http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/07/10/national/crime-legal/u-s-father-seeking-access-to-daughter-blasts-japans-family-courts/

JAPAN TIMES

July 10, 2015

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U.S. father seeking access to daughter blasts Japan’s family courts

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Seeking to regain custody of a daughter he hasn’t seen in years, an American father called on the Tokyo Family Court on Thursday to stop “endorsing child abduction” by parents and demonstrate that it is capable of prioritizing the best interests of children.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Paul Toland is suing the mother of his Japanese ex-wife for refusing to let him see his 12-year-old daughter ever since the wife committed suicide in 2007 after taking away the child four years earlier due to a failed marriage.

Japan joined the Hague Convention on cross-border parental child kidnapping in 2014. But since the abduction was not cross-border — Toland’s family was based in Yokohama at the time it occurred — his case is not covered by the pact, which also doesn’t work retroactively.

Aside from getting back his child, Toland characterized his lawsuit as a challenge against the entrenched tendency by Japanese family courts to disregard the right of left-behind parents, a tendency that he claimed is tantamount to “endorsing child abduction” between parents.

“The current situation in Japan, where (my daughter) is shut off from her only parent and held by a third-party non-parent, would be inconceivable in the rest of the world,” Toland said in prerecorded video footage played by his lawyer Akira Ueno after the trial. “I sincerely hope the Japanese courts will recognize the universal right of parents, and do the right thing in this case.”

Lawyers representing Toland’s mother-in-law were not available for immediate comment on Friday.

During the trial, Toland was quoted by Ueno as saying his wish to see his abducted daughter “once a week” was met with laughter by a family court arbitrator, indicating that such a request was far beyond reach for a non-custodial parent. Toland himself couldn’t make it to the trial as he is now in the United States.

After his daughter was taken by his ex-wife in July 2003, Toland claims he has only been able to see her on a couple of occasions, with his attempts to communicate with her “flat-out rejected” by his mother-in-law.

“Customarily speaking, Japanese family courts are notorious for being overwhelmingly inclined to give custody to parents who took away their children first,” Ueno said.

Underlying such a tendency, he said, is the fact that family courts lack the understanding that children are better off being granted access to both parents after divorce.

FEB2015ACCJARTICLE

For PDF of full issue, download from: http://www.accjjournal.com/
FEBRUARY 2015 • ACCJ JOURNAL

NEW RULES ON CHILD ABDUCTION
Tokyo handles first cases under newly ratified Hague convention

It took time and the application of a degree of pressure—both international and domestic—for Japan’s Diet to approve the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which finally went into effect on April 1, 2014. So far, diplomats, lawyers, and children’s rights activists have broadly applauded the efforts of the Japanese authorities to accede to the spirit of the agreement, pointing out a number of cases in which the pact has been enforced.

They warn, however, that the legislation has been in place for less than a year, and that Japan’s courts have yet to become deeply involved in cases that, all sides agree, are complicated and replete with emotional aspects.
“It’s too early to tell yet,” Steven Maloney, consul general at the US Embassy in Tokyo, told the ACCJ Journal.
“The Japanese government has done a lot of things very well; they have enacted the legislation, set up an office in the foreign ministry, as well as assembled judges, social workers, and lawyers with diverse skills and the ability to do the job properly, and we’re very happy with that. “But how the courts react remains to be seen,” he added.

Before last April, Japan was the only G-8 nation not to have ratified this Hague convention, which generally stipulates that a child should be returned to his or her country of habitual residence when they have been taken out of that country by a parent and without the consent of the other parent.

With ever more international marriages—estimated at 40,000 a year in Japan—ending in separation or divorce, pressure from around the world has been building for Tokyo to enact relevant legislation.

In recent years, embassies in Tokyo were handling around 400 cases annually in which the Japanese parent had violated the terms of the convention. But previously, international authorities had been powerless to act once the child was in Japan.

At present, the US Embassy in Tokyo is dealing with close to 100 cases. “Each [case] is very complicated, and many involve more than one child,” Maloney said. Thirty-one applications for access to US citizen children and two cases for return are currently being handled by the Japanese authorities, and Maloney believes the Japanese authorities deserve credit for that.

“Clearly the government here is treating the issue very seriously, they are acting professionally, they are carrying out training, and they are not stonewalling, but we will know a great deal more in three months from now,” he added.

Jury still out

Concern revolves around an article in the convention that identifies “grave risk” to the physical well-being of the child at the center of a dispute as being grounds for a judge to refuse to sanction the child being returned to his or her country of habitual residence. Critics say that Japanese parents who have abducted a child are aware of this loophole and that they are likely to use it—whether or not there was any physical abuse in the past—to keep the child in Japan.

