Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Need For An International Judiciary College And Training Center Under The Auspices of the Hague Permanent Bureau

Disenchanted Left-Behind Parents And Lawmakers Point To The Need To Create A Strong And Sustainable International Judiciary College And Training Center As The Need For An Educated Global Judiciary and Support Personnel Becomes Clear In Matters Of International Parental Child Abduction and Post-Abduction Reunification.
The creation of an International Judiciary College And Training Center is perhaps the singular most important step that can create the greatest impact of protecting the hundreds of thousands of children each year who are targeted for international abduction and trafficking. The reality is the vast majority of judges overseeing international parental child abduction cases are not trained in the complex legal, psychological, political, financial, and logistical matters that all impact abduction cases.

Given its expertise on the operation of all relevant Hague Conventions, including of course the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention, and experience in providing technical assistance to judges and other relevant actors involved in their operation, we suggest and hope that the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference can be prominently associated to this proposal and become an integral part of its realization.

We believe that the Hague Child Abduction Convention is the right mechanism that all nations must participate in and uphold; however, untrained judges and courts have in fact led to many previous failures including failure to properly and expeditiously oversee legal proceedings seeking the return of abducted children to their country of habitual residency. 

In addition, failures to have a highly educated global judiciary deeply familiar with child abduction have caused diplomatic unease with the potential of severe long-term problems.  For example, if a Hague signatory country that believes other Hague signatory countries do not uphold the intent and spirit of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Prevention and decide to impose their own penalties and sanctions on countries that do not adhere to the Hague Child Abduction Convention we may have a significant disaster on our hands.  The risk that any legislation that seeks sanctions from a member-state against another state may have the potential to remove the validity of the international treaty and may in reality cause more children who are abducted to not be returned to their country of original jurisdiction particularly if countries take matters into their own hands and remove diplomacy. 

Should other states signatories of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention implement similar law or policy that seeks sanctions against one another, one of two things may happen. The first is (and we hope this is the case) that more states will comply with the spirit and intent of the abduction convention. The second possibility is that new laws and policies established to sanction non-compliance could lead to the demise and viability of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention.

Creating an International Judiciary College and Training Center ideally under the auspices of the Permanent Bureau and capable of training on an ongoing basis a significant number of judges and other relevant actors involved in the operation of the 38 Conventions adopted under the auspices of the Hague Conference on Private International Law including the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention would have a dramatic impact on reducing the global abduction rate while also increasing diplomatic relationships amongst countries as it is highly conceivable that the existing issues of lack of judicial compliance and adherence to the abduction convention would be mooted as more judges become trained on Hague matters. 

Unquestionably, we acknowledge the existence of significant failures amongst the judiciary and support personnel (including untrained child therapist and psychologist who are hired to assist in abduction matters but who do not understand the unique and complex issues surrounding abduction and child custody) around the world to understand the scope and nature of parental abduction and the tendency of untrained judiciary to allow abduction defense litigation to derail the very nature and scope of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention that’s very purpose is to determine which court has a right of jurisdiction on a child’s welfare and then to return that child to such jurisdiction. Equally, there are grave challenges many children of abduction face post-reunification. The majority of the hardship a child faces often revolves around new actions created by the abducting parent who was forced to return with the child to the country of original jurisdiction. In these cases the abducting parent will often make new false claims against their previous victimized targeted parent in hope to create an environment that would enable them to remove the child from the country or original jurisdiction. At times this is done illegally and at other times new charges of abuse are levied in hope that a court will grant the previous abduction parent full custody of the child coupled with mobility to relocate abroad.  The challenge in post abduction cases where new allegations of abuse are made is that all actors involved in protecting the child’s best interest – judges, law enforcement, child therapist and evaluators, and social workers – all must consider the previous abusive act of abduction and the intent of the complainant who makes the allegations against the previous left-behind parent.

Failure to thoroughly consider all abduction events and weight the horrendous acts of abuse related to a child’s abduction is in fact a complete and unacceptable failure for a legal system and its actors to protect a child.

Sadly, lack of understanding concerning the unique matters associated with international parental child abduction during and post-reunification by the necessary actors charged with protecting a child, including judges, law enforcement, child therapist and social workers only creates an environment that perpetuates further abuse of the child.

The creation of an International Judiciary College And Training Center that can educate all actors dedicated to protecting children from child abduction and assisting them post-reunification would have far-reaching benefits.

In addition, a judicial college could provide a window of understanding amongst non-member states as to the benefits of participation in the Hague Conferences and become a signatory of its various conventions.  Understanding and knowledge opens the possibility for non-member states to participate in various conventions that they may have been hesitant to do previously.  

The benefits of world-wide participation would in fact create an underpinning of global accountability on both social and economic matters covered by any of the relevant Hague Conventions.

These benefits would have far-reaching social benefits and economic advantages. For example, it would be reasonable to expect that convention compliance will increase due to increased understanding amongst the world’s judiciary. Economic benefits would be staggering: for example, costs associated with international child abduction would be dramatically reduced as cases are expedited at the ‘In-bound’ country level – saving both time and money for all parties involved.

We strongly point out that if the international community fails to create an International Judicial College, preferably under the auspices of the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law that would become a central education, research, and training center for the world’s judiciary, the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention is at risk of becoming an obsolete tool if countries begin to subjectively sanction one-another for failures to return an abducted child. The ramifications of countries issuing subjective sanctions against one another can become a very real problem and threat to the needs for increased diplomatic relations in our ever-increasing globally connected world.

It is critical that we point out that during international parental child abduction the victimized child is not the only victim. The targeted parent is also a tragic victim as they are often thrust into an unknown storm that has limited navigation maps to guide them through. Adding to the challenges of a left-behind parent is the reality that the key actors that they turn to for help such as the courts and judges, law enforcement, and social workers and child therapist often do not understand the complexity and severe dynamics of abduction.  Combining these issues is that the legal system itself, if overseen by an inexperienced judge, can exasperate abduction cases by not following the intent and spirit of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Prevention to preside over legal proceedings in a fastidious manner.

Of great concern is the reality that victimized left behind parents who successfully reunite with their child but find themselves facing additional schemes that utilize their child they are desperate to protect often lose hope in the legal system they once turned to for help. When this type of disenchantment occurs due to real failures by the actors who were responsible to protect the child and the victimized parent the result is anarchy. Everyone suffers. Everyone.

We must protect our children from abuse. In order to do so we must create an International Judiciary College And Training Center.

 Kind regards to all,
International Executive Director