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tv   Close Up  CSPAN  May 27, 2011 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT

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that are done. one is there has to be in realtime an acknowledgement when a country is not acting in compliance with the treaty and call that out in more than the report form. that is that reciprocity has to be something that an american judge, and american parents who are formulating settlements in custody disputes can rely upon. legislative efforts in this body and in the other body must provide mechanisms for diplomatic actions that deal with the systemic lack of reciprocity. these parents cannot do it themselves. outlined in 1940, the smith bill, it provides an objective transparent process to evaluate res reciprocity which is the first step. is this really a reciprocal relationship anymore? if not like in ecuador where
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there's no central authority anymore, an american judge in illinois might want to know there's no way to get a child back because an american parent has to hire three lawyers to be able to do it because there's no central authority by way of example. in circumstances in which there are persistent and historical misuse of this process and treaty, other american parents and gummings similarly situated need to know that. no one should have to hire experts to appear in family courts which right now they do in order to get protective orders to prevent abductions. the only -- the work of this body in having resolutions which addressed brazil and japan have been used in hundreds of cases around the united states to provide the opportunity for parents and judges to formulate protective orders, but you shouldn't have to do that. you should be able to -- i mean,
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this body should not have to go to work on every individual child abduction case. there should be a process that evaluates that a country is not in compliance, enter into, if necessary, an mou to address the deficiency, and allow for an octoberive mou. [applause] a reasonable system of diplomatic consequences must be available to the secretary of state and the president of the united states so no country may engage in the repeated violation of its treaty obligations without meaningful we view. in conclusion, and i appreciate the extraordinary amount of time this issue has been given by this committee, and i will tell you that as the prior committee hearings and commissioned hearings have made incredible impacts on the operation of domestic law in the united states, and so i congratulate the chairman and the members of
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this subcommittee for spending the time that they have. you're already aware that two of my clients, david goldman and mike call elias provided testimony today. i'm not the only family lawyer working to be sure children are protected, and i wringed when earlier there was a moment or two of concern about the motivation of lawyers, but i need to say that the american bar association family law section and international sections in particular have been asked by the president of the aba at the request of congressman smith to review the legislation that has been presented and the issues and to make recommendations on this legislation and other actions of the body. initially the american chapter of the international of lawyers proposed legislation and in providing assistance to the united states department of state. both the members of the aba and the iaml have given thousands of
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hours of pro bono assistance for abducted children and colleagues at the united states department of state. i am personally appreciative of the continued willingness of jacobs to listen to my concerns and colleagues and address these complex issues on a case-by-case basis, however, and this is the take away -- her accessibility is no substitute for a transparent process to address issues involving all similarly situated parents diplomatically. my colleagues continue to provide incredible insight and advice with a willingness to work with members of congress to improve the working of the treaty. the comment to contact your congressperson is only part of the step. the members of this committee i do not believe are representative of what usually happens. that is the people behind me
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contact their congressperson who contacts oci who sends a self-serving letter that basically goes through administrative steps and nothing more. there's no advocacy associated with that. my observations in the recent visit to japan reveal the agents that congressman smith was able to achieve and advance the dialogue with the japanese government in which we're engaged. i'm honored to have the opportunity to have participated in those meetings and testify before this subcommittee in its efforts to bring every abducted child home, and i thank you. [applause] >> thank you very much, and ms. wells. >> chirp smith, ranking member payne, representative marino, and members of the subcommittee, i'm honored to be here to share my thoughts on abduction of
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children to foreign countries. i'm testifying on my own behalf and my comments should not be contributed to pat and bobs or any of its clientings. i'll overview some of the policy issues of abducted children, and a number of them have been discussed already. i'll shorten my oral comments today. my testimony addresses obstacles with non-hague convention cases and discusses the challenges and improvements that have occurred at the department of state, but i'll discuss that a bit more. we had highlighted with issues relating to abductions in africa and japan and made actions on practical actions the u.s. government can take to improve responses. my testimony focuses on american abducted children, but ifs important to note the hague
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convention covers non-u.s. citizen children who are residing in the united states at the time of their abduction. as a party to the convention, the united states is obliged to help return hups of children -- hundreds of children abducted from other countries into the united states each year from around the world. this is an issue the committee and subcommittee should continue to look at. we are concerned about u.s. citizens and u.s. constituents, but we need, i think, to take a look at how our country is doing in responding to requests from other countries. the convention, as we discussed, is an imperfect legal instrument, but it has successfully resolved a number of child abduction cases around the world and returned children to their left behind parents and every parent that got their child through a non-hague mechanism, they are grateful of its existence despite the