“If the article is interpreted in Japan as it is interpreted elsewhere, then we do not believe there are any loopholes,” Maloney said.

Taeko Mizuno Tada, a Tokyo-based lawyer with the firm Nagahama, Mizuno & Inoue, has handled international family cases for many years. She says the law was changed largely as a result of pressure from foreign governments.
“I believe the Japanese government agreed to ratify the convention because of overseas pressure, especially from the US government,” Mizuno said. “Over the past 20 years, amendments to the Civil Code related to family matters have been very slow and controversial in Japan.

“But as some children have been returned to Japan from other countries since April 1, we now understand that the Hague convention can be beneficial to Japanese and other residents of Japan as well,” she added.
Without external encouragement, Mizuno believes, it could have taken another 30 years for Japan to sign the Hague pact. But she agrees that the authorities here are taking their new obligations seriously.

“The Japanese foreign ministry has hired many good people to handle Hague convention issues,” she said. “And Japanese courts and the bar association have had a lot of education and training courses for Hague cases.”

Parents still suffering

However, foreign nationals who have been separated from their children for many years say Japan’s failure to ratify the convention earlier condemned them to years without their children, and that they still may never have the right to see their kids again.

“The benefits of Japan signing the convention only apply to cases where the children are under 16 years of age,” said Walter Benda, of Virginia, who has seen his two daughters just once in 20 years.

“Furthermore the Hague convention is not retroactive, so cases such as mine, which occurred in the past, and in which the children are already 16 or older, are not covered under any of the provisions of this treaty,” Benda added. He is joint founder of the Japan chapter of the US-based Children’s Rights Council.

Benda’s wife disappeared with the girls after seeing him off to work one morning from their home in Chiba Prefecture, and she rebuffed all his efforts to make contact with them. As soon as he did find them again, they vanished once more. The only time he has seen them was for a few moments on a street in a Japanese town in 1998, after a private investigator managed to track down the girls and their mother.

The problem was overlooked for many years simply because it was not in the public eye, and there was “a cultural bias” in Japan that supported Japanese parents who had abducted children, Benda said.

“However, as the number of cases kept growing at an ever increasing rate, with parents becoming more and more organized and being able to use the Internet to leverage this issue, it started to catch the attention of leaders in the US, Japan, and other countries,” he explained. “In addition to media coverage, various documentaries, such as From the Shadows, further exposed the problem.

“Rallies and other events held by parents in the US, Japan, and other countries also raised public awareness, as did the passage of various congressional resolutions in the US.

“All of this built up to the point where it started to become an international diplomatic issue that Japanese leaders had to deal with when meeting with their foreign counterparts,” he said. “All of these efforts took about 20 years of hard work and sacrifices by parents who had their children internationally abducted.”

And while Benda concedes that little can be done in his case, he agrees that Japan signing the convention means that other foreign parents may not have to go through what he has endured for two decades.

“We have seen a marked decline in the number of parents contacting our organization for help because of their children being internationally abducted,” he said. “I definitely believe that Japan’s signing of the Hague convention has had a deterrent effect on the number of parental abductions of children of couples with one Japanese spouse and one non-Japanese spouse.”

US nationals seeking advice may contact tokyoacs@state.gov, call 03 3224 5000, or view the State Department’s website at http://travel.state.gov/content/ childabduction/english/about.html.

David Levy

December 31, 2014

David Levy helped inspire the foundation of the Children’s Rights Council of Japan chapter in 1996, and was an active supporter of our activities over the years. Rest in peace, David, and thanks for all you have done to support a child’s rights to both parents worldwide.

DAVID LAWRENCE LEVY

On Thursday, December 11, 2014; David Lawrence Levy of Hyattsville, MD. Beloved husband of Ellen Levy; devoted father of Justin (Ilana) Levy, and Diana (Danny) Moldovan; beloved brother of Carol Levy; cherished grandfather of Corina Levy. Funeral Services will be held on Sunday, December 14, 2014 at 10;15 a.m. at Tifereth Israel Congregation, 7701 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20012. Interment Mount Lebanon Cemetery. Shiva services will be held at the late residence Sunday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Contributions in his memory may be made to Tifereth Israel Congregation. Arrangements by Hines-Rinaldi Funeral Home, Inc. under Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington Contract.
– See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?n=david-l-levy&pid=173444933&#sthash.SWnJG6hL.UC6Q7Ein.dpuf

Business Standard
Thursday, November 20, 2014 | 07:19 AM IST

http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/first-japan-linked-child-returns-home-under-abduction-treaty-114111200752_1.html

First Japan-linked child returns home under abduction treaty
AFP | Tokyo
November 12, 2014 Last Updated at 14:30 IST

The Japanese government has helped return a boy to his German home in the first such case since adopting an international treaty on cross-border child custody disputes, an official said today.

