January 30, 2013
This is an excellent link for statistics and reports concerning U.S. State Department international child abduction cases, including Japan, for 2010-2012. Also useful information on relevant U.S. laws as well as child abduction related forms and documents.
January 23, 2013
WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:
Bring back the 374 American children who have been kidnapped to Japan!
Over 374 American children have been kidnapped to Japan. Most of these children were too young or too scared to have a voice and contact their American parent. My knowledge comes from BacHome.org, my Son and, the other Parents of Kidnapped Children (PKC) We will not stop until we get our government’s help to bring our children home.
Sad commentary on attitudes of the Japanese system, the law enforcement system in particular, towards peaceful, kind-hearted left-behind parents who go through tremendous efforts to try to reach out to their children. It is obvious how uncomfortable the law enforcement is with this issue, to the point that it interrupts the filming of this complete event.
January 17, 2013
Hopes raised for British parents denied access to children in Japan
British parents denied access to their children with Japanese partners will be given renewed hope when the government here announces that a bill to ratify The Hague Convention is to be put before the Diet.
MR Swire is the first British minister to visit Japan since Shinzo Abe was elected prime minister in mid-December Photo: Cathal McNaughton for the Telegraph
By Julian Ryall, Tokyo5:23PM GMT 15 Jan 2013
Dozens of foreign parents – usually fathers – are being refused contact with their children after their partners moved to another part of Japan, with courts invariably ruling that the child is better off with a single parent. In the eyes of judges in Japan, the preferred parent is always the Japanese parent.
At present, there are 37 British nationals involved in child custody cases that would be covered under The Hague Convention on the abduction of children, while numerous other requests for access have been registered with foreign embassies here.
Hugo Swire, the Foreign Office minister, welcomed the Japanese government’s decision after talks with Shunichi Suzuki, the parliamentary senior vice-minister for foreign affairs, in Tokyo on Tuesday.
“There does seem to have been significant movement on this issue and we have been told that this legislation is to be submitted to the Parliament here,” Mr Swire told The Daily Telegraph.
“This issue has been going on for a long time and we welcome this news,” he said.
Hope for parents denied access to children in Japan 14 Mar 2012
‘Please don’t send us back to Spain’ children plead 18 Oct 2012
Japan is the only G7 nation not to have signed The Hague Convention, which dates from 1980 and requires a parent accused of abducting a child to return them to their country of habitual residence.
A formal statement on Tokyo’s decision is expected on Wednesday, in part due to growing international pressure for Japan to fall into line with other G7 member states.
With more than 34,000 marriages involving a Japanese and a national of another country each year, there are an estimated 20,000 children born to mixed-nationality couples annually.
Yet when such relationships break down, the Japanese parent has until now been able to avoid sharing custody or even providing access to her former partner by simply moving away. Japanese living abroad have only need to get back to back to Japan to be protected by the legal system.
Under Japanese law, parental abduction is not considered a crime, although foreign nationals who have attempted to re-abduct their children have in the past been charged with kidnapping and imprisoned.
The first British minister to visit Japan since Shinzo Abe was elected prime minister in mid-December, Swire arrived in Tokyo on Monday evening to open the UK-Japan Politico-Military Talks on Tuesday.
His discussions with his Japanese counterparts included defence co-operation and potential joint development projects, education issues and British companies’ expertise in clearing the debris left by the March 2011 earthquake in north-east Japan.
The two sides also discussed ethical investment in Burma and shared concerns over the “isolated, rogue, pariah state” of North Korea, Swire said.
January 17, 2013
Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013
Hague pact on fast track, Abe to tell Obama
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will tell U.S. President Barack Obama when they meet, probably in February, that he wants to speed up the procedure for Japan to join the international treaty on settling cross-border child custody disputes, sources said Wednesday.
The previous administration led by former Democratic Party of Japan leader Yoshihiko Noda had already made participation in the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction an international commitment.
The Abe team is aiming to submit a bill to the Diet early this year to endorse the convention, which sets rules for the prompt return of children under 16, taken or retained by one parent following the failure of international marriages, to the country of their habitual residence.
Domestic legislation is necessary to join the convention, but a related bill was scrapped when the Lower House was dissolved in November.
Among the Group of Eight nations, Japan is the only one yet to join the convention and has been facing calls from the United States and European countries to get on board soon.
Friday, Jan. 4, 2013
Child custody injustices hard to fix
Joining Hague may curb parental abductions if legal mindset evolves
By MASAMI ITO
On May 6, 2010, Yasuyuki Watanabe, an internal affairs ministry bureaucrat, came home to find his wife and 2-year old daughter gone, along with their clothes.
His wife had spirited away their daughter near the end of Golden Week, just days after he was enjoying the holidays taking her on hikes and to local festivals, recalled Watanabe, 40, now deputy mayor of Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture. He recounted how he carried his daughter on his back and how they sang songs together until she fell asleep, snuggling against him.
His world was turned upside down that fateful day. Last month she turned 5.
