Children’s Rights Council of Japan and the case of Walter Benda, co-founder of CRC of Japan, are both discussed in this Christian Science Monitor article.

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2013/0522/Japan-no-longer-sanctions-child-abduction-in-mixed-marriage-cases

Japan no longer sanctions child abduction in mixed-marriage cases
Tokyo lawmakers unanimously approve Hague convention to settle child custody in broken international marriages. But Japanese domestic laws and legal loopholes still need to change, say scholars.

By Justin McCurry, Correspondent / May 22, 2013

TOKYO
Walter Benda had no inkling of what was to happen after he and his Japanese wife and their two small daughters moved from Minnesota to Tokyo in 1992.

Three years later, Mr. Benda returned home from his job at a trading company one evening to find his wife and children gone. For the next three-and-a half-years he had no idea of their whereabouts. He did not know it then, but his wife had taken their daughters, then aged 6 and 4, effectively ending their 13-year-marriage and Benda’s relationship with his children.

Benda is one of hundreds of foreign spouses of Japanese citizens who — after a marriage breaks down — are denied all access to their children.

But now after years of pressure from “left-behind” parents, human rights activists, and several governments, Japan’s parliament on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill paving the way to join the 1980 Hague convention on international child abductions. That brings Japan in line with 89 other signatories. With the unanimous agreement, Japan is expected to become a signatory by the end of March 2014.

RECOMMENDED: Think you know Japan? Take our quiz to find out.

Under the treaty, children under 16 who are taken away by one parent after a failed marriage must be returned to the country in which they normally live, if action is requested by the other parent. It also protects the access rights of both parents.

“I have never had a scheduled face-to-face meeting with my daughters since they were abducted and have not been able to communicate with them by phone or online,” Benda told the Monitor. “I have mailed them hundreds of letters, cards, and gifts over the years, but have never received a personal reply.”

During his search for his family, Benda received no help from the Japanese police and authorities. He took his case all the way to the Japanese Supreme Court, without success. Unable to find a new sponsor for his visa, he was forced to return empty-handed to the US, where a federal grand jury indicted his wife, in absentia, on charges of international parental abduction.

“Even though US law enforcement authorities have sought the return of my ex-wife to face the international parental kidnapping charge in the US, the Japanese police authorities refuse to cooperate because Japan does not consider parental kidnapping a crime covered under the extradition treaty it has with the US,” he said.

But it may soon.

Good news, but loopholes remain
Legal experts welcomed Wednesday’s decision, but said the treaty would have little effect unless it is accompanied by changes in Japan’s domestic law. Courts in Japan routinely favor the Japanese parent – usually the mother – in custody cases involving international marriages.

“I am concerned that Japan won’t implement the convention at face value,” says Takao Tanase, a law professor at Chuo University in Tokyo. Mr. Tanase points to numerous loopholes in Japanese family law that could be cited to prevent the return of children to their original country of residence, including the suspicion – without any burden of proof – that the child could be exposed to harm or that the mother’s welfare could be affected.

“Japanese law and the convention contradict each other, and this can be used as an excuse not to return the child,” he said. “The tradition of awarding sole custody was introduced 60 years ago, but Japanese society has changed dramatically since then.”

Yuichi Mayama, an upper house politician who has pushed for the legal change, was more optimistic. “This is a meaningful development,” he said. “I’m delighted that Japan is finally catching up with the rest of the world.”

But he added: “The tradition in Japan is to award sole custody, and that’s supported by the law. Unless we change that we won’t be able to use the convention properly. We take a very traditional view of the family in Japan, and changing that is going to take time.”

Japan’s about-turn
The number of foreign parents who are denied access to their children in Japan has increased along with a rise in the number of international marriages to around 40,000, according to Mr. Mayama. Inevitably, the trend has resulted in more divorces: Almost 18,000 Japanese and international couples divorced in 2011, according to government statistics.

The US, which is pursuing at least 100 recognized abduction cases involving its nationals, has worked alongside Canada and the UK in pressuring Japan, the only nonsignatory among the G8 nations, to fall into line. In February prime minister Shinzo Abe told President Obama that Japan was moving toward ratification during their summit in Washington.

