WASHINGTON—Ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s address to Congress on Wednesday, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, urged Prime Minister Abe to help the many American victims of international parental child abduction in Japan.
“It is tragic that hundreds of American children have been parentally abducted to Japan – and it’s outrageous that the Japanese government has returned not a single one. Each case is a heartbreaking story of a child unjustly separated from a loving parent, causing enormous suffering to both,” said Smith, the author of the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2014.
“Under the Goldman Act, when a country such as Japan has failed to resolve 30 percent of abduction cases that have been pending more than 12 months, U.S. law requires the Secretary of State to take action. Required measures can include the withdrawal of foreign assistance and cooperation, including suspension of security assistance. As the mandated compliance report due to be released on April 30 will likely assess, Japan has failed to resolve almost 100 percent of U.S.-Japan abduction cases.
“I strongly urge Prime Minister Abe to take swift action to resolve these outstanding cases and avoid the serious penalties authorized against countries that fail to help bring abducted children home. The left-behind parents have already lost countless years with their children; it is time for the Japanese government to create a bilateral process to reunite these families.”
Currently, more than 50 American children are living in Japan and separated from their American parent as a result of abduction by their other parent. In addition, eight new abductions have occurred in the last year since Japan signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Japanese government has yet to enforce the return of a single American child since ratifying the Hague Convention, nor has it provided access to the children, as required by the treaty, to the left-behind parents seeking return.
Chairman Smith is a longtime advocate for the parents of children illegally abducted from the U.S. by non-custodial parents and has held seven hearings on the issue, including the most recent hearing in March 2015. In 2014, Smith saw more than five years of work come to fruition with the enactment of his groundbreaking Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (now Public Law 113-150) to help bring home American children abducted from the U.S. to foreign countries.