The foreign ministry said it intervened in a case involving a five-year-old boy, brought to Japan by his Japanese mother, who left the boy’s German father.

The mother took the boy in June without the father’s consent, a ministry official said.

“In August, the father contacted us to request assistance. We have located the boy, and contacted the mother,” he said.

“In October, the mother took the boy to his home,” he said, adding that the parents will have to work out their difference in Germany.

Tokyo’s official involvement became possible after Japan enacted in April the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Japan had long been the only member of the Group of Seven major industrialised nations not to ratify the convention, which requires nations to return snatched children to the countries where they usually reside.

Japanese courts virtually never grant custody to foreign parents, which has previously left few legal avenues for those whose former partners have fled to Japan with their children.

Hundreds of US parents have complained that they have been left unable to see their half-Japanese children. At least 120 have filed cases in Japan, invariably to no avail.

Major European nations such as Britain and France have also pressured Japan to join the shared rule among leading powers.

The Japanese government has 13 pending requests from non-Japanese parents for return of their offsprings taken to Japan, the foreign ministry official said.

There are nine cases where Japanese parents are asking for return of their children taken abroad, he said.

The foreign ministry has also accepted 46 requests from non-Japanese parents requesting meetings with their children in Japan but not asking for their return.

There are 13 cases of Japanese parents requesting meetings with their kids taken abroad, the official added.

http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1594102/racist-cartoon-issued-japanese-ministry-angers-rights-activists

‘Racist’ cartoon issued by Japanese ministry angers rights activists

Pamphlet issued by Tokyo to Japan’s embassies in response to Hague convention is criticised for depicting a foreign man beating his child
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 September, 2014, 11:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2014, 3:31pm

Julian Ryall in Tokyo

The cartoon showing a white man beating his child has drawn condemnation from human rights activists.

Human rights activists in Japan have reacted angrily to a new pamphlet released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that they claim is racist and stereotypical for depicting white fathers beating their children.

The 11-page leaflet has been sent to Japanese embassies and consulates around the world in response to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction going into effect in Japan on April 1.

Tokyo dragged its feet on ratifying the treaty, which broadly stipulates that a child should be returned to his or her country of habitual residence when they have been taken out of that country by a parent but without the consent of the other parent.

But manga-style images of foreign fathers beating children and Japanese women portrayed as innocent victims have raised the hackles of campaigners, both those fighting discrimination against foreigners and non-Japanese who have been unable to see children who have been abducted by Japanese former spouses.

Debito Arudou said the Japanese “see themselves as the victims”.”It’s the same problem with any negotiations in which Japan looks like it has been beaten,” said Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese citizen who was born in the United States and has become a leading human rights activist.

“After being forced to give up a degree of power by signing the Hague treaty, they have to show that they have not lost face and they try to turn the narrative around,” he said. “It’s the same as in the debate over whaling.

“The Japanese always see themselves as the victims, and in this case, the narrative is that Japanese women are being abused and that the big, bad world is constantly trying to take advantage of them.”

Arudou is particularly incensed by the cover of the publication, which shows a blond-haired foreigner hitting a little girl, a foreign father taking a child from a sobbing Japanese mother and another Japanese female apparently ostracised by big-nosed foreign women.

“It is promoting the image that the outside world is against Japanese and the only place they will get a fair deal is in Japan,” said Arudou.

The rest of the pamphlet takes the form of a conversation between a cartoon character father and son, but with the storyline showing the difficulties of a Japanese woman living abroad with her half-Japanese son.

Arudou says the publication then “degenerates into the childish” with the appearance of an animated doll that is the father figure’s pride and joy, but also dispenses advice.

“As well as promoting all these stereotypes, why are they not talking about visitation issues for foreigners whose half-Japanese children have been abducted by their ex-wives?” asked Arudou.

Several foreigners who have been unable to see their children for years have already contacted Arudou to express their anger, with a number of US nationals saying they would pass the document onto lawmakers.

Arudou’s post on the issue on his website has also attracted attention, with commentators describing the pamphlet as “racist propaganda”.

“This is disgusting,” one commentator posted. “Pictures are powerful, more powerful than words. And the only time I’ve ever seen anything remotely like this is when I did a search for old anti-Japanese propaganda.

“Of course, that was disgusting too, but it was wartime!”

Another added, “What a pathetic advert for an ‘advanced’ country.

