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

 

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

 
July 30, 2014

By TAKUYA KITAZAWA/ Staff Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By TAKUYA KITAZAWA/ Staff Writer
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http://www.meetup.com/Left-Behind-Parents-Japan/events/174099972/?a=ea1_grp&rv=ea1

Press conference by mothers who have had their children internationally abducted

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014
3:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Judicial Correspondent Club Shiho Kisya Club (at Tokyo High Court)

1-1-4 Kasumigaseki chiyoda-ku , Tokyo (map)

The Hague Convention will ratify from April 1st. After April 1st, how will the visitation be changed? How does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs support us?
We have been waiting for today forever.
Four left behind mothers will announce about their cases at a press conference. Their children were internationally abducted by their spouses.

Date April 2

Place: Judicial Correspondent Club (at Tokyo High Court)
1-1-4 Kasumigaseki chiyoda-ku Tokyo
Tell: 03-3581-5411

Time: from 15:00PM to 15:30PM

If you will be present, please let us know or contact Judicial Correspondent Club.

We ask for the volunteers to help us.

SOURCE: http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.authprint&cid=17

Japan – Central Authority & practical information

Central Authority(ies):

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Contact details:

Address: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
2-2-1 Kasumigaseki Chiyoda-ku
TOKYO
100-8919 Japan
Telephone: +81 3 5501 8152
Fax: +81 3 5501 8148
E-mail: –
General website: http://www.mofa.go.jp/
Contact point: Consular Policy Division
Languages spoken by staff: Japanese (by telephone)
Japanese and English (by fax)

Practical Information:
(The following information was provided by the relevant State authorities or was obtained from the replies to the 2003 and/or 2008 Service Convention Questionnaires)

Forwarding authorities
(Art. 3(1)): the judges
Methods of service
(Art. 5(1)(2)):
Formal Service (Art. 5 (1)(a))
The Minister for Foreign Affairs refers the document to the competent court of justice. Service is then effected either by post (special postal service, Article 49 of the Mail Act; a report of service is drawn up by the postman) or through a marshal.

Informal delivery (Art. 5(2))
The Minister for Foreign Affairs refers the documents sent to it to the competent court clerk. The court clerk informs the addressee of the documents to be served and the addressee then either presents himself / herself to the court or requests that they be forwarded to him / her. In the latter case special postal service will be effected (Article 49 of the Mail Act; the postman will draw up a report of the delivery).When the person to be served refuses to accept the documents, or fails to appear or to apply for forwarding the documents to him / her within three weeks of the date on which he/she was informed, the documents will be returned to the applicant.

Service by a particular method (Art. 5(1)(b))
When it is so requested, a marshal will effect service by delivering the document directly to the person after ascertaining that he / she is the addressee.

Translation requirements
(Art. 5(3)):
Full translation is required for any document to be served under Article 5(1)(a)(b). We serve the translation to the addressee together with the original.

Japan has not concluded any agreements under Article 20(b).

Costs relating to execution of the request for service
(Art. 12):
In principle, the applicant incurs no charges because the National Treasury bears costs of service. However, in the case of service by a marshal, a fee is charged and should be reimbursed. To that end, the court which effected the service sends a bill of the costs to be reimbursed to the applicant together with the certificate referred to in Article 6.

When executed by a marshal, the amount to be paid for the performance of service is 1,800 yen (service in working hours on weekdays) or 4,200 yen (service in night times, weekends or holidays) plus the marshal’s travel expenses, which is 37 yen per kilometer from the competent district court to which he / she belongs.

Time for execution of request: About four months
Oppositions and declarations
(Art. 21(2)): Click here to read all the declarations made by Japan under the Service Convention.
Art. 8(2): No opposition
Art. 10(a):
No opposition

“Japan has not declared that it objects to the sending of judicial documents, by postal channels, directly to addressees in Japan. As the representative of Japan made clear at the Special Commission of April 1989 on the practical operation of the Service and Evidence Conventions, Japan does not consider that the use of postal channels for sending judicial documents to persons in Japan constitutes an infringement of its sovereign power.”

“Nevertheless, as the representative also indicated, the absence of a formal objection does not imply that the sending of judicial documents by postal channels to addressees in Japan is always considered valid service in Japan. In fact, sending documents by such a method would not be deemed valid service in Japan in circumstances where the rights of the addressee were not respected.”