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sometimes low success rate. it does provide a mean for countries to communicate with one another and identifies authorities responsible for the cases and clarifies the international agreed upon values of focusing on the child's best interest, and i don't mean as ms. apy noted that other courts should be making that determination, but agrees that is an important principle and that principle should be best met by the jurisdictional court where the child resided. it also presses governments to promptly return a child and makes and embodies promises made by the states to assist other countries in locating other than children abducted into their territory. despite the benefits, there's too many cases as we heard today where they fail to return children to their residence unless the hague convention failed. the unfortunate delays and return and sometimes complete failure to return children result from a number of problems
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of the convention itself at times. one of the problems we heard is the lack of an effective enforcement mechanism and the discussions about the use of trade and other mechanisms of bilateral power or influence are in response to the fact that there is no een forcement process, but the hague conference on international private law with no enforcement mechanism, it could still continue to discuss ways in which enforcement could be further enhanced, not just in the interest of the united states, but for all nations that are cig any tories. in particular though, this issue of enforcement is particularly complicated when a child is a dual national and as we've often seen or heard in these cases that were described today even when a child is not a dual national, they often become a dual national in the result of the abduction in the effort to take or keep them in another
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country. to the issue of enforcement, there's up sufficient oversight -- i would say i encourage the committee to look at the mechanism by which the hague conference reviews its own operations around the world, not just in the united states. the truth of the matter is while the united states doesn't have any obligation to oversee or make particular comments about these matters, it's in our interest to do so. we have, as a country, tremendous legal expertise and resources, and so i think if we can look at ways in which we can also influence the hague corchtion to either take my actions or initiate new discussions that might not have been had or continue to help progress their, or i shouldn't say their agenda, but issues we think are important such as oversight and how that oversight is then turned into actionable review that can improve the child abduction issues system -- the hague systems overall.
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although the convention is over 30 years old, a here -- myriad of interpretations are there. the fact that nations and courts interpret the language of the convention differently has dramatic effects on the cases and results in chirp not being returned. there's different interpretations of residents, debates where the children was living. there are questions about whether the abduction was wrongful as was noted in one of the witness' testimony where the ab ducting spouse said, you know, this suspect wrong. i'm the parent. that's a frequent reply, not only by the parents, but sometimes by foreign judicial systems as well, and yet the convention has some clear lang on these matters, but i guess i shouldn't say clear. it might be clear to one reader, but it's read in so many different ways in so many different countries. this is a problem with the convention and how we come to
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some standards that can be uniformly accepted by both the convention and applied by judges around the world and this would help tremendously, and this is a long haul and nonetheless something for congress to they about and look at and to discuss with u.s. officials about. a critical area of interpretation regarding the hague convention is a provision that requires that children not be returned to a place where they would be harmed. this is a grave risk of harm exception, and it says that they cannot be returned to a place where they would be exposed to physical or psychological harm. this language is very critical in domestic violence cases, and there's a fair bit of u.s. case law in this as well, but also conflicting case law. in my more lengthy submission of testimony, i made a suggestion that the department of justice be more involved looking at how some of this language is interpreted by u.s. courts so that even if we can't prevent
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the fact that some of the language is interpreted differently in the united states and then in tie land, we can at least try to make some uniform analysis of how the language of the convention is interpreted in the united states. i also need to note that domestic violence is frequently alleged and used as a tool unfortunately by some of the either abducting parents or some of the government officials that get involved in the case. there are often concerns of domestic violence raised in cases where there's absolutely no evidence of that. it's a false claim, of course, not only hurts those children involved, but hurts and takes away attention from cases where domestic violence really is at issue. without the hague convention, left behind parents face tremendous hurdles as you, chairman smith, well know. they may not be able to identify where their child a located and
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seek to get a visitation order recognized in a foreign jurisdiction, but face great hurdles in doing so. they are often not able to even effectively file a case in another jurisdiction, or if it's filed, it may not get heard. sometimes it's difficult to identify who in the foreign government has the ability, power, or desire to either locate or help return the child, and the hague convention, without the hague convention as a tool to encourage foreign governments to return a child, custody is most likely to be decided by a foreign court order using the child's presence there. as ms. apy noted, i want to also highlight the convention is not, however, supposed to be a custody determining document. it is not a regime to decide where the child should live and what is the best overall outcome. it is a document to determine what court has the jurisdiction to decide the case, and as you noted in your testimony, this
