Former State Department official Kurt Campbell’s new venture may be encouraging human rights abuses in Burma
June 27, 2013
According to United to End Genocide, a U.S. based anti-genocide organization, Dr. Kurt Campbell, a former high profile State Department official, is now involved in commercial efforts in Burma that may further encourage human rights abuses in that country.
During his years at the State Department Dr.Campbell chaired at least half a dozen meetings in Washington with left-behind parents and other left-behind family members with existing cases involving abducted children in Japan. Participants traveled from all parts of the country at their own expense to attend the meetings, many having to spend significant funds to do so.
Each of these meetings, which were specific to existing child abduction cases in Japan, generally included about three dozen or more left-behind parents and family members, and at least one to two dozen officials from the State Department and other federal agencies. The meetings were abruptly terminated by the State Department after July of 2011. No significant progress was made on existing cases by the State Department and the State Department failed to secure the return of any abducted U.S. citizen children despite there being long standing criminal charges against many of the abductors holding the children in Japan.
Kurt Campbell has been invested in lifting sanctions in Burma, despite ongoing human rights abuses. AFP/Getty ImagesFormer U.S. Official Encourages Human Rights Abuses to ContinueDespite opposition from the U.S. Campaign for Burma (USCB), Kurt Campbell, former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, strongly influenced the Obama administration to lift sanctions on Burma in 2012 that were originally imposed more than two decades ago. The economic sanctions were enacted in September 1988 after the military regime committed human rights violations when they killed thousands during a series of peaceful protests.
While the Burmese Army, blamed for the systematic murder and displacement of innocent men, women, and children, continues to carry out crimes against humanity in the Kachin State, Kurt Campbell, in conjunction with his new consulting firm, the Asia Group, will lead the ACO Investment Group (ACO) in order to secure a contract to upgrade and modernize the Yangon International Airport in Burma. The ACO will work closely with Tin Naing Tun, a retired Brigadier General of the Myanmar Army and head of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA).
Instead of reinstating sanctions on Burma, Campbell would rather encourage U.S. investment with human rights abusers in order to profit. He states, “This is a thrilling opportunity to help advance the progress Burma has made over the past couple years by enhancing prospects for economic investments, and ensuring connectivity for Burma with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the world.”
U.S. Companies Support Campbell
Other consortium members of ACO include Boeing Professional Services, Burns & McDonnell Engineering, Fentress Architects, MITRE Corporation, and Union Consulting. Campbell plans on leading a trip to Burma early next month to pitch the ACO bid. According to the DCA, seven pre-qualified international firms are competing for the tendering of airport construction as well.
The Director General of DCA claims that the new airport, Hanthawaddy International Airport, is necessary because the Yangon International Airport cannot accommodate for the rising number of travelers to the country. Arrivals to Burma are expected to surge around 3 million in 2012—a 22% increase on last year that places it above its 2.7 million threshold. Potential plans state that the Hanthawaddy International airport, located in the central Bago region, will occupy a site nine times larger than its original and will have the capacity to hold 5.5 million passengers.
Revolving Door Politics Corrupt Burma
As one of the key architects of the Obama administration’s Asia “pivot,” Campbell doesn’t waste time transitioning from a legislator to a consultant. After finishing his tenure in public office in February 2013, he announced a few days later that his former deputy assistant secretary, Nirav Patel, would be the chief operating officer of his newly established advisory and investment network, the Asia Group. The Asia Group focuses on bringing U.S. markets into Asian markets and vice versa.
Revolving door politics refer to the movement of high-level employees from public to private sector jobs. Therefore, there is a “revolving door” between the two sectors as many legislators become consultants for the industries they once regulated. Consequently, conflicts of interest cloud the reasoning of such leaders to practice unbiased decision making. Because Burma has an extended and complicated history of human rights abuses implemented by a brutal military regime, any error of judgment could have irreversible effects on the already unstable country.