(See Conclusion and Recommendation No 57 of the 2003 Special Commission.)

Art. 10(b): Opposition
Art. 10(c): Opposition
Art. 15(2): Declaration of applicability
Art. 16(3): No declaration of applicability

Derogatory channels (bilateral or multilateral agreements or internal law permitting other transmission channels)
(Arts. 11, 19, 24 and 25)

Disclaimer:
Information may not be complete or fully updated – please contact the relevant authorities to verify this information.

Consular Convention between Japan and the United States of America

Consular Convention between Japan and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Agreements or arrangements concerning judicial assistance between Japan and; Swiss Confederation, Kingdom of Denmark, Republic of Italy, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Federative Republic of Brazil, Kingdom of Thailand, Federal Republic of Germany, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Syrian Arab Republic, Kingdom of Norway, Australia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Austria, State of Kuwait, Republic of Iraq, State of Israel

Useful links:

(This page was last updated on 15 May 2009)

Japan – Competent Authority (Art. 6)
The District Court which has rendered judicial aid with respect to the service is designated as the authority competent to complete the certificate in the form of the model annexed to the Convention, pursuant to the first paragraph of Article 6.

Japan – Competent Authority (Art. 9)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
2-2-1 Kasumigaseki Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo
100-8919 Japan
tel.: +81-3-3580.3311

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.seattlepi.com/local/article/Kirkland-mom-accused-of-fleeing-to-Japan-to-4824996.php

Kirkland mom accused of fleeing to Japan to thwart parenting plan

BY LEVI PULKKINEN, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF
Published 7:29 pm, Wednesday, September 18, 2013
 
 
  • Maximus, pictured in a photo provided by his father Kris Morness. King County prosecutors contend Maximus's mother Chie Kawabata abducted the boy earlier this year and has taken him to Japan. Photo: Family Photos
    Maximus, pictured in a photo provided by his father Kris Morness. King County prosecutors contend Maximus’s mother Chie Kawabata abducted the boy earlier this year and has taken him to Japan. Photo: Family Photos

 

 

A Kirkland woman accused of fleeing to Japan with her son in an end run around a custody dispute now faces criminal charges.

King County prosecutors contend Chie Kawabata left the country earlier this year with her 5-year-old son, Maximus, despite court orders requiring her to keep the child in the United States. Kawabata has been charged with custodial interference, a kidnapping-related felony.

Writing the court, Deputy Prosecutor Benjamin Santos contends Kawabata has completely cut off contact with her son’s father, Vancouver, B.C., resident Kris Morness, and has no intention of returning the child.

“The defendant has ignored the conditions of the parenting plan and simply defied the court’s last order,” Santos told the court. “It appears the defendant has made arrangements to move all of her belongings to Japan. … There is little reason to believe this move is not permanent.”

Santos went on to contend the Maximus may be in danger.

Kawabata, 46, is the fourth Japanese mother in recent years to be charged in King County with taking children to Japan in violation of court orders. Because Japan has not ratified the leading international treaty on the issue, U.S. authorities are effectively blocked from returning the kidnapped children.

According to charging papers, Kawabata and Morness divorced in 2012. While Maximus lived primarily with Kawabata, the parenting plan mandated that either parent receive permission before taking Maximus out of the country.

In late 2012, Kawabata asked for a court order allowing her to take her son to Japan. King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel denied her request in January, finding in part that “the detrimental effects of relocation outweigh the benefits.”

Morness learned Kawabata was missing in late July after his son didn’t show up for a weekend visitation. At his request, Kirkland police went to the woman’s home and found she’d moved out.

As it turned out, Kawabata and the boy flew to Japan on July 26. She had a one-way ticket.

In an email, Kawabata admitted she took the boy to Osaka, a Kirkland detective told the court.

“The torment I have endured in recent years have left me … emotionally ruined and forced my hands to take this step that I wish I did not have to take,” Kawabata wrote in an email to her ex-husband, according to charging papers.

Since her disappearance, Morness has launched a website describing his ex as a “senior HR manager/child abductor.” He’s also posted court documents supporting the claims made by police – chiefly that Kawabata had no authority to run off with Maximus.

