FAMILY 05

April 12, 2018 – Today, The Chicago Sun-Times published an article about Rep. Smith’s recent congressional testimony urging the United States to pressure Japan to comply with international child abduction laws. Rep. Smith has a long track record of authoring and supporting legislation to combat international child abduction.

In 2014, Rep. Smith’s Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2014 was signed into law. The law requires the State Department to make an agreement with the country where the children are being held and to hold that country accountable. The following text includes excerpts from The Chicago-Sun Times article. Click here to read the full article.

Japan remains a haven for parental child abductions and a U.S. lawmaker Wednesday urged the Trump administration to do more to pressure the country to fulfill its obligations under international law.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said during congressional testimony that between 300 and 400 children of international marriages have been abducted from the U.S. to Japan since 1994, and that more than 35 are still awaiting reunification with their American parents.

“Every day these children are separated from their U.S. parent, the damage compounds,” Smith said before a Congressional subcommittee on global human rights. “We must do better. We must not leave any child behind.”

Under international pressure, in 2014 Japan signed The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. The treaty requires the government to set up a process to allow foreign parents to appeal for visitation or return of their children. But Japan has been slack in administering the convention, according to Smith.

“How many of these children have come home four years later?” asked Smith. “How many even have access to their left behind parent now?  Almost zero.”

James Cook, a Minnesota medical device specialist trying to gain custody of his four minor children from his estranged Japanese wife, also testified before Congress.

In July 2014, his Japanese wife Hitomi Arimitsu took their children to Japan to visit her family and refused to return. Cook submitted an application for return under the Hague treaty and the case has made its way through both the Japanese and American court system, but Cook has still not been able to see his children.

A Minnesota court ordered the return of Cook’s children in 2017, but the ruling wasn’t carried out in Japan.

A key issue is that Japan does not have a way of enforcing its Hague commitments. It requires the abducting parent to voluntarily turn the children over and doesn’t allow the use of force in extracting the children. There have been numerous cases of parents simply refusing to comply with the Hague rulings.

Cook’s wife petitioned a Japanese court against the ruling to return the children and it was overturned, a decision which Japan’s Supreme Court upheld in December 2017…

Rep. Smith said in his testimony that the State Department needs to apply more pressure on Japan and other countries that have refused to cooperate in returning abducted children. A 2014 law that Smith sponsored, the “Goldman Act,” requires the State Department to develop an agreement with Japan about children that had been abducted and to hold Japan accountable.

However, Smith said that no action has been taken against Japan for past or current cases, and the State Department hasn’t even listed Japan as “non-compliant” in its annual report on the Hague convention.

“We hope that the State Department will do its job and implement the ‘Goldman Act,’” Smith said. “We hope that the Trump Administration will be different than the last.”

Click here to read the full article on The Chicago Sun-Times website.

Excerpted and emphasis added.