Each year, a country’s compliance with laws governing international child abduction is evaluated in a report issued by the U.S. Department of State. These annual reports show Congress the countries determined to have been engaged in a pattern of noncompliance. They also show if any countries cited in the past improved.
Under the Hague Convention, the U.S. State Department is tasked as our Central Authority. The Central Authority facilitates implementation and operation of the Hague Convention on child abduction in the U.S.
After passage of the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, the State Department was later assigned the duty of submitting annual Action Reports on International Child Abduction to Congress on the specific actions taken in response to countries determined to have been engaged in a pattern of noncompliance.
In 2022, a total of 165 abducted children were returned to the United States.
The 2023 Annual Report is an overview of the Department’s efforts to support the resolution of international parental child abduction cases.
The Department also reports on their work with foreign governments and authorities to promote procedures to encourage the prompt resolution of existing international abduction cases. The aim is that, in general, international custody disputes should be resolved in the competent court of the country of the child’s habitual residence.
Countries which don’t meet their Convention obligations, or fail to work with the U.S. to resolve child abduction cases, can face “appropriate actions.”
Florida International Child Abduction
I’ve written and spoken about international child abduction compliance under the Hague Convention before. The Hague Convention seeks to deter child abductions by a parent by eliminating their primary motivation for doing so: to “deprive the abduction parent’s actions of any practical or juridical consequences.”
The removal or the retention of a child is to be considered wrongful where it is in breach of rights of custody attributed to a person, an institution or any other body, either jointly or alone, under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention; and at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.
The Hague Convention is implemented in the United States through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act. Then in 2014, the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act was signed into law.
Even if a country is a signatory country and treaty partners with the U.S., returning a wrongfully retained or abducted child may still be complicated because some signatory countries are not complying with the Convention. That is where the State Department’s annual reporting comes in.
ICAPRA increases the State Department’s annual reporting requirements. Each year, the Department not only submits an Annual Report on International Child Abduction to Congress, it submits another report on the actions taken towards countries determined to have been engaged in a pattern of noncompliance.
Don’t cry for me, Argentina
The State Department reports include both countries where there is a treaty relationship with the United States under the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention, and countries where no treaty relationship exists, such as Russia.
The 2023 Action Report reviews the results of cases which were resolved the previous year. Some of the countries in our hemisphere which failed to regularly implement and comply with the Hague Convention include Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras, and Peru.
The Convention has been in force between the United States and Argentina since 1991. In 2022, Argentina had continued to demonstrate a pattern of noncompliance. Specifically, the Argentine judicial authorities failed to regularly implement and comply with the provisions of the Convention.
As a result of this failure, 50 percent of requests for the return of abducted children under the Convention remained unresolved for more than 12 months. Granted, there was only 2 abduction cases in Argentina. One case was resolved with the return of the child, and the other one is still unresolved after a year. Argentina was previously cited for demonstrating a pattern of noncompliance in the 2015-2022 Annual Reports.
ICAPRA also adds steps the U.S. can take when a country refuses to cooperate in the resolution of overseas abduction and access cases involving American children. The steps can include: a demarche (a petition or protest through diplomatic channels); public condemnation; delay or cancelation of official, or state visits; suspension of U.S. development assistance; and even the withdrawal or suspension of U.S. security assistance.
The 2023 Report is available here.