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Archive for July, 2011

DEPARTMENT OF STATE

STATEMENT OF KURT M. CAMPBELL

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS

BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS

SUBCOMMITTEE ON AFRICA, GLOBAL HEALTH, AND

HUMAN RIGHTS INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION

JULY 28, 2011

—–

Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Payne, and distinguished Members of

the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to testify

on international parental child abduction in Japan. I want to particularly thank this

Committee for its leadership on advancing dialogue and focus on this important

issue.

Overall U.S.-Japan relations are strong. The Japanese public has been

enormously grateful to the United States for the speed, size and effectiveness of

our response to the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, including the U.S.

military’s “Operation Tomadachi (friend)” that supported Japanese search, rescue,

and relief operations. The United States has also provided equipment and expert

assistance to assist with the damaged nuclear reactors. American business and

private citizens have donated generously to relief efforts. Thanks in part to

American relief efforts, favorable opinion of the United States is at its highest

point in nearly a decade, climbing to 85 percent positive this spring.

The U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone for American strategic

engagement in the Asia-Pacific. With American forward deployed forces in the

Pacific stationed in Japan, our ability to operate and project power and influence in

Asia is directly linked to our treaty alliance with Japan. The U.S.-Japan alliance

has helped underwrite peace and stability in East Asia for over 50 years and

enabled a context for economic growth and prosperity. As the world’s third largest

economy and a democratic nation our shared interests in promoting peace, security,

and prosperity are central features of our partnership,

While the U.S.-Japan relationship is overwhelmingly positive and an

essential feature of our strategic engagement in the Asia-Pacific region, the

perennial issue of international parental child abduction in Japan remains a point of

concern for the Department of State and the United States Government. Greater

access to Japan – enabled by more frequent and direct air links to Tokyo – has

increased the number of parental abduction cases involving Japan, and with a

direct impact on U.S. nationals as well as Japanese citizens. As recently as 2005,

the Department counted only 11 reported abduction cases involving Japan. Today

the Department tracks 123 active abduction cases involving 173 children with

Japan alone.

To address this issue Secretary Clinton, Assistant Secretary Janice Jacobs,

Ambassador Roos, and Ambassador Susan Jacobs, and I, alongside many other

Department officials have consistently urged Japan to ratify the 1980 Hague

Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“the Convention”) in the hopes of establishing a legal mechanism to address the rising

tide of international abduction cases in Japan. Secretary Clinton has repeatedly

raised this issue at the highest levels of the Japanese government. In addition, all of

us routinely hold town hall meetings and correspond with members of the

community of U.S. nationals who have had their children illegally abducted to

Japan. These town hall meetings provide important inputs to our policy

formulation process and allow parents to meet with a broad range of interagency

stakeholders from the U.S. government to help answer questions. Regardless of the

progress made toward Japanese ratification of the Convention, I am personally

committed to holding these meetings.

The Convention seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of their

wrongful removal or retention across international borders, which is a tragedy for

all concerned. The Convention further establishes procedures to ensure the prompt

return of children to the country of their habitual residence when wrongfully

removed or retained and secures protection for rights of access of both parents to

their children. Under the Convention, a country is not bound to order the return of

a child, if it is established that there is a grave risk that his or her return would

expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in

an intolerable situation. While this exception to return is intended to be applied

narrowly, it is an important measure to protect those children who would be placed

at risk if returned to the habitual residence. To date, 85 countries have acceded to

the Convention.

Japan is the only G-7 nation that has not implemented the Convention.

Currently the left-behind parents of children abducted to or from Japan have little

hope of having their children returned and encounter great difficulties in obtaining

access to their children and exercising their parental rights and responsibilities.

We are pleased, however, that our efforts to encourage Japan to join the

Convention appear to be bearing fruit. On May 20 of this year, Prime Minister

Naoto Kan’s Cabinet publicly stated the GOJ’s intention to ratify the Convention.

Soon thereafter, Prime Minister Kan himself relayed this message to President

Obama when the two heads of state met at the G-8 Summit held in Deauville,

France.