June 19, 2013
Parent-Child Reunification After Alienation
Children and parents who have undergone forced separation from each other in the absence of abuse, including cases of parental alienation, are highly subject to post-traumatic stress, and reunification efforts in these cases should proceed carefully and with sensitivity. Alienated children seem to have a secret wish for someone to call their bluff, compelling them to reconnect with the parent they claim to hate; despite strongly held positions of alignment, alienated children want nothing more than to be given the permission and freedom to love and be loved by both parents (Baker, 2010). Yet the influence of the alienating parent is too strong to withstand, and children’s fear that the alienating parent may fall apart or withdraw his or her love holds them back. Research has shown that many alienated children can transform quickly from refusing or staunchly resisting the rejected parent to being able to show and receive love from that parent, followed by an equally swift shift back to the alienated position when back in the orbit of the alienating parent (Fidler and Bala, 2010). Thus while children’s stated wishes regarding parental residence and contact in contested custody after divorceshould be considered, they should not be determinative in cases of parental alienation.
Reunification efforts subsequent to prolonged absence should be undertaken with service providers with specialized expertise in parental alienation reunification. A number of models of intervention have been developed, the best-known being Warshak’s (2010) Family Bridges Program, an educative and experiential program focused on multiplegoals: allowing the child to have a healthy relationship with both parents, removing the child from the parental conflict, and encouraging child autonomy, multiple perspective-taking, and critical thinking. Sullivan’s Overcoming Barriers Family Camp (Sullivan et al, 2010), which combines psycho-educational and clinical intervention within an environment of milieu therapy, is aimed toward the development of an agreement regarding the sharing of parenting time, and a written aftercare plan. Friedlander and Walters’ (2010) Multimodal Family Intervention provides differential interventions for situations of parental alignment, alienation, enmeshment and estrangement. All of these programs emphasize the clinical significance of children coming to regard their parents as equally valued and important in their lives, while at the same time helping enmeshed children relinquish their protective role toward their alienating parents.
Giant Hello Kitty-emblazoned kudos to Japan for finally signing the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. Now comes the hard part: actually making it work.
Mistakenly identified by some press accounts as an accomplishment of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan’s accession is probably more the fruit of prolonged slogging by anonymous public servants. In the fall of 2012 a senior bureaucrat involved in implementing the treaty assured me it would be signed about the time it eventually was. The fact that elections were pending in December and a change of government was a near-certainty did not factor into the prognosis!
Now it is up to these same bureaucrats to actually implement the convention, though much of the diplomatic pressure that may have been a primary motivator in the past is gone (for now). This does not mean they are not trying, and the treaty alone will be meaningless if it is not reflected in domestic law. So the Diet must now turn to the equally important task of passing the bill containing the proposed Implementing Act that was submitted in March. Assuming that the bill is passed as is, it is probably worth reflecting on its contents.
I recently spent a month in Singapore, which joined the Hague Convention in 2010 and implemented it with a short statute that adopted most of the treaty verbatim as domestic law. With 160 articles extending over 110 A4 pages, Japan’s Implementing Act stands in stark contrast in its baroqueness, and suggests a similarly long and complex implementation process. Additional rules of practice will be issued by the Supreme Court after the act is passed.
To be fair, unlike common law jurisdictions (like Singapore) — where courts have always had a broad range of undefined inherent and equitable powers, particularly when it comes to the welfare of children — Japanese courts only have those powers given to them by statute. Insofar as the Hague Convention requires signatories to have special expedited procedures for returning abducted children, these have to be defined in order for Japanese judges to do their jobs.
Thus, much of the Implementing Act’s bulk comes from the fact that it essentially creates an entire procedural code covering not only trials but appeals and enforcement just for return order proceedings under the Hague Convention. One provision in the act (Article 73) specifically empowers the presiding judge in such cases to both allow parties to speak and order them to shut up, illustrating how few inherent powers Japanese judges actually have.