Tokyo previously refused to sign the treaty, citing the need to protect Japanese mothers from abusive foreign husbands. Japan’s resistance earned it a reputation as a haven for child abductors, and in 2010 prompted the US House of Representatives to pass a nonbinding resolution condemning the retention of children in Japan “in violation of their human rights and United States and international law.”

The momentum for change grew in 2009 when Christopher Savoie, a US citizen, was arrested in Japan after trying to take back his children as they walked to school. Although Mr. Savoie had been granted full custody by a US court, his ex-wife took their children from their home in Tennessee back to her native Japan.

Savoie’s case and others have been taken up by the Children’s Rights Council Japan [www.crcjapan.com], a nonprofit organization launched in 1996 to offer support and resources to affected parents. The council has submitted a proposal to the Japan’s justice ministry and the US State Department calling for a humanitarian access program that would grant left-behind parents regular and meaningful contact with their children.

In 1998, a private investigator located Benda’s daughters, who are now in their 20s. He has seen them only twice since they were taken and for only brief periods on the street. “But they have always resisted my efforts to communicate and I have been unable to speak with them,” he said.

He agrees with skeptics that Japan’s belated about-turn will do little to help him and countless other foreign parents. “While it does reflect the fact that the Japanese government is finally recognizing that there is a problem, I am doubtful it will have any immediate, noticeable effect on cases such as mine,” he said.

“International pressure must continue until all loving parents who are separated from their children in Japan are able to have direct and meaningful access to them.”

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http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120307/WILLIAMSON01/303060076/Franklin-man-plans-press-case-against-judge-international-child-custody-dispute

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120221hn.html

 

Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012

 

HOTLINE TO NAGATACHO

Focus on ‘exceptions’ waters down abduction pact

 

By AMY J. SAVOIE

For the attention of the Japanese government:

 

News photo
Divided family: Christopher Savoie is seen in June 2009 with his son, Isaac, and daughter, Rebecca, at a park near their home in Franklin, Tennessee. The children were later taken to Japan by their mother, in violation of a U.S. court custody decision. Savoie was arrested in Japan in September 2009 during an unsuccessful attempt to regain custody. AP

 

Like many other court hearings that follow a divorce, a court transcript out of Tennessee reflects testimony concerning a couple’s two children:

Attorney: Ms. Savoie. … You have known all along that Dr. Savoie’s biggest fear is that you’re going to take those children to Japan and he’ll never see them again; you know that?

Noriko Savoie: I’ve never split (the) children and (their) father. I know how important (a) father is for children, and I am not going to do that. I keep telling him I’m not going to do that.

Noriko Savoie spoke these words shortly before she did precisely what she promised under oath not to do: In August 2009, she kidnapped Isaac and Rebecca Savoie from their father’s home in Tennessee — away from their school, their friends, their church, and away from their loving father.

They were taken from a country whose laws say it is in a child’s best interest to know and be loved by both parents, and they were abducted to a land that prefers a “clean break” after the dissolution of a marriage — where one parent is expected to disappear forever.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction would provide a remedy for the prompt return of these and other abducted children, if only Japan would sign it.

For too long, Japan was “considering the possibility” that it might join the Hague treaty someday, and the government promised to think about it after some further study.

As the only G-8 nation that has still refused to sign the Hague despite relentless international pressure, Japan has been under attack by human rights groups, psychologists and ambassadors to Japan from several countries, all of whom insist unequivocally that it is in the child’s best interest to have access to both parents -regardless of a divorce.

Acquiescing to foreign pressure, Japan has finally announced, amidst great fanfare, that it would soon sign the Hague treaty, perhaps even within the next few months.

Growing up in Japan’s culture of uso mo hoben – “lying is also a means to an end”- many Japanese abductors, upon a divorce, may have felt justified in giving false testimony in order to gain access to their children’s passports.

However, for the scores of left-behind parents who have been lied to (“I would never kidnap the children”) and who suffer daily through the agony of having lost a child, Japan’s recent promise to sign the Hague is being studied with an abundance of caution and a large dose of skepticism.