Japanese officials have indicated that after ratification Japan’s implementing

legislation will include reservations to the Convention permitting a Japanese court

to reject a return application. Among the reasons under which a court could reject

a return petition are reportedly: 1) The taking parent has been abused (or is likely

to be further abused) by the left-behind parent if she/he returns with the child; 2) the taking parent faces criminal prosecution in the other country; or 3) The taking parent cannot meet the financial cost of living in the other country. These

exceptions are based primarily on Article 13(b) of the Convention. They appear to

be responsive to objections raised by Japanese opponents of the Convention,

particularly that the Convention does not protect Japanese mothers. Our view is

that the Convention and procedures it calls for adequately protect the legitimate

rights and needs of Japanese mothers as well as children and other parents.

Japanese officials have assured us that Japan will implement the Convention

properly and does not seek to circumvent the basic premise of the Convention that

custody of children should be determined in the court of the child’s habitual

residence. We look to Japan to take the necessary steps to ensure its full

compliance and commitment to the Convention.

We will continue to look for ways to ensure the Convention, once ratified by

Japan, becomes an effective tool to address these heart-wrenching cases. While

the Convention will only apply to cases that arise after ratification, we continue at

all levels to encourage the Government of Japan to implement measures that would

resolve existing child-abduction cases and allow parents currently separated from

their children to reestablish contact with them and ensure visitation rights. In this

regard, we call on the Japanese government to take steps to enhance opportunities

for visitation and access. We are prepared to use all necessary political and legal

means necessary to facilitate contact and access for parents and abducted children.

As part of these continuing efforts we have sent Hague experts to meet with

and brief Japanese officials on the inner workings of the Hague process and are

planning to host Japanese officials within the Bureau of Consular Affairs to give

them the chance to see how our own central authority handles cases of

international child abduction. We are constantly looking for additional

opportunities to engage with our Japanese counterparts on this issue, make

progress on successful implementation of the Hague Convention, and gain tangible

results in existing cases.

We value the continued support of you and your colleagues in what we at

the Department of State consider to be one of the most important issues facing the

U.S. – Japan relationship. At the end of the day we are all here to assist United

States citizens and, while much work remains to be done, a great deal has been

accomplished. Together, over the course of the past two years, we have moved

from a place where there was little if any dialogue on the issue of international

parental child abduction in Japan to one where ratification of the Hague

Convention is part of the public discourse in Japan and on the agenda for

ratification. We also have a public commitment by the Government of Japan to put in place the legislation needed implement the Hague Convention. These are

considerable accomplishments, ones we should all be proud of, but at the same

time recognizing the remaining challenges of resolving existing cases. This issue

remains a top priority for Department of State and I look forward to continuing to

work with you and your colleagues in the days ahead to try to reach a satisfactory

outcome.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today on this important

issue. I welcome any questions you may have.

—–

Asst. Sec. of State Kurt Campbell on Child Abduction (July 28, 2011)

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US urges no loopholes on Japan child abductions

(AFP) – July 29, 2011

WASHINGTON — The United States pressed Japan to let parents see children snatched by estranged partners, saying it would not tolerate loopholes as Tokyo moves to resolve the longtime source of tension.

Western nations have voiced concern for years over citizens’ struggles to see their half-Japanese children. When international marriages break up, Japanese courts virtually never grant custody to foreign parents, especially men.

Hoping to ease a rift with allies, Prime Minister Naoto Kan has voiced support for ratifying the 1980 Hague treaty that requires countries to return wrongfully held children to their countries of usual residence. Japan would be the last member of the Group of Seven industrial powers to sign it.

Testifying before a congressional committee, senior US official Kurt Campbell said that the United States was “quietly” speaking to Japan about the domestic laws that will accompany the Hague treaty.

“We will not rest until we see the kinds of changes that are necessary and we will certainly not abide by loopholes or other steps that will, frankly, somehow negate or water down” the agreement, said Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia.

Japanese critics of the Hague treaty often charge that women and children need protection from abusive foreign men. Japanese lawmakers are considering making exceptions to the return of children if there are fears of abuse.

Campbell voiced confidence that the Hague treaty already included safeguards.

He also urged Japan to give US parents greater access outside of the Hague treaty. If Tokyo ratifies the convention, it would only apply in the future and not to the 123 ongoing cases in which US parents are seeking children in Japan.