With much of the Act devoted to establishing multiple stages of proceedings, each of which is a potential source of delay or disappointment for a parent seeking return of a child, some might question whether Japan actually intends to engineer a process that could lead to that result. Again, some of this apparent complexity may simply be a factor of how Japanese law is structured. Nonetheless, one might question whether in going so far as to allow a losing party to apply for a new trial (after appeals are exhausted!) on a variety of grounds that apply to other civil trials (and which include “the first trial missed something really important”) is consistent with the convention’s mandate of achieving the prompt return of abducted children.
Even if returns are ordered, enforcement may be an issue. The enforcement process established by the act stops short of allowing the imprisonment of recalcitrant abductors or permitting bailiffs to physically seize children (which is unlikely to be good for them anyway), but it would allow a bailiff to enter private property where the child is located accompanied by a designated “third person” (the requesting parent?), who may be able to do a little bit more.
The act is particularly abstruse on the subject of enforcement, and we may just have to see how (if) it works in practice. Whatever the act does say, however, it should be noted that when the draft form was opened up to public comment, the courts themselves expressed a lack of enthusiasm for any form of “direct” enforcement.
Foreign observers will likely pay close scrutiny to the factors a court can take into account in deciding to refuse a return order based on the limited number of exceptions in the convention.
Although the treaty does not address domestic violence, the act allows a judge to consider the likelihood of the child or the taking parent being subject to harmful physical or verbal behavior (defined in the act as “violence, etc.”) if the child is returned. This is an unsurprising provision given that much of the public debate on the convention focused on the “Japanese woman fleeing from abusive foreign husband” scenario. It can also be seen as an effort to address what some commentators identify as a deficiency in the Hague Convention.
What seems equally problematic, however, is the fact that the act would also allow a court to consider whether there are circumstances rendering it difficult for the taking parent or the parent requesting return to care for the child in the country of origin. Depending on how you read this, it comes very close to allowing a judge to do a type of custody evaluation, despite the fact that the convention clearly states that decisions about returns should not be treated as determinations on the merits of any custody issue.
Needless to say, how these provisions are actually put into practice by judges remains to be seen. These will be judges in the Family Courts of Osaka and Tokyo, the two courts that will have jurisdiction over Hague cases. While the court in the nation’s cosmopolitan capital may be well acquainted with international custody cases, I have heard Kansai lawyers question whether Osaka is up to the task. Again, time will tell, and perhaps many cases will be resolved amicably through mediation.
This is an area where I have both hope and significant concerns. Mediation plays a large role in many Hague jurisdictions and will likely be important in Japan too, possibly even representing a business opportunity for arbitration associations and other providers of dispute resolution services. My hope is that such providers offer panels that include non-Japanese mediators and will thus be more approachable to foreign parents.
My concern comes from the provisions of the Implementation Act allowing judges to submit return cases to court-administered mediation. While this can only be done if both parties consent, judges often have a variety of tools at their disposal to “encourage” agreement. If this results in return cases being funneled into the same sort of mediation already used in domestic custody cases and held before mediators who must be Japanese nationals, it may not be good thing for a non-Japanese parents. This may be particularly disadvantageous since the Act is unclear on if or how a parent who has agreed to mediation can subsequently reactivate return proceedings if the talks seem fruitless.
Much of the foreign pressure to join the Hague Convention was likely driven by the expectation that doing so would result in Japanese courts behaving differently in abduction cases. If you never heard about any pressure on Singapore to ink the treaty, it might be because courts in that country were ordering children returned long before it actually signed — with orders based on determinations of what was best for the child in each case.
While the Implementing Act is complex and detailed, I am not sure that it can be characterized as clearly mandating a change in judicial behavior in terms of ultimate results. For example, despite its great length, it lacks a general statement to the effect that the return of children to their home jurisdiction is the rule rather than the exception — a fairly basic assumption of the Hague Convention.
