US parents seek Kerry's help returning abducted children from Brazil

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC on August 1, 2016 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Washington (AFP) - The parents of seven children illegally taken from the United States to Brazil asked US Secretary of State John Kerry Monday to sanction the South American country.

The children living in Brazil were each taken from the US by a parent in violation of legal custody agreements, a situation that would require Brazil to return the children under a Hague convention that both the US and Brazil have signed.

"Our abducted children desperately need your help," the parents wrote in a letter to Kerry.

"We ask that you dramatically increase the diplomatic and economic pressure on the government of Brazil to follow its treaty obligations by employing the sanction options given to you two years ago," the parents said, requesting the US diplomatic chief apply a 2014 law allowing the US to punish countries that do not promptly return abducted children.

The law created an annual report to assess every country's history of child abductions and to require President Barack Obama to take action against nations with poor records.

Potential US measures include refusing export licenses for American technology, cutting development assistance and putting off scientific or cultural exchanges, punishments the president can waive.

Congress named the 2014 legislation the Goldman Law after Sean Goldman, whose father succeeded in bringing his son back to the United States after a five-year fight with Brazilian courts.

According to the State Department, Brazil has 13 pending cases of American children abducted for more than two years -- some for up to eight years -- but Congress has not yet applied the Goldman Law, the parents said.

"The government of Brazil has seen no evidence that our government takes the illegal abductions and detentions of United States citizens seriously," the parents wrote.

"Without any consequence for persistent non-compliance, there is no reason for the Government of Brazil to give attention to addressing our children's abductions and changing its laws to ensure that Brazil complies fully with the Hague Convention."