"It is so important for children to feel loved by both parents, especially when they are growing up, and I think that my daughter feels abandoned by me, that I left her because I didn't love her anymore," Watanabe told The Japan Times during a recent interview in Tokyo. "The most painful thing about my situation is when I think about how my daughter must be feeling."
Watanabe is one of many parents in Japan who have been torn away from their children after a falling-out with their spouse in a nation that grants only sole custody, usually to the mother, and where it is customary for parents not living with their offspring, to have little, if any, contact with them.
This has also been a widely reported harsh reality for foreign parents, including those living overseas whose children have been taken to Japan by estranged Japanese spouses.
These so-called parental child abductions are behind growing calls for Japan to join the international Hague treaty to prevent such cross-border kidnappings.
"These two problems are actually closely related because the domestic and international situation is the same — your children are abducted one day out of the blue and you are forbidden from seeing them," Watanabe said.
For Watanabe, what followed was a long legal battle with his wife, and divorce proceedings, which continue.
Initially his wife let him see their daughter a few times, but that stopped abruptly when he was slapped with domestic violence charges — which he branded a lie.
His wife alleged he had threatened her with a large pair of scissors while she was pregnant and told her he knew yakuza who would be willing to help him out with the situation by pushing her off a station platform in front of a train. The violence charges were later dropped.
"There is nothing more terrifying than receiving an order to appear before the court over 'DV' allegations. I was completely distraught. The judge, however, recognized that much of her claims were questionable and warned she could be charged with false accusations, so she dropped the charges the day before the ruling was to be made," Watanabe said.
But his wife then filed a lawsuit, demanding custody of their child and, again, adding allegations of abuse.
Last February, presiding Judge Tatsushige Wakabayashi at the Chiba Family Court granted Watanabe's ex-wife custody of their daughter from the viewpoint of "continuity," ruled that Watanabe had committed domestic violence and rejected his demand that his daughter be returned. The Supreme Court finalized the ruling in September.
While his legal battles dragged on, Watanabe asked lawmakers to address the issue and his case was deliberated on in the Diet.
Given his public profile, Watanabe originally wished to remain anonymous. But to garner public support for his situation, he recently came forward to tell his story to the press.
"I've been labeled a DV husband, and the judge completely ignored the facts and the law in my case. I had no choice but to stand up and fight," he said.
Watanabe has solicited the help of a special group of lawmakers who are trying to get Judge Wakabayashi fired from the bench. Among the so-called left-behind parents in Japan, Wakabayashi has spurred widespread ire, especially when in 2011, he criticized then-Justice Minister Satsuki Eda for telling the Diet that priority should be placed on the welfare of the child rather than the "principle of continuity."
"There are many people in similar situations. I cannot give up for their sake. It is not just about me and my daughter. This is a battle for all children and their parents," Watanabe said.
According to data compiled by family courts, there were 409 parents seeking the return of their offspring from an estranged spouse in 2001, whereas by 2011, there were 1,985 parents seeking to get their kids back. The numbers, however, reflect only the legal cases filed by left-behind parents that were officially accepted by the nation's family courts. Experts speculate they constitute only the tip of the iceberg.
Masayuki Tanamura, a professor of family law at Waseda University, said various factors are behind the increase in parental child abductions, including Japan's sole custody principle and the current legal framework that generally grants that right to mothers.
"Times have changed — fathers are more involved in child-rearing, and the legal system — including the principle of sole custody — makes battles over children more likely to happen. I think this part of Japan's legal system is outdated," Tanamura said.
One major difference that makes Japan's legal system peculiar is that when an estranged spouse initially takes a child, it isn't considered a crime. This is because it is common for an estranged parent, generally the mother, to take the children to her parents' domicile if a divorce is being contemplated.
But if the left-behind parent then subsequently tries to retrieve the offspring spirited away from their home, the action is considered kidnapping. Tanamura claimed there are many cases in which parents who spirit offspring away are unaware such action could be construed as abduction. From their point of view, they are merely considering a divorce or fleeing an abusive environment.
"It is hard to label all parental kidnappings as illegal . . . but at the same time, there are many cases that could constitute a double standard. It's OK for mothers to first take the children away, but when the fathers try to get them back, this is illegal," Tanamura said. "This is based on the longtime concept that children belong with their mothers."
To prevent children from losing access to both parents after a separation, Article 766 of the Civil Law was revised in 2011 to specify that visitation rights, child-support payments and other matters be determined during nonlitigated divorce proceedings, and that the welfare of the child be considered first.
But even this change can't help people like Watanabe because his case was ruled on after the amendment. "The aim of the revision is to promote forming agreements (over child care) when getting a divorce. But there is nothing that guarantees compliance," Tanamura said.
Tanamura and other experts thus agree that if and when Japan signs the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, it must at the same time institute fundamental changes in the legal system, and the public mindset must also be overhauled, or joining the convention will lead to naught.
