No, really. The Hague Convention is a myth. Likewise the Geneva Convention and the Vienna Convention. There are more than one of each, and referring to one of them that way is ambiguous. (Yes, yes, if you mention the full name earlier in a text, you’re okay to truncate.)
Of course, we lawyers love ambiguity—it’s our stock in trade. But we ought to avoid it ourselves, especially when citing authority. In truth, there are about three dozen Hague Conventions, although the United States is party to only a few (Service, Evidence, Adoption ’93, Apostille, etc.). They cover a range of issues, and their administration is supported by a top flight organization called the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (the image above is a screenshot of the Conference’s website, linked here).
Using the right Convention is awfully important.
Several months ago, a lawyer called me and said he needed to “serve a notice under the Hague Convention.” Okay, I said, thinking he meant the Hague Service Convention (HSC). Pretty routine in my line of work; not a lot of fanfare if you have a handle on the quirks of various countries.
After about fifteen minutes of explaining the procedure necessary under the HSC, he told me I was wrong.
Now, Stubborn Aaron wanted to get belligerent and say “well, gee, smart guy… why in the hell did you call me if you know so much about it?” I could feel my blood pressure rising.
Diplomatic Aaron took over, fortunately (we all have mood swings—don’t judge me quite yet). “How so? What’s your understanding of the procedure?”
He said the State Department and Customs & Immigration required that notice be served on the government of the country where the child was born.
“Hmmmm,” said Diplomatic Aaron. “What sort of notice?” Turns out, it was an adoption notice, that (State & CIS said) had to be served on the foreign government, requesting certification that it did not object to the adoption.
Ah, I concluded. Not the Service Convention, but the Hague Adoption Convention (1993).
[As an aside, the State Department contention that such certification is necessary under the Adoption Convention is bollocks. It’s merely a way to keep out immigrant kids, and foreign countries wonder if we Americans have a collective drug problem when they get such requests. State’s interpretation is really that goofy.]
The confusion could have been avoided if I had only asked the right question: which Hague Convention?
Live & learn.
[This post follows my earlier rant about the same subject, and was originally published on LinkedIn, April 7, 2016.]