Wednesday, May 15, 2019

State Department's Annual Report on International Child Abduction: Ecuador

The U.S. State Department has recently released their annual report on International Child Abduction. Below is our third post in a series here focusing on the nine countries classified as “demonstrating patterns of noncompliance.”  Today’s country is Ecuador.
Country Summary: The Convention has been in force between the United States and Ecuador since 1992. In 2018, Ecuador demonstrated a pattern of noncompliance. Specifically, the judiciary persistently failed to implement the provisions of the Convention. As a result of this failure, 33 percent of requests for the return of abducted children under the Convention remained unresolved for more than 12 months. On average, these cases were unresolved for one year and five months. Ecuador was previously cited for demonstrating a pattern of noncompliance in the 2015-2018 Annual Reports. 
Initial Inquiries: In 2018, the Department received two initial inquiries from parents regarding possible abductions to Ecuador for which no completed applications were submitted to the Department. Significant Developments: Ecuador enforced the return of one child to the United States in one case in 2018, resolving a six-year-long Convention application. The Ecuadorian Central Authority (ECA) and Ecuador’s specialized law enforcement unit for children, Dirección Nacional de Policía Especializada para Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes (DINAPEN), coordinated with the Department to ensure the safe return of the child. In the reporting year, the ECA and other IPCA stakeholders in Ecuador expressed interest in additional support and training for judges in Ecuador. In July 2018, members of the ECA and DINAPEN visited the United States on a week-long child abduction focused International Visitor Leadership Program. Additionally, the Special Advisor for Children’s Issues traveled to Quito for high-level meetings to discuss Ecuador’s noncompliance with the Convention with the ECA, the Ecuadorian Hague Network Judge, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, DINAPEN, and the president of the National Court of Justice. Finally, the ECA moved from the Ministry of Justice to the Secretariat of Human Rights in December 2018.
Central Authority: The United States and the Ecuadorian Central Authorities have a strong and productive relationship that facilitates the resolution of abduction cases under the Convention. In 2018, the Department noted substantial improvement in information sharing and improved coordination with the ECA.

Voluntary Resolution: The Convention states that central authorities “shall take all appropriate measures to secure the voluntary return of the child or to bring about an amicable resolution of the issues.” In 2018, one abduction case was resolved through voluntary means.
Location: The United States and the Ecuadorian Central Authorities have a strong and productive relationship that facilitates the resolution of abduction cases under the Convention. The average time to locate a child was 59 days. As of December 31, 2018, there is one case where the Ecuadorian authorities remain unable to initially locate a child.
Judicial Authorities: The Ecuadorian judicial authorities issued a series of decisions that were not consistent with the Convention, and there were serious delays in deciding Convention cases, which contributed to a pattern of noncompliance. As a result, cases may be pending with the judiciary for over one year. Some of the language in a decision issued by the court raised concerns that defenses to return under the Convention may be interpreted too broadly, in contrast with the commonly held understanding that exceptions to return must be narrowly interpreted to maintain the efficacy of the Convention. Additionally, the judicial decision suggested that the enforcement of Ecuadorian domestic laws and the interpretation of other treaties took priority over implementation of the Convention.
Enforcement: Decisions in Convention cases in Ecuador were generally enforced in a timely manner. In some cases, Ecuadorian authorities reportedly encountered difficulties attempting to enforce judicial orders and/or locate children, either due to lack of authority or lack of clear procedures.
Access: In 2018, the U.S. Central Authority acted on a total of two open access cases under the Convention in Ecuador. Of these, one case was opened in 2018. This case has been filed with the Ecuadorian Central Authority. This case was filed in 2018. By December 31, 2018, both cases remained open.
Department Recommendations: The Department will continue intense engagement with the Ecuadorian authorities to address issues of concern.