“We are prepared to use all necessary political and legal means necessary to facilitate contact and access for parents and abducted children,” Campbell said.

But under questioning from lawmakers, Campbell indicated that the United States was not pushing for a separate agreement on existing abduction cases, saying that for Japan “it’s a complete non-starter.”

Representative Chris Smith, who has championed the abduction issue, pressed for an agreement on current cases. He feared that Japan’s entry into the Hague Convention would “result in lost momentum” as no children would immediately return.

“Delay is denial, and it does exacerbate the abuse of a child and the agony of the left-behind parents,” said Smith, a Republican from New Jersey.

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http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ha23n_hvrn7PgCQaTgM-0FvnbnEQ?docId=CNG.463bd595c96d72c05a3425e35e9dce59.b1

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State Dept. Testifies at Child Abduction Hearing

Smith: Negotiate MOU with Japan Concurently with the Hague Convention… 
Or 173 American Children Abducted to Japan & Their Parents May Be Left Behind Permanently 

Left behind parent Chris Savoie asks for assistance from Susan Jacobs, Special Special Advisor for Children’s Issues at the State Department as Cong. Smith and left behind parents listen. 

Cong. Smith and left behind parents gather after the July 28 hearing on child abduction. 

Chairman Smith tells the State Department about the plight of ‘left behind’ parents. At right is Ranking Member Don Payne (NJ-10).

Washington, Jul 28 – The fate of more than 2,400 abducted American children was the emotional topic at a congressional hearing today held by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees international human rights.

Top officials of the U.S. State Department explained U.S. administration efforts to return the children to the U.S. A heavy emphasis was placed on Japan, which is not one of the 85 signatory nations of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

It is on behalf of left behind parents –in recognition of the extreme pain they suffer as victims of international child abduction, and in recognition of our own duty as the U.S. government to help bring their children home—that we hold this hearing today,” Smith said. “I believe child abduction is a global human rights abuse—a form of child abuse—that seriously harms children while inflicting excruciating emotional pain and suffering on left-behind parents and families.” Click here to read Chairman Smith’s opening remarks.

Smith, who chairs subcommittee on human rights of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said international child abduction occurs when one parent unlawfully moves a child from his or her country of residence, often for the purpose of denying the other parent rightful access to the child. “Left behind” parents from across the country, including David Goldman of Monmouth County, N.J., who Smith helped win a five-year battle to bring his son home from Brazil in December 2009, Chris Savoie, who was arrested by Japanese law enforcement when he attempted to recover his own children in 2009, and other desperate parents.

Japan is the only G-7 nation to not sign the treaty.  Congress is not aware of any case where a Japanese court has issued and enforced an order to return an abducted child to the U.S. In fact, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, the European Union, Spain, U.K. & France have all pressed Japan to both sign the treaty and act to allow visitation, communication and a framework, or memorandum of understanding (MOU), to resolve current cases.

I and many others urge the Obama Administration to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with the Japanese to ensure that the 123 left behind parents are not left behind a second time—this time by treaty promises that won’t apply to them,” said Smith, who traveled to Japan in February with the family of Rutherford, N.J. resident and Iraqi war veteran Michael Elias to meet with U.S. and Japanese officials. Elias’s two children were abducted with the help of the Japanese Consulate in contravention of U.S. court orders in 2008.

Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State at the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the State Department, testified that the unaddressed issue of international child abduction to Japan remains a serious concern for the Department of State and the United States Government.

While the Convention will only apply to cases that arise after ratification, we continue at all levels to encourage the Government of Japan to implement measures that would resolve existing child-abduction cases and allow parents currently separated from their children to reestablish contact with them and ensure visitation rights,” Campbell said.

We are prepared to use all necessary political and legal means necessary to facilitate contact and access for parents and abducted children,” Campbell said. “Currently the left-behind parents of children abducted to or from Japan have little hope of having their children returned and encounter great difficulties in obtaining access to their children and exercising their parental rights and responsibilities.” Click here to read Campbell’s testimony.

Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor for Children’s Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department, told Smith and the human rights panel that the State Department welcomed Congressional support as it urges countries such as Korea, India and Japan to join the Hague Convention.

The prevention and prompt resolution of abduction cases are of paramount importance to the United States,” Jacobs said. Click here to read Jacob’s testimony.