“As for the text – not wasting any more bandwidth on such utter racist, xenophobic, patronising, paranoid nonsense.”
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as ‘Racist’ cartoon sparks outrage

The following is a copy of the English language version of the pamphlet:

MOFA Hague Convention pamphlet

Goldman Act update

August 29, 2014

http://ind.gmnews.com/news/2014-08-07/Front_Page/Goldman_Act_bolsters_fight_for_return_of_abducted_.html

Goldman Act bolsters fight for return of abducted children
By ADAM C. UZIALKO
Staff Writer

A bill empowering the U.S. State Department to aggressively pursue the return of internationally abducted children is headed to the president’s desk after being approved by Congress.

The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, the fourth bill of its kind introduced by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4), was drafted after Smith became involved with David Goldman’s fight to be reunited with his son, Sean.

According to Jeff Sagnip, the congressman’s press secretary, Goldman’s wife absconded with Sean from the family’s Tinton Falls home in June 2004, bringing him to Brazil when he was 4 years old without seeking custody of Sean or legally divorcing Goldman in a U.S. court.

She subsequently died in childbirth, Sagnip said, and the Brazilian government held that her partner at the time of her death should maintain custody of Sean.

Brazil is a signatory of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, but chose to ignore the policies outlined by the international agreement, Sagnip said.

“Previously, the State Department would say ‘… There’s nothing that we can do,” Sagnip said. “[For a parent] trying to get a foreign court to award custody, it’s very difficult and returns are rare.”

The Sean and David Goldman Act (H.R. 3212) would allow U.S. embassies to apply pressure in incremental phases to dissuade governments from ignoring international law and sheltering abductors.

“[This bill] provides a series of tools which vary in their severity, from mild to strong,” Sagnip said. “The State Department is able to start with a little pressure and then build the pressure [on foreign governments refusing to return abducted American children to their homes.]”

Those tools include a private diplomatic protest called a demarche, a public condemnation of the foreign government, the withholding of economic aid and, eventually, demands for the extradition of the abductor.

Goldman, who was reunited with his son after five years of heavy investment both financial and emotional, said the passage of the bill provides hope for parents facing the same struggle he did.

“It was a long road, nearly five years, thanks to a tremendous effort of Congressman Smith and his staff,” Goldman said. “It was a great thing to do. It was the right thing to do. It’s another step closer to reuniting families. Next step: the White House.”

For victims of international child abduction and their parents, Smith said the Sean and David Goldman Act represents a shift in U.S. policy that will benefit separated family members. “Many children and parents have tragically lost years separated from each other in violation of U.S. and international law,” Smith said. “They have missed birthdays, holidays, and family time that they can never get back. H.R. 3212 ensures that they will now receive significant help from the U.S. government in their fight to recover their children.”

According to Sagnip, the bill allows the State Department to use the leverage already at its disposal in international abduction cases — leverage that is invaluable to an individual parent who only has so many resources to expend.

“How can a parent in Rutherford, New Jersey … fight a battle that’s halfway across the world? How do they pay for it?” Sagnip said. “It’s a tremendous expense, it’s a tremendous undertaking, and this [bill] puts the State Department in their corner.”

http://www.katu.com/news/local/Police-Man-violates-custody-order-could-be-leaving-US-with-4-children-272892381.html

Police: Man violates custody order, could be leaving U.S. with 4 children
By News Staff Published: Aug 27, 2014 at 10:04 AM PDT Last Updated: Aug 27, 2014 at 10:30 AM PDT

Police: Man violates custody order, could be leaving U.S. with 4 children

EUGENE, Ore. — Officers said they are looking for a man who may be taking his four children from their mother, who has custody in Eugene.

Eugene Police said 40-year-old Torata Tanaka violated a restraining order and failed to return the children to their mother Tuesday morning.

Tanaka could be taking two girls, ages 10 and 3, and two boys, ages 8 and 6, to Canada or possibly back to his native country of Japan, Eugene Police spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin said.

Tanaka could be driving a 2002 Acura MDX with Oregon license plate ZEJ-686. Eugene Police didn’t specify the car’s color.

Anyone with information on Tanaka, the children, or his vehicle is asked to call 911 immediately.

This documentary film about parental child abductions in Japan now can be ordered on DVD through the following link:

http://fromtheshadowsmovie.com/

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201407300041

 

Hague child abduction treaty applied for 1st time to Japanese child at British court

 
July 30, 2014

By TAKUYA KITAZAWA/ Staff Writer

A court in London ordered a Japanese woman living in Britain to return with her child to Japan to sort out custody issues under the terms of the Hague child abduction treaty.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which took effect in Japan in April, is designed to help parents of contracting countries reclaim children taken overseas by their partners without their consent.

