http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/02/28/national/u-s-official-calls-for-return-of-all-kids-taken-to-japan-after-failed-marriages/

National

U.S. official calls for return of all kids taken to Japan after failed marriages

Feb 28, 2014

WASHINGTON – A State Department official on Thursday called for the return to American parents of all children taken to Japan without their consent by their former Japanese partners after failed international marriages.

“We will not be satisfied until all those children are home where they belong,” Susan Jacobs, special adviser for children’s issues at the department, said in a hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Although Japan is set to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in April, which mandates the return in principle of children taken away from their countries of habitual residence, the pact will not be applied to cases that occurred before Japan becomes a party.

The United States and numerous other countries have repeatedly urged Japan to sign the treaty. The government plans to resubmit in mid-March a set of bills to the Diet necessary for Japan to join the international treaty on settling cross-border child custody disputes.

Jacobs thus sought further action by Tokyo so as to ensure the return of children taken away from their American parents and moved to Japan before the treaty takes effect in Japan.

During the hearing, Jacobs revealed there are 80 such children whose custody is requested by their American parents.

“We have not forgotten cases that still exist,” Jacobs said.

In a statement to the Senate committee, Jacobs said, “We look forward to continued progress with the Japanese government on resolving existing cases in the spirit of the convention.”

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http://www.northjersey.com/community/family/Bill_may_help_left-behind_parents_pursue_kids_in_global_custody_fights.html?page=all

Bill may help ‘left-behind parents’ in global child custody fights

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2013    LAST UPDATED: WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 11, 2013, 12:15 PM
BY  HERB JACKSON
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT
THE RECORD

State Department figures show 7,000 American children were taken by a parent to a foreign country to stay between 2008 and 2012, leaving behind the other parent to fight for custody or visitation rights in places where United States court orders mean nothing.

Michael Elias of Rutherford, in 2010, with a photo of his children.

MICHAEL KARAS/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Michael Elias of Rutherford, in 2010, with a photo of his children.

The result is often heartbreak, as most children never return. Adding to it is the frustration from dealing with both the foreign government and the U.S. State Department, which parents and some in Congress say does not put enough emphasis on getting children back.

“Does the word parental in front of kidnapping make it less of a crime?” Michael Elias of Rutherford asked at a House hearing in May, the second time he’s told his story before Congress in the past three years.

A Marine veteran and Bergen County sheriff’s officer whose wife used illegally issued passports to take their son and daughter to Japan seven years ago, Elias has become one of the public faces for a group that calls itself “left-behind parents.”

His willingness to go public with his personal struggles could pay a small dividend today as the House is expected to give strong bipartisan support to a bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith that pushes the State Department to use more powerful diplomatic tools.

Unfortunately for Elias and those like him, the department is not very interested in the new powers.

In June, Japan took a step forward when it signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an agreement that lays out a framework for custody disputes. But Japan’s action will affect only future cases, and existing disputes will be in a legal limbo.

“All the left-behind parents like Michael Elias will be shut out,” said Smith, a Republican from Robbinsville who is a subcommittee chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Smith has been urging presidents and ambassadors in President Obama’s administration and President George W. Bush’s before him to raise the issue of child abductions at high-level discussions with foreign leaders.

Doing more

Smith’s bill would require the president to take specific actions — ranging from private requests all the way to economic sanctions — if abduction cases are not resolved or if countries show a pattern of non-cooperation. The State Department would have to provide Congress with statistics that Smith says are incomplete now, and pursue separate agreements known as memoranda of understanding with countries that are not likely to sign or abide by the Hague convention.

“The Pollyanna-ish, naive view that the administration keeps spouting is that Japan signing the Hague Convention might create a climate [for solving earlier cases],” Smith said. “There needs to be a memorandum of understanding or a sidebar agreement to say all of the existing cases will be solved civilly and with an eye towards justice.”

A State Department spokes¬man, when asked about Smith’s bill, recommended checking a federal website that the agency has created that spells out how different countries deal with abduction cases.