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seems to be an issue also of great confusion among a lot of the states that have signed the hague convention and, to me, it seems to be a matter of needing substantially additional training and guidance that our government can be involved in, other governments might be involved in as well, but it needs to be centralizeed and organized through the hague convention in the netherlands. i do want to talk bow the department of state. in studying this issue over the years, i've heard negative responses from the left behind parents and their attorneys. there's been a number of changes at the department of state and i want to talk about those, but having heard the testimony today, i'm very saddened to hear that some of those changes have not impacted these families or that the impact is not as visible as it should be, and so i think there's no doubt that this committee, the state
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department, need to continue to do the hard work of figuring out how to get the system right. parents are not feeling they are being serviced, their needs are taken as seriously as they ought to be, and as we noted, that they have an advocate on their behalf. i will just highlight some of the structural changes, however, as the committee may be aware. the special adviser for international children's issues has been appointed, and although this is a -- it's currently held by ambassador susan jacobs, it is also a position designed to help elevate this issue, help coordinate between secretary states' office, the office of children's issues and other aspects of the state department. ii understand, mr. smith, you have a proposal for a higher level ambassador and new office. i'm happy to look at thatment i think that this initial
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position, from what i've been hearing, has help garner attention, and i think this ambassador has been able to play a particular advocacy role in the diplomatic community that's been important, but there may be enhancements in either changing the position or changing her powers that might be useful as well. case management has also been restructured to some extent at the state department. in the past, there were the last few years of 0 foreign service officers handling the heavy case load of about 150 cases a year. that has not changed, and they now have up to about 100 officers, not all of them are foreign service, but civil service, and they now handle no more than 75 cases. we should be seeing improvements in the reports from the families as a result of this, and so i think it's a concern that we're not, and i'm particularly
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concerned that this is some of what i heard when i was working on the committee as well, and i think when you meet with the state department, i believe that they are very earnist. i think that the people who are working op these cases do understand the importance of what they are doing and are putting forth their best efforts for the family, but there's a gap to be bridged because your perceptions as policymakers and people looking at oversight of the agency, you're going to hear different things on one side and another set of things from the families. i would encourage the committee to consider, you know, possibly having the state department testify on the issue and be able to explain some of their limitations. for example, there's several notes about the state department not providing families' information on how they contacted the abducting spouse or identified where the child
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was. i suspect that there are limitations on the state department officers around that. there might be other limitations as has been discussed under privacy act issues, and it might well be legislation needs to overturn some of that, but i think it would be helpful if there's a way in which, and i'm sure many have been asking for this for years, but if we can bridge the gap so that the families feel like they are # getting the information they need, they understand better the bureaucracy of the state department, and they also don't look to the state department as their adversaries, but as their friends because i think in the end, only by working together through the administration at the state department congress, the families, the non-profit organizations, the attorneys involved, as ms. apy noted, there has been tremendous strides and more can be done if everyone tries to stay on the same team. i was going to -- i had a few
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comments about japan that i'll shorten tremendously because it's been very well covered, but i will say that i've been told the embassy of japan in the last year or so has become more engaminged with the issue. in fact, the day that i met with them was the day that the shop goldman story broke on the news while i was in meeting with the embassy, and at that time, several years ago, the concept of how to work on the convention and what to do was one that they responded to with some vigor and noticed it was at the administration of justice, but it was the same answer given for several years. now i understand they are more aggressively involved in discussions here in the united states about hague convention, but what i haven't heard yet is they are more aggressively involved in discussions of individual cases. i would reiterate what you, ms. apy, and others have said is
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absolutely as they go forward, there has to be a decision around the existing cases, and there has to be whether it's in the hague convention session or in some other document, an agreement, and of course, we have as primary interests, the american childrennings but there are children in many other countries, from many other countries who are in japanese legislators pap, and so this is an internationally concerning issue. i will just add that i was asked by congressman payne if i can make comments about africa, and given the committee that we're speaking with, i'd like to do that. most of the nations in africa are not part of the hague convention. at present, there's four partners to the convention there, zimbabwe and others, and they face unique challenges there in terms of identifying where children are, operating with the central authorities in