Their concern is well-founded: Recent Diet session videos reveal that rather than finding ways to return children after signing the Hague, Japan’s efforts are focused on creating “exceptions” that would allow its courts to refuse the return of abducted kids.

This begs the question: If Japan is going to sign the Hague treaty in good faith, then why focus only on creating loopholes?

The nonprofit group Bring Abducted Children Home (BACHome) brought its concerns to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.

Working in conjunction with several Japanese left-behind parents, BACHome warned Campbell that Japan is writing legislation that will allow it to essentially seize jurisdictional control over any new and existing abduction cases in order to ensure that children would, in fact, not be returned to the countries from which they were taken.

These loopholes would allow the abducting parent to coach (or brainwash) a kidnapped child, encouraging that child to develop the “opinion” that he/she does not want to be returned, and that child’s purported “wish” would be upheld.

Kirk Weir, an internationally-recognized psychologist, has researched this issue and found, more often than not, that a child’s alleged “opinion” that he or she does not want to see a left-behind parent is completely unrelated to the child’s actual “wish for a relationship” — in other words, the child is taught to have the opinion that the left-behind parent is “bad” based only on the taking parent’s version of events.

Mr. Weir states that during the parent-child reunions that he studied, “very young children easily resumed a good relationship with the nonresident parent (i.e. left-behind parent) once a visit took place.”

He suspected that the children enjoyed “the immediate pleasure of love and affection from the (left-behind parent) and were quick to forget the influence of their family’s views.”

Unfortunately, under Japan’s new rules an abducting parent can claim that the child does not want to go home (when, in fact, it is the parent who coached the child into voicing this opinion), or an abductor can claim domestic violence as a means of justifying her actions.

The problem with the latter is that Japan has taken this frightening (and very serious) Western phrase of “domestic violence” and broadened it into something unrecognizable.

Around the time that Japan announced a decision to join the Hague, Dr. Numazaki Ichirou devised a list of domestic violence scenarios that could be used to justify the refusal of a child’s return under a “domestic violence exception.”

Within his list, Dr. Numazaki suggests that even if a father is not at all violent or dangerous, “just one” of the following accusations could prevent a father from being reunited with his child: if the father ever criticized the mother’s shortcomings, if the father was ever annoyed when the mother “talked back” to him, or if the father ever “felt hurt” when the mother pushed back at him.

In other words, interpersonal marital strife is being defined as “domestic violence”.

The Japan Times recently quoted Japanese attorney Takao Tanase’s opinion of this: “Japanese family court judges sometimes recognize domestic arguments as verbal violence, but what couples who are facing divorce don’t argue?” (“Bills Could Render Hague Toothless,” Feb. 8).

Of course a child should be protected from actual risk of domestic violence, and this column is by no means an attempt to diminish the importance of protecting children who are at risk of grave and imminent harm by an abusive parent.

The problem is that Japan will allow temporary, inter-personal (nonviolent) disagreements to justify the permanent abduction of a child.

Given this inhuman standard of behavior, even Jesus, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi could not hope to prevail against such guidelines, for even those “heroes of peace” frequently disagreed with those in their midst — often quite vociferously.

In other words, it seems that Japan’s domestic violence “catch-all” provision will only allow the return of an abducted child if the left-behind parent is abnormally docile or, indeed, is a robot.

Like the Japanese saying, kaden rika (“if you really don’t have bad intentions, then don’t act like you do”), if Japan truly intends to abide by the Hague treaty, then why does it appear that the government is planning to sign the Hague Convention but has no intent to actually honor it?

Amy J. Savoie received her doctorate from Dartmouth College and is currently a third-year law student at the Nashville School of Law. Dr. Savoie is married to Christopher Savoie. In August 2009, Christopher Savoie’s children were abducted from the U.S. to Japan by his ex-wife. A few weeks later, he was arrested while trying to reclaim his children. Send submissions of between 500 and 600 words tocommunity@japantimes.co.jp

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20110727a3.html

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Left-behind parents waiting


By PAUL TOLAND

 

Special to The Japan Times

 

WASHINGTON — Ever since Christopher Savoie was arrested in 2009 after a failed attempt to retrieve his abducted children, Japan has been overwhelmed by international pressure to resolve its ever-increasing number of abduction cases. After years of demarches and public pleas by foreign governments, Japan has finally announced its intention to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

For the 85 other governments that have signed onto to this treaty, it represents a guideline for returning children who have been abducted abroad, and it represents a promise that a foreign court will not simply usurp custody orders and “steal” jurisdiction away from a child’s habitual residence.