At the May hearing, the department’s special adviser for children’s issues, Susan Jacobs, disagreed with Smith that a separate agreement with Japan would make any difference.

“We have three memoranda of understanding with Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, and there’s been no enforcement mechanism and no [child] returns,” Jacobs said. “We believe the Hague Convention provides the best opportunity for resolving these cases. One of the problems with Japan is their belief about custody, that one parent is supposed to drop out of the child’s life when there is a divorce.”

She said once the convention takes effect in Japan, she hoped to be able to work on better compliance, and at least provide for some visitation for parents.

Smith’s bill is named after Sean and David Goldman, the Tinton Falls son and father whose case caught national attention after Sean Goldman’s mother took him to Brazil in 2004 and his grandparents sought custody after she died in 2008.

Smith had been pressuring the State Department to act and made two trips with David Goldman to Brazil, which had signed the Hague convention. The boy was finally returned in 2009 after Sen. Frank Lautenberg said he would block action on a trade bill Brazil wanted.

Goldman has called the forces that aligned to help his family a “perfect storm,” but said most families in the same situation struggle with little hope.

No improvement

For Elias, the only developments in recent years have been negative. He was deployed to Iraq when his wife began an affair with a Japanese man. She told Elias she wanted a divorce when he returned from the war.

Bergen County judge awarded joint custody and ordered that the children’s passports be surrendered. But his wife, who had worked in the Japanese consulate in New York, was able to get new passports issued by the Chicago consulate as she and her companion fled with the children.

Smith traveled with Elias’ parents to Japan in 2011, and at the time they were told by authorities that a criminal investigation was under way into the passport issuance.

In February, Elias received a letter notifying that the Japanese prosecutor in the region had concluded no charges would be filed. The letter was dated October 2010, or three months before Smith and Elias’ parents had been in Japan.

“It was a slap in the face,” Elias said. “People tell me I should just pick up the pieces and move on. But two of my pieces are in Japan.”

Email: jackson@northjersey.com
Blog: northjersey.com/|thepoliticalstate

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http://www.app.com/article/20130509/NJNEWS/305090114/Rep-Chris-Smith-pushes-federal-action-NJ-child-abductions

Rep. Chris Smith pushes for federal action on NJ child abductions
May 10, 2013

David Goldman, Monmouth County, is one of the only known left-behind parents to retrieve his child from Brazil.
Written by
Malia Rulon Herman
@mrulon

WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey continued to hammer the U.S. government Thursday over a string of international child abduction cases that remain unresolved, including several from his home state.

“The status quo is simply not adequate,” Smith said at a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on global human rights and international organizations, which he chairs.

Bindu Philips of Plainsboro, N.J., told committee members that while on a family trip to India in December 2008, her ex-husband, Sunil Jacob, left her at a cousin’s home and began a new life with their children — removing all contact.

“Every day I awaken to the heart-wrenching reality that I am separated from the children that I love more than anything in the world,” she said. “I implore you, members of Congress, to help me in my quest to be reunited with my children.”

Philips has an active case with the State Department, has been in touch with the Indian consulates in New York and Washington, and was awarded full custody of both boys by the family division of New Jersey’s Superior Court.

Michael Elias, a former Marine Corps sergeant and now a Bergen County sheriff’s officer, experienced a similar ordeal. It also started in December 2008, when his ex-wife, Mayumi Nakamura, took their two children to Japan and cut off all contact.

He was awarded full custody of the children in Bergen County Superior Court, and the children were ordered to be returned under the Hague Convention, which outlines policies and practices in international abduction cases.

Neither Japan nor India are signatories of the convention.

“As long as your government allows Japan to continue to disregard our children, the number of parental kidnappings will continue to rise,” Elias told lawmakers.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Jacobs, the State Department’s special advisor for children’s issues, told the committee that through the Hague Convention, hundreds of children are returned to the United States each year, many of them from Mexico.

She said reaching out to countries that have not yet joined the convention is one of the department’s top priorities and an issue that Secretary of State John Kerry raised with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida during a visit last month.