In recent years, U.S. authorities have seen an increase in the number of international custodial child abductions. Watchdogs on the issue say there are currently more than 1,000 such open cases involving U.S. parents whose children have been taken overseas.

Unlike the United States and 80 other countries, the Japanese government has not ratified the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. The 29-year-old United Nations accord requires that member countries honor custody agreements made outside their borders unless doing so threatens the child involved.

In addition to Kawabata, prosecutors in King County have charged three other Japanese women with kidnapping their own children. None have answered the charges against them.

Most recently, prosecutors charged former Seattle resident Ryoko Fukuda with absconding with her daughter the day she was supposed to hand over the girl’s Japanese passport. According to charging documents filed in Aug. 2012, the girl’s father rushed to Sea-Tac Airport in an attempt to retrieve her. Prosecutors say Fukuda and the child were already flying to Japan.

Michiyo Imoto Morehouse, previously of Bellevue, was charged with the same crime in 2010 after fleeing the country with her son. Her ex-husband had been awarded sole custody of the child.

In 2009, another former Seattle resident – Mayumi Ogawa – fled the country weeks after a King County Superior Court judge approved a parenting plan stating that her son would split his time between his parents, according to charging papers. The boy’s father has since been awarded sole control of the child.

Kawabata, like the rest of the women, remains at large. Prosecutors have requested that she be jailed if apprehended.

Check the Seattle 911 crime blog for more Seattle crime news. Visit seattlepi.com‘s home page for more Seattle news.

Levi Pulkkinen can be reached at 206-448-8348 orlevipulkkinen@seattlepi.com. Follow Levi on Twitter at twitter.com/levipulk.

 

http://www.kotaku.com.au/2013/08/game-developer-says-his-son-has-been-kidnapped/

IN REAL LIFE

Game Developer Says His Son Has Been Kidnapped

Game Developer Says His Son Has Been Kidnapped

The last time game programmer Kris Morness says he saw his five-year-old son, Maximus, was on July 25 this year. It was a Thursday, and they talked on Skype. Everything seemed normal, but normal can be deceiving. That was the last time Morness has seen — or heard from — his son. Now, he’s doing everything to get him back.

The boy’s mother, Chie Kawabata, has left the US, according to a description in this Kirkland, Washington police report, taking Maximus with her to Japan in what her ex-husband is calling a case of child abduction. Kawabata was born in Osaka, but is now apparently a US citizen.

“I decided to go public because there is lots of evidence she is not returning,” Morness told Kotaku. And by going public, Morness means it: He created a website called ChieKawabata.com. While there’s no mincing words, this isn’t some simple takedown site designed to destroy her credibility and make it impossible for future employers to hire her. Morness hopes it can help him find his son. It just might.

Every story has two sides, and Kotaku reached out to Chie Kawabata for comment via the email listed on the website Morness created as well as through a Facebook account and the cell phone number listed onChieKawabata.com. At the time of publication, Kawabata had yet to reply. There was an automated message saying the phone was not accepting calls at this time.

ChieKawabata.com is a gutsy move that helps Morness get his story out there so he can hopefully be reunited with his son. When asked if he was worried if Kawabata would sue him for defamation, Morness replied, “I kind of wish she would try, because she would have to return to the jurisdiction. In any case, I had already looked into the legal risks of putting up such a website and I am in the green there.”

“On the site are all the relevant court orders and the police report,” said Morness, adding, “I took an approach of full transparency. The trial transcripts are there — and they paint an incredibly detailed picture of what kind of stuff has been going on for the past two years.”

This isn’t the kind of thing you’d expect from a 16-year game industry veteran like Morness, with games such as Command & Conquer titles, Jagged Alliance 2, and The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earthunder his belt. Currently, he is the lead programmer on Age of Empires II HD. Then again, this probably isn’t what Morness expected.

Creating a website like this comes with huge risks for Morness, both professionally and personally. It shines a light on a messy divorce with both sides making ugly allegations (more here in the 2012 Parenting Plan document). But shining a light on this case is exactly what Morness wants to do after what he says happened. According to the same 2012 document, Kawabata was named Maximus’ primary parent, with Morness receiving weekends, holiday time and scheduled Skype talks. As noted in the Final Parenting Plandocument, international travel requires “advance written approval by the other parent”.

