http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/10/23/national/japan-to-join-child-custody-pact-in-april/#.UmfXgvmUSM4

Japan to join child custody pact in April

KYODO

The government aims to accede to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction on April 1.

Japan had been accused by the United States and European countries of being a “safe haven” for international child abductions.

The treaty, which currently has 89 signatories, sets out rules and procedures for the prompt return to the country of habitual residence of children under 16 taken to another country, if requested by the other parent.

The convention will enter into force in a state acceding to it on the first day of the third calendar month after the instrument of accession is deposited with the Dutch Foreign Ministry.

The Diet approved the country’s accession to the treaty in May and enacted a law in June stipulating domestic implementation procedures for the Hague treaty.

Under the legislation, a central authority will be set up in the Foreign Ministry to locate children who have been taken away and encourage the people involved to settle the dispute through consultations.

If the consultations fail, family courts in Tokyo and Osaka will decide on the child’s treatment. The legislation also allows a parent to refuse to return a child if abuse or domestic violence is feared.

The central authority will be staffed with lawyers, experts on domestic violence and child psychology counselors.

At the family courts in Tokyo and Osaka, judges have been trained on the Hague convention. The Foreign Ministry and the family courts plan to open a website to explain about the procedures to settle disputes under the pact.

The government plans to join the international treaty for settling cross-border child custody disputes in April after submitting necessary documents in January to the Dutch Foreign Ministry, which handles matters on the pact, a government source said Tuesday.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121231a4.html

Monday, Dec. 31, 2012

CABINET INTERVIEW
Altering nonnuclear principles not on the table, Kishida says

By MIZUHO AOKI
Staff writer
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.

Fumio Kishida
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.

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

The results of this rather unscientific poll, offered online in Japanese language only, actually are not as divided as this article suggests.  Of 64 respondents, only 17 were against Japan joining the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.  Interestingly, 18 of the respondents were self-admitted abductors, which pretty closely matches the number of respondents who opposed the Hague Convention.

 

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110203p2g00m0dm035000c.html

 

Survey shows divided views on Japan’s signing of child custody pact

TOKYO (Kyodo) — An online survey by the Foreign Ministry showed Wednesday that people who have directly been involved in the so-called parental “abductions” of children as a result of failed marriages were divided on Japan’s accession to an international treaty to deal with child custody disputes.

Of 64 respondents to the questionnaire posted on the website of the Foreign Ministry and its 121 diplomatic missions abroad between May and November last year, 22 were in favor of Japan joining the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, while 17 were against the idea.

The remaining 25 respondents did not make their stance clear, said Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Ikuo Yamahana at a press conference.

The convention provides a procedure for the prompt return of children to their habitual country of residence when they are wrongfully removed or retained in the case of an international divorce. It also protects parental access rights.

Those seeking Japan’s accession to the convention said Tokyo should no longer allow unilateral parental child abductions as the country is perceived overseas as an “abnormal” nation for defending such acts.

People opposed to Japan’s signing of the treaty said the convention “doesn’t fit with” Japanese culture, values and customs and urged the government to protect Japanese nationals fleeing from difficult circumstances such as abusive spouses and problems in foreign countries.

Some pointed to the disadvantages faced by Japanese parents seeking a local court settlement on child custody abroad, such as expensive legal fees and the language barrier.

Yamahana said the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan will further examine the possibility of joining the convention based on the results of the online survey. “We will discuss what we can do to ensure the welfare of children,” he said.

International pressure on Tokyo to act on the parental abduction issue has been growing, with legislative bodies in the United States and France recently adopting resolutions that call for Japan’s accession to the treaty.

At present, 84 countries and regions are parties to the Hague Convention. Of the Group of Seven major economies, only Japan has yet to ratify the pact.

Of the 64 respondents, 18 said they have abducted children and 19 said their children have been taken by their former spouses. A total of 27 said they have been slapped with restrictions on traveling with their children because Japan is not a party to the Hague Convention.

By country, 26 respondents were linked to parental abduction cases in the United States, followed by nine in Australia and seven in Canada.

(Mainichi Japan) February 3, 2011