Smith said the U.S. government should do more. On Thursday, he re-introduced the Sean and David Goldman Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, a bill named for a Tinton Falls, N.J., man who fought for five years to win the return of his son from Brazil.

The bill would empower the president and State Department with 18 actions and penalties to secure the return of abducted American children.

Goldman, who also testified at Thursday’s hearing, said a “complete culture change” is needed at the State Department.

“Nothing short of being extremely bold and principled is going to do much to change the status quo,” he said.

http://docs.house.gov/Committee/Calendar/ByEvent.aspx?EventID=100812

Hearing: Resolving International Parental Child Abductions to Non-Hague Convention Countries
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations (Committee on Foreign Affairs)

Thursday, May 9, 2013 (10:00 AM)

2172 RHOB

Washington, D.C. 20515-6128

Witnesses
Ms. Patricia Apy
Attorney, Paras, Apy & Reiss, P.C.
Mr. Colin Bower
Father of children abducted to Egypt
Mr. Michael Elias
Father of children abducted to Japan
Mr. David Goldman
Father of child abducted to Brazil
The Honorable Suscan Jacobs
Special Advisor for Children’s Issues, Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Ms. Bindu Philips
Mother of children abducted to India
First Published: May 2, 2013 at 10:02 AM

http://baltimorepostexaminer.com/parents-urge-japan-to-return-abducted-children/2012/07/10

 

Parents urge Japan to return abducted children

BY  · JULY 10, 2012 · NO COMMENTS
·

Jeffrey and Mochi

Imagine getting a phone call stating that your children have been kidnapped. Your spouse has taken your kids to Japan, using the country’s laws to maintain custody. Every day becomes an exhausting task of contacting government officials to help, but little is accomplished.

This scenario is very real to Patrick McPike and the parents of nearly 400 abducted U.S. children living in Japan. Including Japanese children, an estimated 10,000 have been abducted by parents within Japan.

Japan has never returned any of them.

McPike traveled with his family to Japan to complete an assignment for his company. His marriage strained and his wife did the unthinkable.

“It seemed like a good opportunity to provide my wife’s family with an opportunity to spend some time with their grandchildren while they were still young,” McPike said. “When my assignment was up and it was time to come home, my wife abducted the children.”

McPike’s wife cut him off from communication with his two sons, Kai and Koh. The children became victims of Japanese law, which treats child abduction as a custody dispute rather than a felony crime. His wife is living in Japan, but could not be reached or found for comment.

Japan’s view of child abduction is different from the rest of the world. They are not a member of The Hague Convention – a treaty designed to return internationally abducted children to their home nations – and their courts favor one parent having sole custody. In 90 percent of cases, the rights go to the mother.

Japan is revising laws to open the possibility ratifying The Hague, but these changes may not be a total acceptance of The Hague in its current form.

“If we look at the domestic laws submitted by the government in order to execute the Convention, changes have been made with current Japanese public opinion and family court practices in mind, and it is questionable whether the intent of the Hague Convention has been incorporated,” said Takao Tanase, a professor who specializes in Japanese law.

During a U.S. Department of State briefing on U.S. child abductions to Japan, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell spoke about persuading Japan to join The Hague.

“The President also very strongly affirmed the Japanese decision to enter into The Hague Convention,” Campbell said. “He asked that these steps be taken clearly and that the necessary implementing legislation would be addressed.

“This is a human tragedy, that unless you get to experience and get to know these brave parents, it’s just impossible to imagine,” Campbell said.

Getting Japan to join The Hague would be helpful, but McPike says it will not be enough, by itself, to bring back all the missing children.

“The Hague is not enforceable,” McPike said. “The decision to comply with a Hague return is determined by the courts of the abducting country. To solve the problem requires reform of the Japanese system.  They need to hold courts and judges responsible for following the law.  They need to enforce kidnapping laws consistently and they need to provide for joint-custody.”

There have also been concerns about the lack of action from the U.S. per policy, the U.S. Department of State has not formally requested from Japan the return of any abducted U.S. children.

Kai and Koh together laughing in happier times. (Courtesy photo.)