Maximus spent two and a half weeks in early July with his father, but later that month, Morness could no longer get in touch with his son. Morness emailed his ex-wife, asking her where his son was. Then, as documented on ChieKawabata.com, he supposedly received this reply from his ex-wife on August 2:

After much thought, I have taken a leave of absence from work until the end of August and have traveled with Maximus to Japan to visit my cancer-stricken mother. The torment I have endured in recent years have left me (and therefore Max) emotionally ruined and have forced my hands to take this step that I wish I did not have to take. We are in Osaka with our family where you have visited before, and I just need [a] little time to have my and Max’s wound to be healed through the love of my family.

Morness believes this move is permanent since, as documented on ChieKawabata.com, he says she’s tried to relocate outside the U.S. twice before: Once to Beijing, China, and the other time to Tokyo, Japan.

Still unable to get in touch with his son, Morness contacted the police in Kirkland, Washington, where his ex-wife lived. The Kirkland police report on ChieKawabata.com states that Morness’s ex-wife and Maximus flew out of San Francisco to Japan on July 26 without providing the proper parental notification. A spokesperson for the Kirkland Police Department confirmed to Kotaku the authenticity of the police report posted by Morness.

Because of this, according to this Superior Court of Washington King County document also onChieKawabata.com, Morness was granted custody of Maximus due to “custodial interference of the first degree for mother which includes abduction of child to Japan against court orders and withholding access of child to father for protracted periods of time.”

In Japan, joint custody for divorced parents doesn’t exist. Complicating things for international marriage is that, for many years, Japan hasn’t participated in the Hague Convention, which states children must be returned to their country of residence. Since Japan hasn’t been a part of the Hague Convention, this has meant that many Japanese parents can flee back to their home country with their children, whether the reasons are truly warranted or unwarranted. It’s meant there is little non-Japanese parents can do legally to get their kids back.

This case is unusual: Kawabata was born in Japan, but she’s a US citizen. Morness, however, says he “can’t be sure” his ex-wife gave up her Japanese citizenship when she naturalised.

Earlier this spring, Japanese parliament voted to approve the Hague treaty and, as Japan Daily Press reports, is setting a deadline of March 2014 for final ratification. According to The Daily Beast, there is scepticism even among Japanese pundits about the country’s implementing of the Hague Convention as doing so could take years and might need more international pressure.

Today is August 30. It is still unknown if Kawabata does plan on returning to the US at the end of the month. Morness still doesn’t know his son’s whereabouts, telling Kotaku, “I was supposed to have him here for another two weeks right now but obviously that didn’t happen.”

ChieKawabata.com [Official Site]

Owen Good contributed to this article.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JS5VC8much4

 

Published on Aug 24, 2013

CBC News August 22, 2013 – (Toronto, Canada): “International Parental Child Abduction Nightmares” – A group of Canadian parents in Ontario, where about a third of child abductions are reported across Canada, is highlighting the plight of parents such as Cesar Caetano whose children have been abducted with little international protection for their rights.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JS5VC8…

Caetano is one of three [four] Greater Toronto Area fathers who banded together to form the advocacy group iCHAPEAU Association, which stands for the “International Child Harbouring and Abduction Prevention Enforcement Act Under-Law”.

Three years ago, his former wife allegedly abducted his daughter, Alice, and took her to Brazil, and she’s still missing.

“There’s lots of cases, and people don’t know what to do and they don’t go public. They don’t know where to run,” Caetano said, explaining the reason behind iCHAPEAU Association, which fights for the rights of parents whose children have been abducted.

“I’m missing the good years, but I won’t give up.” – Cesar Caetano, parent of missing child, co-founder of iCHAPEAU Association.

The group is lobbying the federal government to harmonize Canadian laws with tougher U.S. laws.

Ontario accounts for roughly a third of all domestic and international child abductions reported nationwide over the past two years, according to Statistics Canada data.

Earlier this week, a CBC News exclusive told the story of Zaiba Zaiba, a Toronto mother whose two young children where allegedly abducted by their father and taken to Afghanistan.

According to iCHAPEAU’s Twitter account, the group has reached out to Zaiba Zaiba to “offer our assistance, provide information and to assist in disseminating information about her children’s case.”