Furthermore, because it has been socialized in Japan as a treaty that “must” be signed due to foreign pressure rather than because it represents a widely accepted view of what is in the best interests of children (i.e., not being abducted), Japanese courts could conceivably continue using their own internalized views what is best for children, which has always resulted in children remaining in Japan. Again, time will tell, fingers crossed.
On a very basic level, however, implementing the Hague Convention in Japan involves grafting a treaty devoted to the welfare of children onto a domestic legal regime in which it is rarely a consideration. Japanese family law is based primarily on consensual transactions — including divorce and child custody arrangements — in which courts or other authorities play virtually no supervisory role whatsoever. Even in the minority of cases where courts do get involved, their primary goal is to encourage an agreement — any agreement — rather than achieving a result that is in the best interests of the children affected. Joining the convention may thus bring greater attention to some of the deficiencies in the laws that apply in domestic child custody disputes — deficiencies that appear to have been taken into account in drafting the Implementing Act.
The following is one example. In addition to return orders, the Hague Convention may also be used by a parent to exercise rights of access (visitation) between signatory nations. The Implementing Act provides the mechanism for doing so: A foreign parent seeking visitation with a child taken to Japan may apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) for assistance. In doing so, the parent must submit (among other things) proof that they are entitled to visitation or access under the laws of the country in which the child had been living before coming to Japan.
Going the other way, a parent in Japan may apply to MOFA for assistance with visitation with a child taken to another country. In dealing with this latter scenario, the act seems to go out of its way to avoid referring to “rights of access under Japanese law.” I am speculating, but there may well have been a desire to avoid any clear reference to access rights under Japanese law, since it is not clear that such things exist in any meaningful sense.
A clear reference to such rights in a Japanese statute would open the door to them being asserted in domestic cases, or at least invite demands for an explanation that such rights be defined for all parents in Japan, not just those seeking relief under the Hague Convention. Indeed, my own view is that a child taken from Japan to a fictional country that had an identical Implementing Act might actually find it impossible to meet the act’s requirement that they prove they are entitled to access under Japanese law. It will thus be interesting to see how this aspect of Japanese law is explained to foreign courts and central authorities.
The act’s use of the term “rights of custody” is also interesting. A key concept in the convention itself, “rights of custody” is defined there in a way that attaches particular importance to the “right to determine the child’s place of residence.” The Implementing Act refers to “rights of custody” but without defining it. Yet Article 821 of Japan’s Civil Code clearly identifies the right to designate a child’s residence as one of the rights that come with parental authority.
However, as many parents have discovered, this is an apparently meaningless right once the other parent has decided to unilaterally designate a different residence by abducting the child. Here again, the drafters may have wished to avoid drawing attention to potential conflicts with domestic law by seeking to limit “rights of custody” to being a concept that only applies in convention cases.
If this was the intent, I doubt it will be successful. Parents of abducted children are understandably very persistent, and the many Japanese parents who will never benefit from Japan joining the convention because their cases are not “international” are watching the implementation process closely and with great interest. A convention regime that treats foreign parents better than Japanese parents is probably untenable, so perhaps the act will lead to changes in domestic family law too. Again, fingers crossed.
Colin P. A. Jones is a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto. Send comments and ideas firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 10, 2013
The following update has been received from Paul Dalley regarding his international child abduction case.
International Japanese Child Kidnapping Case
committed to Supreme Court
as children’s rights continue to be abused
On Wednesday 5th June 2013 the dramatic attempted case of international child kidnapping by Japanese national’s UNELCO consultant Japanese national Toshihide Yasuda of New Caledonia and Yuka Dalley of Santo took another pivotal step as the Majestrate’s Court upon reviewing all the evidence agreed with the Police Public Prosecutor that there is enough evidence to warrant a criminal trial and committed the case to the Supreme Court. On 17th April 2013 Yasuda and Yuka were charged by the Public Prosecutor with attempted kidnapping for arranging to take the father’s two small children first to New Caledonia and then on to Japan where the children would forever have lost their father. The failed attempt on 29/3/13 was stopped by the Santo police from which Yuka fled with the son the next day to Vila abandoning her daughter in Santo. Among the evidence presented was 58 emails, Digicell text messages, a Western Union money transfer, hotel accommodation receipts and international air tickets all paid for by Toshihide Yasuda who himself is married. The Supreme Court will hear the plea on July 4th 2013.