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those governments and in particular, operating with governments where there is no hague partner. the hague convention is also challenging in some of these african nations where there are problems of inefficient government structures that hamper the treaty. in addition, the hague commission does have a project on africa to look at this issue and try to make strides in that region of the world, but there's been aidentification at least because the critical role of perm relationships in africa, and i heard this played a large part in asia that having a real regional approach individually based is important so having a conference in the nether larpds or in washington, d.c. does not get countries in africa to start looking at the hague convention, but requires a lot of direct
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outreach on a personal level. children abducted to africa, their profile of the cases look somewhat different. the africa cases tend to be of african imgrants coming to the united states temporarily or permanently where both parents are from an african nation and the child is abducted by one parent, take p back to the home country and left with extended family, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, or people in the united states who are considered friends., but very much family in the african construct. there are a notable number -- there's a small number, but a notable presence of cases where female general cutting is a concern of the left behind parent. as you can imagine, the logistics when a child disappears in countries where there may not be significant infrastructure where telecommunications is still developing despite the
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availability of cell phones, where internet might be spare is a challenge not just for the state department in following up on cases, but very much a challenge for the left behind parents and challenges in weak judicial systems is also a problem. also, and this is mainly the last point on this, that the left behind parents as african immigrants here in the united states face challenges because of that status as well. they tepid not to necessarily live in large communities of african communities, and it's different than a mexican-american living on this side of the u.s. border and near the border where there's lots of mexican-americans and lots of resources to help support you and learn more about how to get media attention for your issue. getting attention from law enforcement, getting attention from the legal system, and interacting with the political system of the united states,
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congress, but even at the local level, state and local level politics is more of a challenge so what i heard and my understanding from speaking with some people in the agency is that these cases are not getting that kind of attention, and they are not getting the advocacy that has fortunately been developed around some of the cases in asia, europe, and other places among the families. lastly, i'll just note that i do have a number of suggestions of responses from congress. i would just like to note a few. there has been a gao report on this issue done in 2000, and i think the issue is ripe for a review by gao, although in truth, you might also because of the time that gao takes, you might also want to look at an independent report. the state department has been at times given funding to issue an grant and do a study from an
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outside attorney or set of attorneys. there might be a way to do that to effectively look at this issue of communication between the parents and agency and really everything about what the state department is doing on this, but in truth, i think that as i've noted, there's areas of cooperation with the department of homeland security, there's the cooperation with the department of justice that are important to look at too and what we heard today about tsa, and we know the problems with the exit system, but there are, for example, ways to, you know, to flag a u.s. passport. maybe there are ways that a u.s. child's name can be flagged with the airline regardless of what country the passport comes from. that might be thwarted when the name of the child is changed, but as of now if an airline brings a child to the united states with the a passport, they have to pay a penalty and return the person at the airline's
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expense. there's an imposition not to allow people on to the planes without visas. maybe there's a way to create a list of children that should not be traveling internationally. it's tricky, but having a discussion between the state department, other agencies in congress, it's almost more of a working group approach involving families and maybe these hearings at the beginning of that where you can start to tease out and work on how some of these ideas could be brought into policy that could improve the overall operations. my last point would just be that i think the things that i would love to see members of congress do more of and that i know you're a master of, chairman smith, is to be sure the issues are mentioned to every foreign dignitary. i don't mean ever country necessarily, but if there's a country -- if the committee pays attention to the issues and knows, for example, that one of the vast majority of our cases is with mexico, then when the
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mexican officials are here, it can be raised, and it can be raised by one member or in a larger setting, but i think that would help a lot and as we've seen your tapings to this issue has been a tremendous help for the families, so thank you. [applause] >> thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. thank you for the hearing today and for inviting me. i want to acknowledge the incredibly jeep rows amount of time you gave to the topic, and i'll be brief. my name is jesse eaves, policy adviser for world vision, a christian program involving millions of children and serving their families in hundreds of countries. this is a program that works to respond to abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence against children and working on