The Middle Eastern country is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, which includes laws protecting children who are victims of abduction.

Ontario accounts for 55 of the 174 child abductions between 2011 and 2012, Statistics Canada figures indicate, although data does not differentiate between international and domestic cases.

However, a spokesperson with Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs said there are approximately 170 “ongoing” international cases in over 50 countries that have been reported to the government.

TOUGHER LAWS ADVOCATED

A common characteristic in most international abductions is that the parent left behind usually has sole custody and believes they have legal protection when allowing their children to travel without them.

When asked about such a proposal, a Department of Justice spokesperson said the government is “always looking for ways to improve Canada’s justice system.

“We will continue to work with our international partners to reinforce laws related to international abductions,” the spokesperson said in a written response to questions from CBC News.

But for Stephen Watkins, who also helped form iCHAPEAU Association after his two sons were taken to Poland by their mother in 2009, the response from Ottawa simply hasn’t been good enough.

“What we want for our government is to see them standing up and enforcing the treaties that we’ve signed,” he said.

Watkins has full custody of his two sons, and said the Polish courts have on one occasion ruled against returning them to Canada, citing it would be “detrimental to their health.”

Stephen Watkins, father of Alexander, left, and Christopher, is one of founders of the advocacy group iCHAPEAU Association, which is lobbying the federal government to harmonize Canadian laws with tougher U.S. laws. (Handout/Canadian Press)

“It’s worse that they’re in Poland because [their] mother’s been diagnosed with something. She can’t take care of the children. She has a neighbour and the boyfriend taking care of the children,” Watkins said. “What is this? … I have no platform in that nation.”

Caetano has spent his own money attempting to ensure his daughter’s return to Canada and vows not to stop.

“I’m missing the good years, but I won’t give up,” he said.

CBC Toronto News August 22, 2013
Reported By: Marivel Taruc
Twitter: @MTaruc

Original Source:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto…

If your children have been abducted, please contact:

Canada’s iCHAPEAU Association
International Child Harbouring & Abduction Prevention Enforcement Act Under-Law
“Helping to Bring Abducted Children Home and STOP Parental Child Abductions”

Please JOIN, LIKE and SUBSCRIBE to help share the iCHAPEAU cause:
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/iCHAPEAU
YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/iCHAPEAU
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/iCHAPEAU_Law (@iCHAPEAU_Law)
MOBILE: http://www.uQR.me/iCHAPEAU
WEBSITE: http://www.iCHAPEAU.ca

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.”

http://www.app.com/article/20130509/NJNEWS/305090114/Rep-Chris-Smith-pushes-federal-action-NJ-child-abductions

Rep. Chris Smith pushes for federal action on NJ child abductions
May 10, 2013

David Goldman, Monmouth County, is one of the only known left-behind parents to retrieve his child from Brazil.
Written by
Malia Rulon Herman
@mrulon

WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey continued to hammer the U.S. government Thursday over a string of international child abduction cases that remain unresolved, including several from his home state.

“The status quo is simply not adequate,” Smith said at a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on global human rights and international organizations, which he chairs.

Bindu Philips of Plainsboro, N.J., told committee members that while on a family trip to India in December 2008, her ex-husband, Sunil Jacob, left her at a cousin’s home and began a new life with their children — removing all contact.

“Every day I awaken to the heart-wrenching reality that I am separated from the children that I love more than anything in the world,” she said. “I implore you, members of Congress, to help me in my quest to be reunited with my children.”

Philips has an active case with the State Department, has been in touch with the Indian consulates in New York and Washington, and was awarded full custody of both boys by the family division of New Jersey’s Superior Court.

Michael Elias, a former Marine Corps sergeant and now a Bergen County sheriff’s officer, experienced a similar ordeal. It also started in December 2008, when his ex-wife, Mayumi Nakamura, took their two children to Japan and cut off all contact.

He was awarded full custody of the children in Bergen County Superior Court, and the children were ordered to be returned under the Hague Convention, which outlines policies and practices in international abduction cases.

Neither Japan nor India are signatories of the convention.