While the rest of the world has greeted Japan’s announcement with cautious optimism, left-behind parents who have been victimized by this human rights tragedy have followed the government’s discussions closely, and with growing concern. Watching the parliamentary debates that have been taking place in the Japanese Diet, it is difficult to believe that Japan intends to abide by the Hague treaty in good faith.

To date, most debate within the Japanese Diet has revolved around creating “exceptions” under which Japan would not have to return abducted children. These telling debates are in obvious opposition to the spirit of the Hague treaty in which signatories purport to want to return a child to his or her home following an abduction.

Also disturbing is that Japan government officials are considering a three-year “preparatory” period before ratifying and implementing the Hague treaty, yet the same government officials have claimed for the past 25 years that they have been “studying” the Hague treaty, and the Japanese Diet has been conducting a working group on reforming family law for the past several years. With that much study and preparation, why would the Japanese government need longer than the one year preparatory period that has been more than sufficient for most other countries?

As the National Director for Bring Abducted Children Home (BAC Home), a Washington-based nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and obtaining the return of children kidnapped to and/or wrongfully retained in Japan, and a left-behind and the only living parent to my daughter, who was abducted to Japan eight years ago, I worked with BAC Home parents to outline our concerns in a press release directed at the Japanese government. The press release makes specific demands of the Japanese government in order to assure that Japan is, in fact, intending to abide by the Hague treaty in good faith and with the basic understanding that it is not in a child’s best interest to be kidnapped in the first place.

First, members of BAC Home are gravely concerned that the Japanese government will not be willing to address the current cases of parental abduction (since the Hague treaty is not retroactive).

Japan owes it to these children and the parents who have suffered for years from this grave injustice to provide a bilateral framework solution to promptly return these abducted children to their habitual residence without delay.

Second, Japan must utilize standard rules of evidence when domestic violence is alleged. Allegations alone are not adequate to prevent the return of a child. Evidence, originating in the child’s country of habitual residence, must be utilized to rise to the Hague treaty’s legal burden of proof standard of “clear and convincing” evidence required in domestic violence allegations.

Currently, abductors in Japan are able to cut off all access to the Left-Behind Parent through unsubstantiated hearsay allegations. Facts and evidence are optional, but not necessary under Japan’s proposed system for Hague Return Denial, and this is unacceptable.

Third, Japan must provide unfettered access to our children. Article 21 of the Hague treaty directs that countries will “remove, as far as possible, all obstacles to the exercise of (parental access) rights.” Japan’s idea of access is restricted to courthouse playrooms and police boxes, roughly equivalent to the access that Felon Criminals in the United States have to their children. Left-behind parents want Japan’s assurance that access to our children will be unfettered and dignified.

Additionally, the Japanese government seems concerned that international child abduction is considered a crime in many other nations, and has vowed to not return abductors who are labeled as criminals or charged with a crime. This is not a determination for Japan to make. Japan cannot simply exonerate its citizens who break the laws of another nation while residing in that nation.

For years the Japanese government has used the subjective phrase “best interest of the child” to justify abductions by its citizens and deny access to left-behind parents. Left-behind parents are unsure how Japan’s signing of the Hague treaty will alter this long-held practice. Typically in Japan,the judge individually defines “best interest” without standards or guidance, using the “best interest” of a child as a “catchall” to justify judicial rulings preventing the abducted child from being returned to the left-behind parent. In one reported case, custody of a child was given to a mother because the “best interest” analysis required that she live in a house with a Japanese garden, which the mother had and the left-behind father did not. If and when Japan finally signs the Hague treaty, other countries will be watching Japanese very closely for decisions rendered based on an illogical bias such as this.

Finally, and most seriously, 20 American children abducted to or wrongfully retained in Japan are unaccounted for since the tsunami and the ongoing nuclear disaster.

