Testimony offered at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in a hearing on International Child Abduction has been published on the web site of Chris Smith. According to Smith's reports:
Washington, Dec 2 - The heartbreaking stories of left-behind parents whose children are held in other countries were laid out before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) at a hearing on international child abduction and parental access that also included judicial and legal experts, the head of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children and other witnesses.
“ International child abduction is a huge scandal that has been significantly enabled by ignorance, indifference, incompetence, or outright complicity by far too many governments around the world,” said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), an executive member of the TLHRC who arranged the hearing. “The present state of affairs is unconscionable and must change. David Goldman’s situation cries out for an immediate and final resolution.” (Click here for the rest of the Congressman’s remarks.)
Chief witness David Goldman of Tinton Falls, Monmouth County, N.J., father of Sean Goldman, spoke of how Sean was abducted by his mother in 2004 and taken to Brazil, never to return home since. Sean is now nine years old and his mother has since died. David Goldman explained how the mother’s second husband has been able to continue to block all attempts for Sean to return home, despite both the U.S. and Brazil being signatories of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
“ We cannot dwell on or bring back the years we have lost, but we can hope to look forward to the remaining precious years ahead,” said Goldman. “My son Sean is still a young boy and he can still heal, but he needs to come home now. I appeal and plead to all of you at the most basic level of human decency to respect the sanctity of the parent-child relationship. Please take action to make a difference, to bring change, to bring our children home.” (David Goldman's Testimony)
“I pray that Congress does not just hold hearings on this ongoing tragedy, but joins together in a bipartisan commitment to pass legislation that will ensure the U.S. government has the tools to return abducted American children immediately as the treaty requires and that other countries learn there are serious consequences for refusing to return abducted American children.”
In July, Smith introduced the “International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009”, H.R. 3240 to create an ambassador-at-large in the State Department to help resolve and prevent cases of international child abduction, and empower the Administration with options to penalize countries who fail to cooperate with the U.S. in returning abducted U.S. children.
Other left behind parents, Tom Sylvester, father of Carina Sylvester who has been held in Austria since 1995, Navy Commander Paul Toland, father of Erika Toland who has been held in Japan since 2003, and Patrick Braden, father of Melissa Braden who has been held in Japan since 2006, offered similar accounts. Japan is not a signatory of the Hague treaty, and has never returned an American child through its court system.
“ Nothing is more important and deep-seated in this world than a parent’s love for his child… we all love our children,” said Toland, explaining that Erika’s mother passed away and his daughter is held by her grandmother without his approval. “Equally important is a society’s responsibility to ensure that their most vulnerable citizens, their children, have the opportunity to know and love their parents. This is where Japan and many other nations have failed, and this is why we are here today. Japan is a haven for international child abduction.” [Commander Toland's testimony]
Also testifying were: The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children President and Chief Executive Officer, Ernie Allen; Judge Peter Messitte, U.S. District Court, Maryland, and U.S. Representative on the Judicial Network on the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction; international child custody expert, attorney Patricia Apy; and Former Asst. Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (1989-93), Bernard Aronson. (Click on each witnesses name for their testimony).
Judge Messitte predicted that the Goldman case would proceed with another favorable court ruling by the Superior Tribunal in Rio this month, with two higher court rulings pending in the Superior Tribunal of Justice and then the Supreme Federal Tribunal in Brasilia, both of which he thought would be favorable. Unfortunately, those rulings could take several months, he said, during which time the current court-ordered return of Sean to his father will continue to be stayed.
“The (Goldman) case should have been resolved years ago and Sean Goldman should have been returned to his father in New Jersey,” Messitte said. The Judge was optimistic that the high profile nature of the Sean Goldman case has brought a strong awareness of the Hague Convention within the Brazilian courts.
The other Members of the Commission who participated include are Co-Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Jean Schmidt (R-OH).