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laws to provide a safety net for vulnerable situations. i am bringing a global perspective on world vision responding to the illegal movement of children in states. i want to thank you for your leadership in working to protect children not only here in the u.s., but around the world. you have been bind some of those important pieces of child legislation in our nation's history, and the child protection systems within our country are stronger for it. as this hearing has shop powerfully so, we have much more to do, and that's sadly the case for the countries around the world. of particular concern are the countries in a post-conflict or post-emergency context where children are the most vulnerable and informal systems that should protect them failed or never existed to begin with. this hearing provides an important opportunity to address not only how the united states can deal with the issues like international child abduction, but also opens the door to put
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systems in place that can prevent and respond to all cases of abuse, negligent, exploitation, and violence against children. .. with an estimated 60% of returns being under the age of 18 a lack of growth registration and identification documents means unaccompanied separated children are less likely to find
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a caring home and are extremely vulnerable to abuse. we now see a homeless child population is increasing in urban centers particularly in the southern capital and cuba. with no identification and no way to find their families, these children are extremely volatile paul to reduce that include a reduction in to the armed militias and sexual or labor exploitation. having a recommendation and officials trained in how to identify suspicious behavior is crucial to protecting vulnerable children especially and fragile states. since the january 2010 earthquake in haiti many organizations including world vision and others like our partner organization heart of a planned alliance work to train border guards to prevent the illegal movement of children. there have been several documented cases where trained and alert haitian officials were able to stop children from being taken illegally across the border. in one case a 13 year old girl was found with a man who could provide no proof of relation.
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she was placed in the family tracing system and her mother was able to come and provide truth she was related to the girl and hadn't intended for her to be taken anywhere let alone out of the country. in this and so many other cases the importance of documentation and officials implementing protection policies have meant the difference between a happy ratification and a life cut tragically short. just to conclude, the u.s. can and should play a central role in encouraging countries as they work to protect the most precious resource of their children. mr. chairman, last year you introduce a bill that is a prime example of how the u.s. can take a system strengthening approach in its engagement with other nations. the child protection compact act aimed to foster partnerships between countries and strengthen the very institutions that are crucial to the protection of all children legislation like the cbc a complete a crucial role in providing a safer world for children and as we look forward to seeing similar legislation in the future we also look forward
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to working with you to ensure that every child can live life and all its fullness so thank you again for your leadership mr. chairman and ranking member and i would be happy to address any questions. >> thank you very much for your testimony and the great work you and your organization does. let me ask a few questions and may be on japan being very specific i would note parenthetically that we plan on having a japan specific hearing, because i do think that it's i can't say likely but it is very probable or possible that in anticipation of the g8 media day before japan will announce that they are going to sign the hagee and the question will be what are the conditions, the terms of conditions, the reservations, and as i think ms. apy use it so eloquently there needs to be a draft included in the immediate critical for the resolution of existing cases involving children to alleged being
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abducted to japan and abducted within japan as well as japanese children alleged to have been of the acted to the united states. you and i when we were in japan made that argument repeatedly. we've done it here and you made it like i said a very eloquently. i wonder however other witnesses might feel about that because my deepest fear will be japan gets all of the accolades, praise heaped upon them by the other leaders for commitment and then when it comes time to implement all the existing families are left behind, and that which is agreed to becomes swiss cheese so to speak because it is riddled with loopholes as well as what you want to start on that ms. apy? >> i think that there is a
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genuine concern given what i have seen as projected reservations that if there is not some dialogue immediately generated and some object if assistance and criteria provided the first of all this process will go on without having a meaningful treaty relationship if we accept the recession given the number of reservations it appears will be there it will effectively be different than the protections afforded by the treaty. i think that there are legitimate issues that the japanese have to address in their own and domestic law that are so daunting that if the advantage of carving out an opportunity in a mou bilateral agreement so that some of the issues can be worked through
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will not only benefit the united states relationship but in the meeting that we had come and this will be what i would close with some of the meeting that we had included representatives of other countries to japan including the pacific rim and europe, all of whom were wildly positive on the concept of using a mou in this context in order to set forth reasonable criteria and approach that on a multilateral level. so again, i think that by using that type of protocol it can actually narrow the number of reservations that the japanese would have to take and strengthened the possibility of truth reciprocity. >> i agree as i noted earlier that there has to be some agreement to handle the existing cases. and in truth, when any country joins the convention that's what we would want to see coming and