Susan Jacobs, a special adviser for children’s issues for the U.S. Department of State, said that individual cases are raised with the permission of parents and the parents are updated on these discussions. However, most parents say they have not been told of their personal cases being discussed with Japanese government officials.

Ironically, Japan refuses to return U.S. children but they want their own citizens who are abducted to be returned. From 1978-1981, about 16 Japanese teenagers were abducted by North Korea. Five of those children were returned and about six have died. The others are still missing. Japan has come to the U.S. and the U.N. asking for help to get North Korea to return these children.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama have met with Japanese families and assured they would provide help. Yet they have not met with any U.S. parents about their children being abducted to Japan, giving the appearance that they are more concerned with helping Japan.

Parents also question efforts by the U.S. Department of State because of the Mary Lake case.

In 2005, William Lake’s daughter was abducted by his ex-wife and taken to Japan. No one in the Lake family was Japanese, but William’s ex-wife knew of Japan’s custody laws.

On August 24, 2011, Mary Lake went to the U.S. Consulate in Japan and spoke with an official who told her to return home to her abductor since she did not have the money for a plane ticket to the states. Pressure was put on the U.S. Consulate and they aided Mary Lake’s effort to go home to her father the second time.

The return of Mary Lake gave parents of abducted children a small glimmer of hope for their own cases. For McPike and others like Jeffrey Morehouse and Randy Collins, getting their children back has become a daily job.

Morehouse and Collins serve as regional directors for Bring Abducted Children Home (BACHome), an organization established in 2010 to raise awareness of the missing U.S. citizen children kidnapped to in Japan.

Both men testified before the California State Senate Judiciary Committee for Senate Bill 1206 – Child Abduction Prevention. This is just one of many hearings they have attended to gather support.

During his testimony, Morehouse explained that he dropped his son Mochi off with his ex-wife for a parental visit in 2010. His ex-wife had threatened to kidnap Mochi before but the passport policy stated “when both parents have custody of the child, and the child is taken out of the country by one of the parents without consent of the other parent, it is punishable by criminal law.”

The Portland consulate violated the policy and provided his ex-wife with the passport for Mochi. Six days later he received a phone call from the police telling him his wife and child were missing. His wife kidnapped their son to Japan.

“In that moment, my life was shattered,” Morehouse said. “My days became consumed with dealing with local law enforcement, the U.S. Department of State, Japanese consular officials and anything I could think of to find my little boy.

“Every morning I wake up twice. The first time, I rush out of bed and prepare to get him ready for school. I can hear his voice in my head and my heart skips a beat. And then I really wake up and realize he’s still missing. The ongoing nightmare continues. The last time I held his hand, the last time I heard his voice was on Father’s Day 2010 and I’m still spending every day trying to locate my son.”

Morehouse, Collins and the other members of BacHome continue to exhaust their resources to locate their children.

They recently wrote a letter in advance of Clinton’s July 8 trip to Japan. Urging officials to help return their children, it was addressed to the Prime Minister to the Los Angeles consulate, four other Japanese consulates, members of the media, the Department of State, White House Office staff, all U.S. Senate offices, and members of the House of Representatives.

During Clinton’s visit about 40 parents of abducted children in Japan participated in a rally attempting to secure her help in pressuring Japan to address the issue of child custody.

Parents will continue to fight and hope that those in charge take notice and urge Japan to return their children.

“Imagine that tomorrow your child is going to be abducted,” Collins said. “What would you do today to prevent that from happening tomorrow?”

“I haven’t seen or heard from my son in almost four years. I don’t know what he’s thinking. But I did everything my government told me I was supposed to do to protect my son. I did everything that the courts told me to do to protect my son. Nobody protected my son.”

The U.S. State Department has released the following partial listing of efforts made by high level State Department officials during 2010 to raise the international child abduction issue with high levels of the Japanese government.  While there are well over 20 specific events listed in this document, some of them including efforts by Secretary Hillary Clinton, this list is not comprehensive and does not reflect all diplomatic efforts being made on this issue with Japan.

State Dept. Document