We implore the Japanese government to immediately assist in determining the whereabouts of these and all abducted children, and to relieve the left-behind parents of the grief and worry they suffer in not knowing whether their children are alive or dead.

Nothing is more important and deep-seated in this world than a parents love for his or her child,but of equal importance is a society’s responsibility to ensure that its most vulnerable citizens, its children, have the opportunity to know and love both parents. Let’s hope that signing the Hague treaty will move Japan one step closer to fulfilling this responsibility.

U.S. Navy commander Paul Toland is national director of Bring Abducted Children Home and the only living parent of Erika Toland, who was abducted in 2003 and is being wrongfully retained by her grandmother in Japan.

 

 

 

 

 

This case once again brings home the message that it is long overdue for Japan to change its approach on child access and custody.  How many more desperate acts will it take before the Japanese government takes notice?

 

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110706p2g00m0dm007000c.html

Mexican man convicted of abducting separated daughter in Niigata

 

NIIGATA (Kyodo) — A Mexican man was found guilty and given a suspended jail term Tuesday for forcibly taking his daughter from his separated Japanese wife last November by breaking into her home in Niigata on the Sea of Japan and injuring her mother who tried to prevent him.

The Niigata District Court sentenced Nathanael Teutle Retamoza, 33, to two years in prison, suspended for four years, for his behavior aimed at taking the 1-year-old girl to the United States, at a time when the Japanese government is preparing for legislation to help settle international child custody disputes.

The ruling said it was “selfish” for Retamoza to act on his urge to see his daughter, from whom he had been separated for two months, without heeding the sentiment of his former wife and her relatives.

It also noted that he prepared for the abduction well in advance as he booked U.S.-bound air tickets for himself and his daughter beforehand.

However, the court said the prison sentence is suspended as the man regretted inflicting on his former mother-in-law injuries that required two weeks of treatment and received punishments in the forms of nearly eight months of detention and abandonment of his daughter’s custody.

According to Retamoza’s lawyer, the couple divorced after the incident and the mother was awarded sole custody of the daughter. Also after the incident, the court served a restraining order on him following the wife’s claim of abuse.

In a similar case, an American man was arrested in September 2009 in Fukuoka Prefecture on suspicion of abducting his son and daughter in a bid to reclaim them, as his ex-wife had taken them from the United States to Japan.

But prosecutors did not file criminal charges against Christopher Savoie.

To deal with cross-border parental abduction cases, Japan decided in May to join the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets procedures for settling international child custody disputes.

 

(Mainichi Japan) July 6, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

This article from the Japan Times online provides an excellent update regarding the status of the Hague treaty being enacted by Japan. 

The article notes that before the Hague treaty can become effective, it still must be passed by the Diet.  Other related bills need to be drafted and passed by the Diet as well, despite widespread opposition to the treaty.  The treaty will not be retroactive to current cases. 

The article mentions the following statistics that the Japanese Foreign Ministry is officially admitting to as being currently active cases “involving Japanese spouses who took their children to Japan” from the following four countries:

U.S.:     100 cases

U.K.:      38 cases

Canada:  37 cases

France:   30 cases

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20110607i1.html

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

FYI

THE HAGUE TREATY

Hague treaty seeks to balance rights of kids, parents

By MASAMI ITO

Staff writer

Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s administration said in May it would establish legislation as part of preparations for Japan joining an international convention to prevent cross-border abductions of children by their parents.

Despite international pressure to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Japan had been reluctant amid strong opposition from politicians in the ruling and opposition parties, experts and Japanese mothers who took their children to Japan after failed international marriages.

Japan’s decision was welcomed by the international community, but it is still unclear whether the country will actually be able to sign the treaty anytime soon.

What does the treaty entail?

The Hague treaty aims “to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in” a member state. The treaty covers children up to age 15.

A typical example of what the treaty tries to address would be a case in which an international marriage has failed and one of the spouses takes offspring out of the country where the child has been living without the consent of the other parent. Such a physical removal may also be in defiance of a court custody decision, such as in cases of divorce when both estranged spouses have certain custody and visitation rights.

If offspring are spirited away from a country, the parent who thus lost custody would file an abduction complaint with the government, or “central authority” that handles such matters.