Thursday’s  hearing follows the direct, emotional testimony at a May hearing of left-behind parents, who in most cases have never seen their children again after the abduction.

After returning from Brazil with abducted child Sean Goldman and his left behind New Jersey dad, Smith introduced “The International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2011”. The bill, H.R. 1940, would establish an Ambassador-at-Large dedicated to international child abduction, and office within the State Department to aggressively work to resolve abduction cases. The legislation would also prescribe a series of increasingly punitive actions and sanctions the president and State Department may impose on a nation that demonstrates a “pattern of non-cooperation” in resolving child abduction cases.  In September 2010 Smith cosponsored and managed the debate in the House chamber on a similar bipartisan measure, H. Res. 1326, calling on the Government of Japan to resolve the many cases involving American children abducted to Japan. The bill passed 416-1.

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See from Congressman’s Smith’s website:

http://chrissmith.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=254323#.TjKXXHkvZVU.facebook

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Dear Lili,

This is a cookbook your Nonnie helped put together for the local Italian-American organization, AMICO. (Amico means “friend” in Italian.) Many of Nonnie’s recipes are in here, and if you make them yourself, you can know exactly the kind of food I ate growing up as a child! It’s a way for your female ancestors and extended family members to communicate with you. Had you been a little older, you and Nonnie would probably have made some of her dishes together. This is very much a part of your family’s history, and part of your heritage.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed scanning it and posting it here for you to read.

I love you with all my heart,

Daddy XOXOXOXOX

*****

The Amico Cookbook

AMICO (American-Italian Cultural Organization) was formed in my home town of Springfield, New Jersey in the early 1970s. Both my parents, Philip and Gertrude Del Vecchio, were founding members.

As part of a fund-raising activity AMICO put out a cookbook in 1974 entitled “Favorite Italian Recipes.” My mom was the driving force behind this idea, and many of her own Italian recipes are contained inside. (Even though she was German-Swedish she could make an Italian meal that rivaled anything my Italian grandmother could put together. She rarely cooked anything German or Swedish, actually.)

Also in the cookbook are recipes contributed by other family members including my grandmother, Livia Del Vecchio (“Lena”); my great-aunt, Florence Bagnano (“Aunt Flo”); my sister, Denise Gallaro (“Pooh”); my sister, Valerie Serra (at the time still Valerie Del Vecchio); my brother-in-law, Elio Serra; my sister-in-law, Lucille Del Vecchio; and my father’s cousin by marriage, Mildred Galella.

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Click on any image to view an enlarged page and to print.

Click on that page to magnify on screen.

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(cover design by Philip Del Vecchio [PDV])

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That’s the whole cookbook, Lili. I have one original copy which I’ll keep safe for you and give to you one day.

In the meantime, try making some of these dishes and, as they say in Italian, “Buon Appetito!!”

Ciao, Principessa Liliana!

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Tony’s Comment: This is an important event. An MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) is the only way existing cases of parental child abduction and/or denial of access are going to be resolved. Hats off to Rep. Smith once again!

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chrissmith.house.gov

Christopher Smith
Contact:
 Jeff Sagnip 202-225-3765


Legislation Urging Immediate Return of U.S. Kids Abducted to Japan Clears 1st Hurdle 

Smith Amendment Calling for a U.S.-Japanese MOU Wins Support in Key House Committee

Washington, Jul 21 –

The House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted an amendment by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) Thursday calling for a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Japan for the immediate return of the approximately 156 U.S. children currently being held in Japan against the wishes of their American parent, and in many cases in violation of valid U.S. court orders.

The amendment passed today makes it clear that the United States must, by way of an MOU with Japan, or any other appropriate means, seek the immediate return of U.S. children abducted to Japan,” said Smith (NJ-04), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of its human rights subcommittee.  “Abducted children are at risk of serious emotional and psychological problems.  The U.S. government has a duty to protect these children and fight for their parents who have a right and want to meet their responsibilities of raising their own children.” Click here to view the amendment.