John Gomez, chairman of the recently founded Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion, a group of Japanese and non-Japanese parents, friends and supporters advocating the right of children to have access to both parents, emphasized the need for left-behinds to cooperate because simply joining the Hague Convention will not solve anything in Japan if it continues to take a one-sided approach to domestic custodial rights.
"The problem of international cases and in-country cases has the same root cause — Japanese family law and the courts," Gomez said.
"The abduction issue affects all people in Japan — mothers as well as fathers, Japanese as well as non-Japanese."
The Hague treaty aims for the swift return of children wrongfully taken out of the country of their "habitual residence" by a parent to prevent cross-border parental kidnappings. Of the Group of Eight countries, Japan is the only nation yet to sign the convention.
Japan has been under pressure from member states, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, to join the convention, but it has been reluctant, given strong domestic opposition, especially from Japanese mothers who claim they fled to Japan with their children to protect themselves from abusive ex-spouses.
Facing severe criticism from the international community, however, Japan finally reached the point of submitting a bid to sign the treaty and Hague-related legislation to the Diet during the last session presided over by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Democratic Party of Japan. But the politicians instead spent most of their time bickering over internal power struggles related to other domestic issues, pushing the Hague Convention to the sidelines once again.
And it remains unclear whether the issue will move forward under the new government led by the Liberal Democratic Party.
Government officials have expressed confidence that once deliberations begin, the Hague bid will be approved by the Diet. But parents, including Gomez, a longtime Japan resident who himself is separated from his Japanese wife and is having difficulty seeing his daughter, say joining the Hague treaty is only a step in the right direction, not a silver bullet.
Gomez explained that on the legal front, parental kidnappings must be stopped, visitation rights made enforceable and the idea of joint custody introduced. But he added that public awareness must also be raised at the same time so the public understands the benefits of the changes to ensure the rules are followed.
"The Hague is only one tool. The ultimate goal for us is a social and legal transformation of Japan . . . a complete transformation in terms of mindset and practice," Gomez said. "We firmly believe, Japanese and non-Japanese alike, that the social and legal transformation is for the betterment of Japanese society and children and improvement in the quality of life."
Japan Foreign Minister Kishida calls Japan’s lack of discussion about international child abduction issue “embarrasing”
January 1, 2013
Monday, Dec. 31, 2012
Altering nonnuclear principles not on the table, Kishida says
By MIZUHO AOKI
The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is not considering revising the three nonnuclear principles that forbid the possession, manufacture or storage of nuclear weapons on Japanese soil, new Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida says.
In a group interview with the media recently, Kishida said the Cabinet is not discussing relaxing the principles so that U.S. ships can carry nuclear arms when visiting Japanese ports. In July last year, a report by the Liberal Democratic Party’s national strategy office advocated altering the three principles to “2½.”
“The three nonnuclear principles are very important rules that previous Cabinets have valued,” said Kishida, 55, who was appointed foreign minister on Wednesday. “This should be kept in the future. We are not having a discussion on a revision.”
Unlike Abe, the former state minister for Okinawa and Northern Territories affairs is not regarded as a hawk. In fact, his appointment is viewed by some as an effort by Abe to placate foreign governments.
“I know that Abe’s Cabinet is considered rightwing or hawkish. But we have to explain (to the public that) there is a positive side as well, such as to execute things that we must do as a nation,” Kishida said.
“But I think it is also important to show our breadth . . . and show a sense of balance,” Kishida said, adding he hopes to help bring balance to the Cabinet.
However, he showed no compromise on the Senkakus dispute with China, insisting that the islets in the East China Sea are historically, and by international law, part of Japan.
He also emphasized that it was important to keep the lines of communication open with China to avoid any incidents.
Since Japan purchased three of the five Senkaku islets from their Saitama-based owner in September, Chinese vessels have been cruising near or inside Japan’s territorial waters around the disputed islets, which are called Diaoyu in Chinese. On Dec. 13, a Chinese state-owned plane breached Japanese airspace for the first time on record near the islets.
On the issue of nuclear weapons, Kishida, a native of Hiroshima Prefecture, said he wants to work toward abolition.
Noting that the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative, a 10-country coalition formed in 2010, will be holding ministerial-level talks in Hiroshima in 2014, Kishida said he wants to use the opportunity to improve cooperation with other nations.
As for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Kishida said the LDP remains opposed to entering into negotiations as long as they are premised on abolishing all tariffs without conditions.
“If the prime minister visits the United States sometime soon, I presume (they) will touch on the TPP issue,” Kishida said.
As for joining The Hague Convention against child abductions by estranged parents, Kishida only said that relevant parties will be looking into the matter.
In March 2011, the DPJ government decided to prepare to ratify the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects on International Child Abduction.
“It is embarrassing that Japan can’t even have discussions about this issue due to confusion at the Diet,” Kishida said.
The government submitted draft legislation for joining the convention to the Diet in March, but it has been shelved due to confrontation between the ruling and opposition camps.
A graduate of Waseda University, Kishida worked at the defunct Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan before starting his political career as a secretary to his father in 1987. Kishida won a seat in the Lower House in 1993.