Committee Hearing Opening Statements
Parents of Abducted U.S. Children Tell Their Stories
'Left behind' parents of children illegally held in Japan, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Mexico & other Countries Speak at Hearing
The voices of heartbroken but hopeful ‘left behind parents’ longing to be reunited with their abducted children echoed in a congressional hearing today chaired by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees international human rights.
There are more than 2,400 American children held wrongfully overseas.
“International child abduction rips children from their homes and lives, taking them to a foreign land and alienating them from a left behind parent who loves them and who they have a right to know,” Smith said. “Their childhood is disrupted, in limbo, or sometimes in hiding as the taking parent seeks to evade the law, or to conjure legal cover for their immoral actions. Abducted children often lose their relationship with their mom or their dad, half of their identity and half of their culture." Click here to read the Congressman’s testimony. Click here to watch Chairman Smith’s opening remarks.
Congressman Smith told the parents he introduced legislation, H.R. 1940, to raise the profile of the issue of international abduction by appointing a new Ambassador-at-Large for International Child Abduction. The ambassador would head a new office charged with helping left behind parents secure the return of their children and collect detailed information and report on abducted children in all countries.
One key witness at the hearing, David Goldman, of Tinton Falls, N.J., the father of an abducted American boy who was held in Brazil for nearly five years, testified about his battle. Following intense pressure from Congress, the U.S. State Department and international media, Brazil returned the boy home to the United States. Goldman said Sean will be 11 years old tomorrow, May 25, which also happens to be International Missing Children's Awareness Day.
“With all the assistance and support I received, after over four years and then another year and one half after the death of his first abductor, on Christmas Eve 2009, my son and I were finally reunited and returned home,” Goldman said. “It was nothing short of a miracle. Even after five and one half years of my son's illegal retention and documented abuse, he is now home and he is flourishing.” Click here to read Goldman’s testimony.
Other witnesses included left behind parents whose children have been taken to countries signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, as well as countries not signatory to the Hague treaty. Parents invited to testify were: Sarah Edwards, of Ohio, mother of Eli, 3 who was abducted to Turkey while on vacation with his father in March 2010; Carlos Bermudez, of North Carolina, father of Sage, 3, who was abducted to Mexico in June of 2008; Michael Elias, father of Jade, 5, and Michael, 3, who were abducted to Japan in December 2008 from their home in New Jersey; Colin Bower, of Massachusetts, whose sons Ramsay, 8, and Noor, 10 were abducted to Egypt August 2009, and; Joshua Izzard, father of Melisande, 3, who was abducted from her home in Chicago and taken to Russia by her mother in October 2010.
Also testifying before members of the subcommittee were Patricia Apy, attorney and international child abduction expert; Kristin Wells, attorney and foreign policy expert; and Jesse Eaves, Policy Advisor for Children in Crisis, World Vision.
Click here to watch Chairman Smith’s entire subcommittee hearing entitled “International Child Abduction: Broken Laws and Bereaved Lives”.
Smith said the U.S. State Department’s 2010 Hague Convention Compliance Report highlights 15 countries (Argentina, Australia, Austria, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Honduras, Hungary, Israel, Mexico, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey) for failing to enforce return orders. Many other countries (Bermuda, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Honduras, Mexico, the Bahamas, and St. Kitts and Nevis) are failing to abide by the Hague Convention provisions concerning the central authority charged with implementing the Convention, the performance of their judiciaries in applying the Hague Convention, and/or the ability or willingness of law enforcement to ensure swift enforcement of orders issued under the Convention.
Click here to watch a Fox News segment from May 25, 2011 featuring left behind parents Goldman and Bower calling for support of H.R 1940:
Click here to watch Goldman and Smith in a May 30, 2011 interview about international child abduction: