The US State Department’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction was published recently. At page 26 the report said the following as regards the position of Japan:
As an example of the USCA’s policy of promoting Convention partnership worldwide, the USCA spent more than a decade actively pressing Japan to ratify the Convention. The USCA maintained close contact with the government of Japan in 2012 and 2013 as Japan’s parliament prepared and passed necessary legislation to implement the Convention. On April 1, 2014, the Convention entered into force between the United States and Japan. Since April, the USCA has developed a close and productive working relationship with the Japan Central Authority.
The USCA continues to urge Japanese action on non-Convention cases. There are still more than 50 non-Convention cases of abduction to Japan, all of which predate Japan’s ratification of the Convention. Many of these have been pending for years. In these cases, parents are not able to seek return of their children under the Convention; however, as of December 31, 2014, U.S. left-behind parents have filed 31 Convention access applications. Of the few cases of which the USCA is aware in which parents have sought redress in Japanese family courts, none have resulted in either meaningful parental access or the return of the child to the United States.
The USCA and the U.S. diplomatic mission in Japan work with the Japanese government to bring about the return of abducted children to the United States or to obtain parental access. The Department’s efforts have included individual requests through diplomatic channels seeking Japanese assistance in enforcing U.S. parents’ rights and in persuading taking parents to provide access; exchanges and training for lawyers and officials; and outreach and public diplomacy efforts. The Department continues to encourage the government of Japan to remove obstacles that parents still face in gaining access to or return of their children. Meanwhile, the Japanese government is developing its own resources to address issues related to child abduction since joining the Convention. Many of these initiatives, such as promoting mediation and alternative dispute resolution methods as a way for parents to reach agreement, using videoconferencing to foster communication between parents and children, and engaging in public outreach activities, may assist in non-Convention cases as well. Despite these encouraging steps, during the reporting period almost all of these non-Convention cases remained unresolved.
The report, at pages 26 to 27, also contained the following passages as regards the important role of airlines in these issues:
Many international parental child abductions take place via international airline flights, although the USCA has no specific data on this issue. Commercial airline practices to prevent IPCA were thoroughly reviewed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a June 2011 report, “Commercial Aviation, Program Aimed at High Risk Parent Abductors Could Aid in Preventing Abductions” to the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Aviation, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. This detailed report addresses the policies and measures airlines currently have in place, possible solutions, and appropriate role of commercial airliners in preventing IPCA.
In addition to the recommendations of the GAO report, the USCA also recommends the following best practices for airlines to aid in preventing IPCA:
1 Support and Cooperate with Law Enforcement Efforts: As private sector entities, airlines in the United States do not have the authority to enforce court and custody orders.
The airline’s main role related to the prevention of IPCA is cooperating, upon request, with law enforcement officials. Federal and state law enforcement entities have the main role in preventing
IPCA and airlines should work to support law enforcement agencies in this role.
2 Know How To Report: Commercial airline employees should be made aware of the USCA’s contact information so that IPCA cases reported to the airlines, either by a parent, attorney, court, law enforcement officer, or other stakeholder may be appropriately referred for immediate assistance.
A report from The Washington Times published on the 4th anniversary last month of my own son’s abduction to Japan highlights the fact that the Sean and David Goldman Act mechanisms have been “under-used” by the US Administration. These annual reports were a central part of the legislative regime. Whilst welcome in themselves, it has yet to be seen what difference these reports, and the other mechanisms, will make in terms of preventing or putting right child abductions.