A draft bill which would enable the US government to sanction countries it believes are not doing enough to return abducted children could instead threaten their welfare, a campaign group has claimed.
The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2013 (Congressional Bill H.R. 3212) was passed by the US House of Representatives in December. It would give the US government the power to issue sanctions against countries who have signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction but which it believes aren’t fully complying with it. In addition, countries which are not signatories to this international treaty could be sanctioned if the US government believes they have not complied with a Memorandum of Understanding (international agreement) concerning child abduction.
The 1980 Hague Convention allows the swift return of children abducted from one contracting country into another by a parent.
But according to campaign group the I Care Foundation, if it finds its way onto the statute books H.R. 3212 could “in reality undermine all diplomatic efforts under the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention to protect children and in actuality place children who are abducted in a less likely position to be returned to the country of original jurisdiction.”
The Foundation campaigns on child abduction issues. It acknowledges good intentions behind the draft bill, but questions whether one participant in the Hague Convention should be able to take unilateral actions against others.
Foundation Executive Director Peter Thomas Senese said:
“We strongly believe that issues of non-compliance should be discussed within the framework of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (under the auspices of which the 1980 Child Abduction Convention has been adopted), not by unilateral sanctions. A climate of sanctions can be all the more detrimental to the Convention as there are countries that view the operation of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention in the United States as deficient.”
“One can hardly imagine what would happen if countries to the child abduction convention begin to sanction one another – those who would suffer most from the resulting tensions are abducted children whose chances of being returned would be dramatically affected. We believe education and training, not threat of sanctions can foster an increased environment of contracting country compliance to the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention.”
H.R. 3212 will proceed to the US Senate for further debate later this year.