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we know in particular because of the talent in japan and how intractable those cases have been it's particularly important. i think that i should add in the past i have testified that i thought of the notion of doing mou with countries that are having trouble making agreements was a good idea. i have since heard that the state department has felt that some of those have not been as effective as they should have been, so i would urge the committee to look up that question of what makes it effective and if we can get a mou and it might be the right vehicle how do we ensure that it's one that will have the force and will secure the rights of the left behind parents and ensure that their children are covered as we want to because if we can't get the sufficient assurances through the process that the government of japan may go through if it's something
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they don't want to agree to until they really want to agree to it they can do another agreement that doesn't really have the force the we want it to have so i just think it's a matter of >> -- i would defer to ms. apy's view because i haven't seen for example the preservation and she's much closer to this issue, but that might be the right way to go. i think we should look at how the mou is working for the state department and what would it take to make this particular mou effective. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i have no comment. >> let me ask all of you or first ms. wells come to mention the international children might be more complicated factor. maybe you can elaborate on why it is the case. you also mentioned that the hague conference that there needs to be perhaps additional oversight and improvement. do you have any specific idea, ms. apy, having three decades into the treaty hopefully there is a lesson learned area where
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upgrades can be made. i would just point out parenthetically that i would agree that the state department people, the oic and consular officials country after country are earnest. there's of the competence issue. they're very smart. obviously they need to be very intelligent and they are well trained. i would argue that the problem is primarily the fact that they don't have the requisite toolbox to do the work. one of the reasons why our legislation h.r. 1940 has been introduced is to take the lessons learned from all the other human rights issues where we had been very ineffective trafficking and certainly on the religious freedom and take those tools, those penalties if necessary and apply them to the country's so it is a country to country fight, not an individual versus in different or enabling country or worse actually very much on the side of the
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abductors and to make it an issue where you can get resolution, and i have found 31 years in the human rights work you don't get compliance without penalty so you might want to speak to that end of it as well. >> let me talk out a precise example. in the david goldman case, the case was brought before the supreme court of brazil because there was a lawsuit filed by a political party which sought a preliminary injunction preventing any child from any country being returned under the convention. that was completely stopping of the process these. the united states department of state took the lead to took the position initially that the hague conference should respond because of the issues of
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enforcement and some of the issues that were raised in my colleague's testimony that the are more appropriate and global body to review the issues of enforcement. i had my doubts. and in fact within the gup -- because the conference has never taken the position that they will act as an arbiter of reciprocity, they are opposed to looking at enforcement in that context of global reciprocity issues and not as distinguished from enforcement in individual cases an additional language where we have treaties that are ready that have already already been drafted. so we waited, there was a 42 hour window in which the hague conference had to provide three things in support of not just the david goldman case, but all similarly situated children from all countries with less than 12 hours before the filing, they declined to file a brief.
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now happily have anticipated this as a possibility, we prepared a brief with the able assistance of the general of the united states and brazil and that brief was filed as by the united states of america. however, it's a good example of the reticence because of the policy-making and educational components of the conference. i respectfully believe that reciprocity is not going to be evaluated substantively by the hague conference. i do not think they see that as the role and i don't think they are going to take it on. i think if we as the united states developed an objective template in order to assess and inform on the issues of reciprocity that will be endorsed and joined by other nations. very frankly, no one wants to
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act in a way that's not cooperative for can't we all just get along the truth of it is that somebody has to take this step to lay out and call out the issues of reciprocity. our report on the subject is the only one issued buy any country in the world right now. >> i certainly wouldn't argue with that. i think that she makes excellent recommendations and my comment about oversight were mainly in response to some of the research and reading i've done on this issue. there's various suggestions of how to solve it, but i think the practicality of how the conference works and this issue of our country possibly being the one that needs to take a lead and that possibly have in other countries that agree once they see our country taking the
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leadership role that might be the most effective way to do it. there's also ideas of having an office derwood to oversight within the hague or that you could have something like an ombudsman. i think all of those are areas that need to be examined further, and i just want to certainly reason to the subcommittee attention on the issue of dual nationals and as i noted most cases become dual nationality austin other countries as the united states will recognize and give national citizenship to a child as a parent born in that country. so it doesn't happen before the abduction, it happens later. i think part of the issue that has come up in some of the testimony and i certainly heard about before is the issue of the embassy getting new passports, and that is a real challenge for the state department and in truth is a challenge for us as a country because we do need a diplomatic relations with other