There is a growing worldwide problem of Japanese nationals in international marriages suddenly kidnapping children back to Japan which refuses to return the abducted children back to their non-Japanese parents. Some sources claim over 10,000 children’s lives have been destroyed in the process. Unlike Vanuatu’s equalitarian Christian culture which promotes a legal system of sharing and compromise, Japanese culture is heirachical with a legal system that promotes complete domination by one side over the other. As well as causing all sorts of problems with their Chinese and Korean neighbours who are still resentful of the millions kidnapped by the Japanese during the war, this policy directly hurts families and their weakest members, the children. An example of this is Japan’s outdated and much criticized feudal ‘koseki’ family registration system which prohibits sharing of children in broken families and virtually guarantees in the case of split families that the children will lose one of their parents despite the psychological scaring this causes.
The kiwi father Paul Dalley, famous up in Santo for his tourist and rescue flying in his unique seaplane was very grateful that Vanuatu’s Christian laws continue to protect the children in Vanuatu. “For too long foreigners come to Vanuatu and believe that they are above the Christian laws of this wonderful nation and that they can behave as this wish and apply the mindsets that prevail in their countries such as lying, hiding from the police and denying children access to both parents. Thankfully the racist Japanese laws that promote child abduction and the archaic notion that children are simply the chattel of the Japanese parent do not apply here. In this democratic and independent nation founded on the Christian Principles we are legally and morally bound to follow her laws and conventions such as the International Convention on the Rights of Children, ratified by Vanuatu in 1992, which stipulates in Article 9 Section 3 “State Parties shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis.”
Sources close to the case report that the mother has continually denied her children access to their father, including both hiding them in a Port Vila house as well as hiding the school she put one of the children in. Despite neither parent having custody of the children the mother is still illegally trying to prevent them returning to their home and schools and friends in Santo from where they were ripped over 70 days ago when in a dramatic inter-island pursuit the mother fled from Santo police whose quick actions in pursuing her to Vila prevented her departing the country. To pay for legal bills the father has been forced to put his Santo aviation business, seaplane and car on sale to save his children who are stuck in a legal void in Vila.
Based on his ten year’s living in Japan the father’s greatest concern is trying to save his children from a future life of bullying in Japan due to their mixed race heritage which is severely discriminated against in homogeneous Japan where such children endure a life of racial bullying as they are know as ‘halfs.’ This bullying is so harsh that it is a well known social problem called ‘ijime”and causes Japan to have one of the worlds worst child suicide rates .
The father has spent weeks pleading not only with the police, courts, church groups and family protection advocates for the return of the children to their Santo home. In desperation at the children continually being denied their legal right to be with their father Paul this weekend was moved by the Holy Spirit to take to the streets and churches with his Christian message of ‘Equal Sharing, Equal Caring.”
Paul comments “All children deserve equal time and equal love with both their parents. All I have been trying to do since this nightmare began is return the children to their Santo home to allow both parents exactly equal 50/50 with their children until the Supreme Court determines the results of the criminal case and allocates permanent custody. The only fair solution for the children is Jesus Christ’s policy of “Do unto other’s as you would have them do unto you” and allow the children Equal Shared Custody. This would allow the children to return to their Santo home and schools for two weeks a month and then spend two weeks with their mother in Vila. Surely allowing the children to return to their home in Santo and play on the Santo beaches is better than keeping them virtually imprisoned behind these Vila bars? As Ghandi, Mandela and Jesus Christ courageously demonstrated during their long struggles for freedom one should always push with 100% of ones energy for solutions that are fair and reasonable to all – especially to children who deserve equal time and equal love from both parents.”