Smith said Japan has become known as a haven for international child abduction. “Tragically, Japan has become a black hole for children whose Japanese parent—or in some cases non-Japanese parent—decided not to abide by the laws of the United States and rather to run to a jurisdiction where they would not have to share custody, or even permit visitation of the child by the child’s other parent. Japan has historically been complicit in these abductions, offering protection without investigation.”

Smith said Japan’s recent announcement that it will finally sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is welcomed but pointed out that the Convention, by its own terms, will only apply to future cases.

If and when Japan ratifies the Hague, and I hope they do, such action, unfortunately will not be sufficient to address the existing abduction cases,” said Smith, who led a human rights mission to Japan this past February and met with government leaders as well as American parents blocked from seeing their children in Japan. “A Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Japan is urgently needed to ensure that families are reunited and left behind parents are not left behind again.”

During the debate on his a amendment, Smith spoke of the current abduction cases involving Japan including the case of New Jersey resident and former Marine Sgt. Michael Elias, whose children Jade and Michael were abducted to Japan by his estranged wife in 2008.  He has not held them since or been allowed any communication with them in over a year.

Additionally, my amendment calls on the Secretary of State to take any and all other appropriate measures to enable left behind parents direct access and communications with their children wrongfully removed to or retained in Japan.  These children must be allowed to have a relationship with their American parent—the arbitrary deprivation they currently suffer is child abuse,” Smith said.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously adopted the amendment demanding an MOU as part of legislation controlling foreign aid.  The bill is expected to move to the House Floor.

In September 2010 Smith cosponsored and managed the debate in the House chamber on a similar bipartisan measure, H. Res. 1326, calling on the Government of Japan to resolve the many cases involving over American children abducted to Japan. The bill passed 416-1.

Smith also has been working to push Congress and the Administration to better address international child abductions in Japan and elsewhere. After returning from Brazil in Dec. 24, 2009 with abducted child Sean Goldman and his left behind New Jersey dad who had been deprived of his son for five years, Smith introduced “The International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2011”, H.R. 1940, and is working for passage of the bill.

http://chrissmith.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=253265

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Tony’s Comment: No Comment. Let’s just wait and see, shall we?

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(From the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Holding of the First Meeting of the Round Table on the Modality of the Central Authority for the Implementation of the Hague Convention

July 21, 2011

  1. Based on the understanding of the Meeting of Relevant Ministers regarding the drafting of legislation to implement the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Hague Convention), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) will be launching a Round Table to gather various opinions from experts and others toward the drafting of legislation necessary for Japan to conclude and ensure the implementation of the Hague Convention. The first meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 27.
  2. The first meeting will be attended by academics (administrative law and family law), representatives from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and relevant ministries. [to be confirmed]
    Issues such as (1) the Central Authority’s mission and actions it should take pursuant to the Hague Convention and (2) the Central Authority’s power and responsibility are expected to be discussed in the meeting.
    • (*This is a provisional translation. The above date denotes the date of the issue of the original press release in Japanese.)
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ハーグ条約の中央当局の在り方に関する懇談会 第一回会合の開催

平成23年7月21日
  1. 外務省は,国際的な子の奪取の民事上の側面に関する条約(ハーグ条約)に関する関係閣僚会議における了解事項等を踏まえた同条約締結のための国内担保法案の作成に向け,外部の有識者等から広く意見を聴取する場として,懇談会を立ち上げ,7月27日(水曜日)に第1回会合を行う予定です。
  2. 第1回会合では,学者(行政法,家族法等),日弁連,関係省庁等(現在調整中)からの出席を得て,(1)中央当局の任務と条約に基づき取るべき措置,(2)中央当局の権限と責任,等についての意見交換が行われる予定です。
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Protest Artwork

Just a few creations I made and used during some protest marches in Tokyo to express my sentiments about Japan’s sheltering of international parental child abductors and its refusal to establish an equitable system of either joint custody or enforceable child visitation post-divorce.

Some people think I’m too critical of Japan. To which I say: “Who cares what you think? This is my family we’re talking about.”

(Click on images to enlarge)

“Wanted: Japan”

“Parental Alienation is Child Abuse”

“The Pied Piper of Tokyo”

“Relative Weight”

“Study Time”

“How Japan Stole Christmas”

“Godzilla Strikes Again”

“Santa’s Special Delivery to the Japanese Diet”

“Joint Custody Now!”

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