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countries of the world and we can't have a situation where the united states cannot so lovely toilsome country or not allowed to issue passports or visas they will do the same to us and then we won't be able to do the same if we do outside of our own borders. but i do think it's something again for the committee to look at and discuss with the state department and other agencies how can we talk to these embassies better about the own process these and how can we either explain or urge to them that if we can present the case is from becoming cross border cases in the first place, we can work with their government to come up with a fair resolution. especially if it is the hague country, they don't necessarily have to issue a false passport, you know, they can -- if the court's review it appropriately and that child's residence is in a foreign country, that court will be given the jurisdiction
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to decide the case. on the toolbox issue i did want to note one thing i think one of the witnesses noted that the state department should be coming to congress seeing here is what we need. i would only highlight i guess as a former staffer that i know sometimes that can be complicated for the agency and as you know the way that our bureaucracy works coming especially at a time of, you know, budget cuts and challenges, you know, part of what we are all talking about here is making sure this issue gets elevated. there's a lot of things the state department has to come to congress for. i think one of the benefits of the way our system works is that as members and as staff, you know, you can -- your staff to raise ideas and meetings and they can get filtered around it sometimes whether they are likely or not they might be the right thing to do, but i do think that the nature of the communication between congress and the state department might make it hard for some of the
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people in the agency who know what they need to be able to come forth and say this is it exactly because it is a lengthy process they would have to go through to get that clear. >> let me just conclude and ask unanimous consent to include a brochure from back home bring abducted children home she testified that one of our previous hearings and makes a number of points, he and the group japan must immediately return, japan must provide unfettered access to our precious children and never to recover japan must enact a retroactive law. they have a very good series of recommendations with regard to japan implementation legislation must be the spirit and really come down very hard on the fact that allegations of domestic violence must be accompanied by rules of evidence that here say has no place in the body in a child even access to his left behind parent. japan must unambiguously defined
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the best interest of the child and the very importantly, they are all important, japan must locate our missing children and list the name as was mentioned earlier. there are a number of americans children who've been of deducted and wrongfully retained who are unaccounted for and who is present location is on known since the earthquake tsunami and the ongoing nuclear disaster. any incredible pain and agony to the existing pain and agony they don't know what has happened to their children. [applause] >> thank you. ms. apy or ms. wells, either one of you, i wonder if you can tell us what impact, if any, has the united nations convention on the rights of the child or its optional protocol on the sale of
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children had presenting a child of the auctions and do you think that it is a valuable mechanism for addressing this issue? >> i'm going to defer to ms. apy. >> and as to the question you were referring to the united nations convention. >> on the rights of the child or its optional protocol on the sale of children. skype the optional protocol has had an extraordinary impact on international law to the discourse i feel the need to respond, and that is quite a sticky question, congressman, because the united nations convention on the rights of the child of course has not been ratified by the united states of america so i can assure you when i stand in another country as i have often and begin to litigate the case, if the child is
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considered a dual national, you may be assured that a judge declares at me over their glasses and says now could you please explain to me why the united states congress takes the position and as with the united nations convention on the rights of the child i will also tell you that having written on this subject and spoken on it that i personally take the position and it is the policy of the american bar association as well that if i united states should in fact the its signature to the united patients convention on the child and this would be yet another it simple fly. because i would not want the argument made as is often made that there are protections associated in the u.n. convention that are somehow broad them the protection is provided under the united states law and as a result a child should not be returned to the united states.
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the area of customer international law and child rights issues is complex. i will assure you that in the most recent meeting at the hague conference that dealt with child trafficking that issue was raised particularly as it related to the alternate pravachol particularly as it related to child trafficking in the context of a deduction, and that again is a sophisticated interplay of international legal issues that weigh heavily on countries in africa and central and south america. so again i think it is a huge issue to some extent beyond the scope of the discussion today but a discussion that needs to take place. >> can you tell me what other countries have not ratified the convention? there aren't many. >> this is the second question the judge asked me by the way. it's equally uncomfortable. it had been somalia and that's it.
