International child abductions: Delay in ratification of Hague Convention continues

Published: April 24, 2013
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The convention vindicated the child’s right to have contact with both parents, while the issue of custody was to be determined by an appropriate higher court. PHOTO: AFP

The convention vindicated the child’s right to have contact with both parents, while the issue of custody was to be determined by an appropriate higher court. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: 

As the number of international child abduction cases increase in the wake of a growing trend of cross-cultural marriages, the authorities have vowed to ratify the Hague Abduction Convention, which provides inter-governmental arrangements to resolve such issues.

Adopted on October 25th, 1980 the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty  that addresses parental child abduction by facilitating co-operation between central authorities of the signatory countries to expedite the return of the child to the country of their habitual residence.

“My ministry will examine it. We genuinely believe that this convention should be adopted,” said interim law minister Ahmer Bilal Soofi during his concluding speech on the issue at a consultation on Monday.

Organised by the NGO Struggle for Change (SACH) in collaboration with the British High Commission, the day-long consultation was attended by the concerned officials from the diplomatic community, government ministries, police department, as well as legal experts and human rights activists.

The number of child abduction cases has risen primarily due to the mass exodus of Pakistanis to foreign countries over the last few decades, largely related to high divorce rates and broken families.

The participants were told that 40 such cases had arisen in 2012 in the UK.

Similarly, the officials of the US embassy said they were also witnessing an increase in the number of such incidences.

Cases have also been reported in the US, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands among other countries where a large number of Pakistani expatriates reside.

Former civil judge and moderator for the event Majid Bashir said the Hague Convention was based on the presumption that, barring special circumstances, the wrongful retention of a child across international boundaries was not in its interest. Whereas, the return of the child to their habitual residence was, he added.

The convention vindicated the child’s right to have contact with both parents, while the issue of custody was to be determined by an appropriate higher court.

Such a return order was designed to restore the status quo and deprive the wrongful parent of any advantage that might otherwise have been gained by the abduction.

Human Rights Secretary Shaigan Sharif Malik has been an obstacle to determining the custody of abducted children because he has yet to ratify the convention.

“I give my word that we will be ratifying this convention soon. This is an issue regarding children’s rights, something that we are serious about,” he said.

Three working groups focusing on mediation, challenges and implementation respectively were formed to draft recommendations that will be forwarded to the relevant authorities for effective implementation of the convention, once ratified.

Former chief justice of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Supreme Court, Justice (retd) Manzoor Gilani said the convention only dealt with the procedural aspects and left substantive elements of the issue in the hands of the member state, hence avoiding clashes with local laws.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2013.

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