The court ruling involves a 7-year-old child of a Japanese couple who are estranged and have filed for divorce. It is the first time the pact has been applied to a child of Japanese nationality, the Foreign Ministry said.

According to the father’s lawyer, the mother left for Britain in March for business reasons, taking their child with her. But when she did not return to Japan on the date she had scheduled, the father’s side applied to a British governmental organization for support based on provisions of the international treaty in May. The father filed a legal application with the court in London the following month for the child’s return.

The court determined that by staying beyond her promised return date the mother had violated the Hague Convention. In its order of July 22, the court ordered the mother to return to Japan with the child on July 30. The mother offered no objections to returning to Japan, the sources said.

The couple in question are now in the midst of divorce settlement negotiations, and a Japanese family court is expected to judge which parent should get custody of the child, according to the sources.

The father’s lawyer, Hirotaka Honda, said the case has proved the usefulness of the convention.

“Thanks to the Hague Convention, the parents will be able to move forward with discussions and legal proceedings after the child is returned to Japan,” he said. “It deserves appraisal.”

By TAKUYA KITAZAWA/ Staff Writer

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/04/24/national/politics-diplomacy/summit-kept-script-sidestepped-many-issues/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=summit-kept-script-sidestepped-many-issues#.U1pnr47D_4g

National / Politics & Diplomacy| ANALYSIS

Summit kept to script that sidestepped many issues

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Apr 24, 2014
Article history

High-level summits like Thursday’s between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are mostly scripted affairs, with a clearly defined agenda revolving around the most pressing, or politically important, issues.

The Japan-U.S. summit covered America’s military commitments to Japan under the bilateral security treaty, including standing tough on the Senkakus and North Korea. They also covered the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

But in any summit, there are always pressing issues that are downplayed, left off the agenda or deemed not worthy of high-level attention.

The most difficult aspect of the summit was the TPP negotiations. Whatever is or is not eventually announced by the U.S. and Japan, Obama will return to Washington to strong opposition to the pact in a Congress that, while concerned about beef, pork and the other points of contention making headlines in Japan, is perhaps even more worried about other issues.

“There are roughly 30 votes in the House, out of 435 total, by members who represent a district with any real prospect of improving their agricultural exports by opening up the Japanese market. Agriculture is a factor, but it’s not a very big factor in congressional opposition,” Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Florida who serves on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a telephone press conference earlier this week.

Lori Wallach, director of the Washington-based Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, lists the most contentious TPP-related issues for Congress, which were downplayed or not discussed by Obama in his meeting with Abe.

“Even if the continuing bilateral negotiations resolve U.S.-Japan auto and agricultural trade issues, there are scores of other deep deadlocks in TPP negotiations,” she said, rattling off issues ranging from disputes on medicine patent and reimbursement policies to environment and labor standards.

Some 60 U.S. senators and 230 U.S. representatives have insisted the TPP include enforceable disciplines on currency manipulation. But other TPP countries oppose this, and to date the issue had not been addressed, Wallach added.

Also downplayed was the fact that the TPP is unlikely to be approved by Congress if Obama does not receive special negotiating authority from the legislative body to do a deal. There is strong opposition in both parties to giving him such authority, and few in Washington believe it will happen this year.

“Fast track (trade promotion) authority from Congress is highly unlikely. Fast track has been announced as dead until the (November congressional) elections. But I think it’s dead after the elections as well,” said Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman, who serves on a committee dealing with international trade.

Also left off the summit agenda were proposals for resolving tensions over historical issues between Japan and South Korea, and Japan and China.

Anger toward Japan, and particularly Abe, over the “comfort women” issue in particular is causing problems not only in East Asia, but also in the United States, including in Glendale, California, where human rights groups persuaded the city to erect a memorial statue to the wartime sex slaves.

Some U.S. municipal and state governments have passed resolutions condemning Japan’s stance on the comfort women, while extreme right-wing Japanese politicians are demanding the statues be removed.

While the State Department says these statues and resolutions are local issues, they make it more difficult for both Tokyo and Washington to move forward on larger issues of regional cooperation.

Obama also offered U.S. support regarding Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea. But neither leader appears to have raised Japan’s other so-called abduction issue: the more than 400 children of Japanese and American parents who were allegedly taken from the U.S. to Japan by an estranged Japanese spouse without permission.

During her Senate confirmation hearing last year, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy said she was concerned about the issue. The Hague Treaty on child abductions, which specifies that nations are required to facilitate the return of children taken by any parent away from the country marked as their usual residence, came into effect in Japan only on April 1, but does not apply to children abducted before then.

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