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>> well, we have to be careful about the company we keep, right? >> indeed. >> how about mlat you know about the land mine treaty of hand, and i know we haven't ratified that. do you know how many countries have not ratified that? >> i don't have the information. perhaps my colleague -- >> how about combat for children's soldiers? >> the under 18 ratified that either. >> no, we haven't. i bring that out because we are the land of the free home of the brave and the leaders of the world no question about it, the greatest place in the world. however, we leave ourselves to criticism when we go into national court, and we haven't even ratify the fundamental thing pravachol like the rights of the child. i'm sure there are some
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legalistic reasons why a first of many people just don't like treaties. i was glad that mother's day came up because we had to bring it through congress may be it might not pass so we do really have to i think work more on our own image as we are to be sensitive issues. time is running for the votes to coming. let me just ask have parental adoption -- adduction been documented in african countries and to what extent do you think this is an issue for u.s. policy? >> that's a good question, ranking member. i'm not clear to the exact statistics. we definitely do see cross border movements for instance in countries where you've had a refugee population in a particular nation so if you have
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sudanese living in ugonda or isasi at early yonah, they're have been cases where you see a parent to a child across the border leading another parent behind. i'm not certain of the role the u.s. plays, but we know that it does happen and it is equally tragic as it is here. >> also, we do know that in some countries than in sub-saharan africa are you do have some traditions where you have this hereditary certitude and adoption into slavery where the practice sudan as i mentioned before the people were put into servitude by the khartoum busheir government of the north, and have you gotten into a discussion in regards to customs
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of countries where for example in haiti a person who's very poverty-stricken may turn their child over to a wealthy haitian to simply worked as a servant which is not a deduction. however, it's not nice either. have you dealt with either of those issues? >> yes, we have both in sudan and you mentioned it's an incredibly pervasive and harmful practice that we see in haiti, and the main way that we address that is working with of the families that find themselves in such desperate situations. so often in cases of extreme poverty a child can become a source of income or drain on income and sometimes the parents think they are doing their child
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a favor by delivering them to a wealthy family assuming they will receive education in exchange for doing some kind domestic work. sometimes that is exactly what happens, but far and away the majority of examples show that these children are taken and kept against their will and they are forced to work long hours often doing dangerous work and sometimes they are even sexually exploited as well so we work with those families to ensure they have the ability to earn an income to allow them to educate their own children and protect their own children because i think as we have heard time and time again today that the best place for a child is in their parents' lives in farms. >> gist finally, running out of time, but i know there was a lot of controversy with the madonna of adoption case recalled several years ago and you have people on both sides of the
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issue, and recently actually about a week or so ago we had a hearing on china and one of the international organizations said that he would urge the ending of adoption of chinese children because he felt some of them might be abducted or taken away from families and their -- therefore properly put up for adoption, and so i know this question of adoption becomes very sensitive. some people say they can get a better life somewhere else and others say if you take them out of their own culture you are doing better for them or not. so i just wonder to what extent, are there concerns related to international adoption and asking your opinion from any research for example pertaining
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to fraga, the petition of children as often those selling children to adoption agencies. >> welcome, chris minn, we definitely believe that adoption can be a three beautiful and wonderful thing to happen. one thing when we are talking of international adoption we want to make sure that indeed that is the only option left available to the child. oftentimes we have found that if there are one or more parents still working with the family to see if they can still care for that child if that's not an option to see if there's another family member that can care for the child looking towards foster care or domestic adoption, and if that won't be the best interest of the child then you look at the international adoption which like i said can be a wonderful thing for all parties involved. what we see is oftentimes especially on with dingley on behalf of americans that may adopt the case of adoption could
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be on knowing that devotee the cover of reduction and there can be fraught in the process so that's why it's so important that the safeguards are in place. and in countries all over the world. it's important for the process to work effectively and efficiently, but always looking to ensure that the best interest of the child is placed first and foremost in that wherever the end of the will be in a loving and caring and firemen that will allow them to live out their life and in all of its awfulness. >> thank you very much. >> i want to thank the distinguished witness. i have a number of additional questions but there is a vote we have two minutes to report to the floor and there will be a series of votes. i will announce again we have a whole series of issues or hearings on this hopefully a marked up in the not too distant future on h.r. 1940i can guarantee i will not cease nor those who support the legislation until th


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