of his children has led U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-Hamilton, to renew the call for a bill that would pressure countries to return children taken abroad during custody battles.

    The latest case involves Christopher Savoie, who faces criminal charges after being arrested in Japan for seizing his two children on their way to school Monday morning.

    Savoie’s ex-wife, Noriko, apparently brought the children to Japan in August in violation of a U.S. court order, according to a release from Smith.

    The release states that Japan has traditionally declined to honor U.S. family court rulings in cases of international child abduction, leading Smith to call on the government of Japan to settle the case of Savoie and other Americans whose children have been taken to Japan indefinitely by the other parent.

    “I urge the prime minister to see this incident as a catalyst,” said Smith. “He should form a task force and deal expeditiously, compassionately and judiciously to bring reconciliation and reunification to children abducted to Japan and their parents left behind.”

    Smith recently garnered headlines for his active role in the fight to bring 9-year-old Sean Goldman back to America.

    The Monmouth County boy has been living in Brazil for more than five years after his mother brought him there for what was supposed to be a vacation. She later died in childbirth, and Smith traveled with Sean’s father, David Goldman, to Brazil in February in an attempt to reunite father and son. Smith has since introduced the International Child Abduction Act of 2009, which would allow penalties such as sanctions against a country with “a pattern of noncooperation in resolving child-abduction cases.”

    The incident involving Savoie has only highlighted the need for such reform, said Smith, who claims that 2,800 American children are currently residing in foreign countries against the wishes of one parent.

    “Our current system is not providing justice for left behind parents or for children whisked away from their mom or dad,” Smith said. “Congress must act so that more children are not further traumatized by parental abduction.”

    ENDS

  • I started working professionally as a consultant in international child abduction, providing testimony in cases all over the USA. I wrote a book, and went to school and am a Cross Border Family Mediator. I train judges, lawyers, and mediators. I have handled more than 1,000 cases.
    Now that I have qualified myself, I want Congressman Smith to know that I have written, faxed and telephoned his office – trying desperately to provide him with training and resource information for military families – and all families going through abduction. I have not been successful. I have failed. I created a training curriculum that was approved by the VA Office of the Executive Secretary & American Bar Assocation. We started training Oct. 2009. Families need and deserve to have information that can assist them in resolving these most heart breaking conflicts. My child was abducted in 1993. I never saw her again.

    maureendabbagh@aol.com
    http://www.dabbaghandassociates.net (not .com)

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