With increasing mobility and international marriages, international parental child abductions have skyrocketed, including in the OSCE region. Parental child abduction occurs when one parent removes a child from the child’s home country or retains a child abroad in violation of the other parent’s custodial rights. Parental child abduction is considered by many experts to be a form of child abuse, and have been linked to life-long emotional and relational difficulties. Left behind parents also encounter tremendous emotional and financial difficulties as they are bereaved of their child and forced to participate in foreign lawsuits.
In order to deter child abductions, minimize disruption and emotional damage to children, and ensure that custody decisions of one country are respected in other countries, the international community developed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Convention entered into force in 1983 and currently has 89 signatory states. States party to the Convention must quickly return a child to the jurisdiction of the child’s home country for further proceedings, unless an exception to return applies. The Convention also provides for rights of access, so that a child lawfully living abroad can still have access to and visit the other parent.
Currently, 50 of 57 OSCE participating States, and five of 11 partner States have acceded to the Hague Convention. Unfortunately, judges in many states party to the Convention reward the abductor and fail to limit their judicial role in Convention cases to determining jurisdiction, or exceptions to return. Less than 40 percent of American children abducted to states party to the Convention are returned to the United States.
A supplementary item calling for implementation of or accession to the Hague Convention was adopted by consensus at the Belgrade OSCE Parliamentary Assembly meeting in 2011.