“As long as your government allows Japan to continue to disregard our children, the number of parental kidnappings will continue to rise,” Elias told lawmakers.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Jacobs, the State Department’s special advisor for children’s issues, told the committee that through the Hague Convention, hundreds of children are returned to the United States each year, many of them from Mexico.

She said reaching out to countries that have not yet joined the convention is one of the department’s top priorities and an issue that Secretary of State John Kerry raised with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida during a visit last month.

Smith said the U.S. government should do more. On Thursday, he re-introduced the Sean and David Goldman Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, a bill named for a Tinton Falls, N.J., man who fought for five years to win the return of his son from Brazil.

The bill would empower the president and State Department with 18 actions and penalties to secure the return of abducted American children.

Goldman, who also testified at Thursday’s hearing, said a “complete culture change” is needed at the State Department.

“Nothing short of being extremely bold and principled is going to do much to change the status quo,” he said.

http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/page3e_000018.html

Notice: A Pilot Project towards concluding the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

April 30, 2013

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will offer a telephone information service concerning cases of international parental child removal and retention on a trial basis.

The Government of Japan is now making preparations towards concluding the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (hereinafter “Hague Convention”), including the planning of a Central Authority to be established within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for its part, has decided to launch a pilot project designed to offer a telephone information service by a lawyer on the Japanese legal framework for parties to such cases residing in and outside Japan, as it anticipates that the Central Authority, once established, will receive phone calls seeking consultation. The idea is to put the experience gained through this project to good use in facilitating the implementation of the Hague Convention after the launch of the Central Authority.

For parties to a case of international parental child removal and retention who reside outside Japan

This pilot project will provide an information service by a Japanese lawyer on the Japanese legal system for parents whose child has been removed to Japan and who reside outside Japan, and are seeking a solution to the issue but unfamiliar with the Japanese legal framework. This service will be available in English or Japanese via Skype or telephone, free of charge.

1. Who is eligible to use this service?
Parents residing outside Japan whose child has been removed to Japan.
(Only a parent of the removed child can apply.
A grandfather, grandmother or other close relative of the child, as well as friends and acquaintances of the parent, are not eligible.)

2. When is this service available?
9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. (Japan Standard Time), from Monday through Friday (a day of the week), from May 1st, 2013 through March 31st, 2014 (Japanese Standard Time)
Please note that this service might be terminated earlier than the date specified above, depending on the number of applicants and the launch of the Central Authority. Any changes will be posted at this page.

3. How many times and how long may I use this service?
One session only per applicant; up to one hour

4. Do you speak English?
The lawyer speaks English and Japanese.

5. What information can I get from this service?
Information on Japanese family law, family court proceedings and other aspects of the Japanese legal framework. (Please note that in this service the lawyer in charge will not offer professional consultation to solve an individual case.)

6. I’d like to use this service. What should I do?
Step 1: To arrange an information session with a Japanese lawyer in charge, send an email to the address below that includes the following information. The lawyer will report back to you regarding the time and date of the session via email.

pilot.project.eng@gmail.com

Note: The email address below is not hyperlinked. Please type this email address.

Time and date (based on Japan Standard Time) you prefer: Provide three or more options in order of preference in the period described in Section 2 above. Please consider the time difference between your location and Japan.
The lawyer in charge might be unavailable at your requested time, so please give a number of preferred day and time slots.
Example:
i) 1st June, from 9 am (JST)
ii) 5th June, from 11 am (JST)
iii) 10th June, from 3 pm (JST)…
The specific information you want to know
Your contact phone number (including country code) or Skype name
Your country/region (if your country has multiple time zones, please also provide your city name.)
Step 2: The lawyer will call you on the date specified.

Notes:
Charges for the international call to you by the lawyer will be paid by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. However, you will need to pay any incoming call charges incurred on a cellphone roaming service or the like if you use such a service. If you use Skype, you will need to pay the charges for internet access for that purpose.
The lawyer will not give you professional consultation on your specific case. This pilot project is designed to allow you, who reside outside Japan, to gain a deeper understanding as to what scheme currently available in Japan might be of help to you.
The emails to be sent under Section 6 Step 1 above will be only for the purpose of arranging a telephone information session, not for seeking or giving professional consultation on your specific case.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the lawyer will treat the information you give with complete confidentiality.
Foreign Policy Bureau