If both the nation that the offspring are removed from and the one they are taken to are Hague signatories, the designated central authorities of the two nations would seek to ensure the safe return of the child to its “habitual residence.”

But if the nation where offspring are taken to is not a member of the treaty, such as Japan, it is not obliged to hand over the offspring. This can cause bilateral friction on a political level, and also lead to charges of felony abduction being leveled at the parent who took the child or children away.

As of April, the treaty had 85 signatories, including Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, South Africa and Spain. Of the Group of Eight countries, only Japan and Russia have refused to join.

What prompted Japan to move toward joining the Hague treaty?

Although not the first child abduction case involving a Japanese parent, an incident in September 2009 brought Japan’s stance on the issue into the international spotlight.

Christopher Savoie of Tennessee came to Japan to reclaim his children from his Japanese ex-wife, who had brought them to the country without permission.

Savoie was arrested by Japanese police for allegedly attempting to “kidnap” minors, but prosecutors didn’t file criminal charges against him. The case was widely reported by both the foreign and Japanese media and became a bilateral diplomatic headache.

International pressure to sign the Hague treaty has increased since then.

According to the Foreign Ministry, there are 100 cases involving Japanese spouses who took their children to Japan from the U.S., 38 who brought offspring here from the U.K., 37 from Canada and 30 from France. But these are just the numbers reported to the ministry. The actual number is believed to be higher and to stretch back many years.

Why has Japan been reluctant to sign the treaty?

The government feared that Japanese mothers who claimed to have been victims of domestic violence would be forced to return their children to the abusive environments they fled from.

“If Japan were to sign the Hague Convention, (my child would) be forced to live with an abusive father and be exposed to violence again,” said a women who attended a government panel discussion on the Hague treaty in March. “And I will become a (declared) criminal.”

The Hague treaty in principle is geared toward returning offspring to their country of habitual residence.

Cultural and legal differences have also been noted, as many Western countries have a joint-custody system. Japan uses a system that grants sole custody, usually to the mother.

Are there circumstances under which a child is not returned to the country of residence?

-Article 13 also says a state is not obligated to return a child if “there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.”

But experts have pointed out that the clause is vague and opponents argue that it does not include abuse against mothers.

According to the data collected by the Hague Conference on Private International Law released in 2008, only 20 percent of all global return applications were either rejected or judicially refused.

How will Japan address the strong concern about cases of domestic violence?

The outline of a draft bill approved by the Cabinet stipulates that the return of the child will be denied if the child has experienced physical or verbal abuse “and is in danger of being subjected to further abuse if returned to its habitual residence.”

In addition, the child will not be returned if the spouse has been the victim of “violence that caused the child to suffer from psychological trauma” and that the parent was in danger of further abuse if he or she returns with the child back to the country the offspring was taken from.

Experts, however, noted that the conditions for rejecting the return are extremely strict.

“The draft lists various conditions, not making it easy for the spouse to claim domestic violence to make sure that the child would not be returned,” attorney Mikiko Otani said. “And the parent would also need to prove that there was domestic violence.”

What are the positive aspects of Japan joining the treaty?

There are Japanese parents whose children have been taken away to another country by their ex-spouses. Japan, not being party to the treaty, has been powerless to rectify these situations.

Otani, an expert on family law, pointed out that there are many cases in which the ex-spouse is from a member country of the convention and that government has the responsibility to deal with these international parental kidnapping cases.

In Japan, the responsibility falls on the individual because Tokyo has not signed the treaty.

Otani also expressed concern that if Japan continues to delay joining the treaty, other member states will take harsher measures.

In the U.S., for example, several Japanese mothers are on the FBI website, wanted for “parental kidnapping.”

“I think it comes down to the fact that the Hague treaty is the active international rule,” Otani said. “If Japan refuses to join the convention, all the (member states) can do is make sure that the children cannot be taken out of their countries. They already have a tendency to do so, but I think they will make it even harder for the children to leave.”

In many cases, court orders are issued ordering the child not to leave the country.

Does this mean that Japan will immediately conclude the convention?

No. Even if the Japan signs the treaty, it needs Diet ratification. Related bills must also be drafted and passed.

According to the draft legislation, the “central authority” will be the Foreign Ministry, which will be in charge of overseeing cases related to the Hague treaty, including locating abducted children, taking measures to prevent child abuse and advising parents on the voluntary return of children.

But there is still strong domestic opposition among the public, as well as in both the ruling and opposition camps, and it is unclear how soon Japan will be able to conclude the treaty and enact related domestic laws.

If Japan joins the treaty, would it apply to current cases?

No. The treaty will only apply to cases that are brought against Japan after it signs the Hague Convention. Experts say it will be up to the government to decide how to handle the cases that occurred before Japan signs the treaty.

Otani pointed out that there were cases in which the mothers eventually want their children to make the most of their dual nationality, such as visiting the country they were taken away from, but can’t for various reasons, including the mother’s fear of being arrested if she were to accompany the offspring to a nation where she is listed as a fugitive.

“It may be impossible to resolve all cases or return the children, but there may be some fathers who would just be happy to be able to have access to their children,” Otani said. “The benefits of these children are being robbed . . . and I think that it is necessary to establish a (bilateral) scheme for those who want to resolve their case so that the children” can visit both countries freely.

The Weekly FYI appears Tuesdays. Readers are encouraged to send ideas, questions and opinions to hodobu@japantimes.co.jp

http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/749bad3e5a664aaea8d4c61a5df2c57a/TN–Japan-US-Custody-Battle

Tennessee man wins $6.1 million judgment from ex-wife who abducted children to Japan

  • JOE EDWARDS  Associated Press
  • First Posted: May 09, 2011 – 4:51 pm
    Last Updated: May 09, 2011 – 5:53 pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A judge on Monday awarded a Tennessee man $6.1 million from his ex-wife who took their two children to Japan and never returned.

It remains unclear whether Christopher Savoie will ever actually get the money on behalf of his children, 10-year-old Isaac and 8-year-old Rebecca, because laws in the two countries conflict.

His ex-wife, Noriko Esaki Savoie, who is Japanese, left with the children in 2009 after she and Christopher Savoie were divorced and each granted partial custody. When it became clear she might not return, a Tennessee court issued a warrant for her arrest and gave the father full custody. But the order had no effect because Japan hasn’t signed an international treaty governing child abduction.

Christopher Savoie, now 40, tried unsuccessfully to get the children when he made a trip to Japan in September 2009.

Japanese law allows only one parent to have custody in cases of divorce — usually the mother.

Christopher Savoie said Monday after winning the judgment that the money is not paramount to him and he hopes the court’s decision might influence his ex-wife.

“I just want to see my kids,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to get her to the table so the children can have a relationship with their father and mother.”

Franklin Chancellor Timothy L. Easter awarded the amount based on false imprisonment, emotional distress and breach of contract.

“We are hopeful that the breach of contract might allow him to go about collecting damages,” said Eileen Burkhalter Smith, one of Christopher Savoie’s attorneys. “But you never know.

“Hopefully it could give somebody, in the U.S. government in particular, the means to allow this father to get something or see his kids.”

Noriko Savoie, now 39, was not represented by an attorney during the 30-minute hearing.

Christopher Savoie is attending law school and working part time as a legal intern. He has remarried and has three stepchildren.

ABC conducted a group interview of over a dozen U.S. parents whose children have been abducted to Japan and will be covering this on their “World News” programs on Tuesday, February 15 and Wednesday, Feburary 16, and also on ABC Nightline on February 15.

A related video, photos, and other information is available at the following link:

http://abcnews.go.com/International/american-children-abducted-japan-desperate-fathers-contact-children/story?id=12919762

Despite the fact that Judge Martin seemed to have seriously erred in the Christopher Savoie case, resulting in the abduction of Savoie’s two children, Isaac and Rebecca, to Japan, the lawsuit against the judge has been dismissed by a federal judge:

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20101209a8.html

It is the one year anniversary since Christopher Savoie was released from Japanese prison.  His wife has published a brilliant article in the Japan Times debunking all the arguments used to excuse those who use Japan as a sanctuary for  international parental kidnapping.

Here is the link:

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20101109hn.html