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.vancouversun.com/news/Daphne+Bramham+Japan+black+hole+abducted+children/8799583/story.html

Daphne Bramham: Japan is black hole for abducted children

Police won’t enforce custody orders, law does not recognize joint custody and the country has not signed the international convention on respecting family court decisions

BY DAPHNE BRAMHAM, VANCOUVER SUN COLUMNIST AUGUST 17, 2013 8:13 AM
Daphne Bramham: Japan is black hole for abducted children

Masako Suzuki holds a photo of her and her son.

Photograph by: wayne leidenfrost , Vancouver Sun

Seven years ago, Canadian-born Kazuya David Suzuki was abducted by his father and taken to Japan. Since then, Kazuya’s mother has only seen her son a couple of times and spoken to him only once.

That’s despite Masako Suzuki having spent close to $100,000 on lawyers both here and in Japan. And she continues to be denied access, even though courts in both countries have ordered that she be allowed to see her only child.

The problem for her and for other parents of abducted, foreign-born children is that Japan is not one of the 90 signatories to the international Hague Convention, which requires member countries to respect the family court decisions of other signatory nations.

Yet even if it were, Japan doesn’t recognize joint custody, which the B.C. court ordered in October 2006.

It’s an appalling, inhumane situation that runs contrary to international conventions that Japan has signed including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Masako Suzuki’s life has been consumed with trying to gain access to her son — just as it has the lives of thousands of others whose children have been victims of parental abduction.

One advocacy group — the Child Rights Council of Japan — estimates there are as many as 2,000 cases of parental abduction to Japan each year.

As founder of Left Behind Parents Japan (http://lbpjapan.org/LBPJ_Organization/Joint_Policy_Statement.html), Masako is a leading advocate for change, urging Japan to sign the Hague Convention and to overhaul its 100-year-old family law system.

Somehow, the textile designer soldiers on even though she tells me that it is now probably too late to ever have a meaningful relationship with her son, who turns 19 in November.

She is convinced that Kazuya’s father has brainwashed him into believing that she doesn’t care about him. But if Kazuya does want to find her, Masako says the record of advocacy will prove that she’s never given up trying.

Masako has led marches in Japan, has held news conferences and has done dozens of media interviews.

This spring, she spoke at a symposium for Japanese government and spoke at a parliamentary committee in Ottawa that was looking into the issue of international child abductions.

In October 2006, a B.C. judge ordered that Kazuya could not be taken out of Canada and that his parents would have “joint interim custody and guardianship” until a final custody order was made based on the recommendation of a child psychologist.

But by then, Kazuya was already in Japan.

Jotaro Suzuki was granted sole custody by a Tokyo family court in December 2006. Masako got visitation rights in June 2007. But she was only able to see her son once before he and his father disappeared.

But what is more tragic than the separation from his mother is what’s happened since to the little boy, who was known as David at the West Vancouver school where he was diagnosed with a reading disability.

That reading disability coupled with Japanese language skills acquired only at home and at an after-school language program meant that he didn’t score well when he was tested for school placement in Japan.

As a result, Masako said, his father allowed him to be placed in a special class for the mentally disabled.

“I was so shocked,” Masako told me recently when we met in Vancouver. “But my ex-husband has used that. In family court in Japan, he gained the judge’s sympathy by telling him how he is a poor father struggling to take care of a disabled son.”

As far as Masako knows, Kazuya never went to high school.

The last time she saw him was in October 2009 at his junior high school choir concert in Tokyo — he was singing with his classmates, all mentally handicapped.

After the children finished singing, she said, she found him in a hallway. She called out to him and he raised his head. But before they had a chance to speak, the school’s principal came up to her demanding to know who she was.

“I’m his mother,” she told the principal. He told her that she needed her ex-husband’s permission to be at the school. He then threatened to call the police unless she left.

Kazuya never returned to that school. And, as far as Masako has been able to determine, he has never been registered at any other school in Japan.

Since that last sighting, Masako has had no word of her son. Canadian embassy officials are powerless to help the young Canadian boy. Japanese police are unwilling to enforce either court order. And, her former in-laws refuse to say where Jotaro and Kazuya are.

The Suzuki’s story has some unique twists — including the fact that neither parent is Canadian despite the family having owned a house and lived here for 13 years.

Beyond that, it’s strikingly similar to hundreds of other cases including 36 others being tracked by the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, a similar number being watched by the French Embassy and more than 140 known to U.S. Embassy staff.

Japan, along with a number of other countries, is seen as a haven for parental abductions and it’s enough of a problem that former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton told a congressional committee in 2011 that both she and President Barack Obama raised it at every meeting they had with Japanese officials. In February, 2013, after a meeting with Obama in Washington, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that Japan intended to sign the Hague Convention.

Canadian politicians have lobbied for Japan’s ratification and two of the highest profile Canadian advocates for changes in Japan are two Vancouver fathers whose children have been abducted by their Japanese wives.

Murray Wood is the founder of the International Rights of Children Society(http://www.irocs.org/our-mission/) , which works to raise awareness of parental abductions. He has been featured in a 2013 documentary called From the Shadows(http://www.fromtheshadowsmovie.com/).

Bruce Gherbetti, who lives in Japan, is executive director of Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion (http://kizuna-cpr.org/home), which a Japanese-registered non-profit that works toward restoring the human rights of children including the right to have relationships with both parents.

Wood’s two children — then 10 and 7 — were abducted by their mother in November 2004. She had ostensibly taken them to visit their dying grandfather in Japan. She never brought them back even though Wood had sole custody of the children and a B.C. Supreme Court order saying that his ex-wife had to return on a certain date and another that gave him sole custody.

In the past nine years, he has had very limited contact with his son and daughter. But this spring — with the help of Canadian Embassy staff — Wood’s 19-year-old son arrived in Vancouver and plans to start college here in the fall.

It’s a happy middle part of the story. There will only be a happy ending if Wood is able to establish contact with his daughter, who is now 16.

Gherbetti’s three daughters were abducted from Vancouver and taken to Japan in 2009.

Like Masako Suzuki, Gherbetti is skeptical that Japan’s announced decision to sign the Hague Convention will solve the problems.

He and his organization for “left-behind parents” are concerned that even if Japan does sign, it will not live up to the convention’s spirit and intent just as it has failed to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which it signed two decades ago.

In an email, Gherbetti said the root cause is Japan’s outdated laws and views about both divorce and child custody.

Still, signing the convention is a step forward and Gherbetti’s group is trying to raise money for a post-Hague program that would provide resources and services to reuniting parents and children.

But for now, Masako told me that when it comes to abducted children, the red sun on Japan’s national flag should be replaced by a large black hole.

dbramham@vancouversun.com

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Read more:http://www.vancouversun.com/Daphne+Bramham+Japan+black+hole+abducted+children/8799583/story.html#ixzz2cFIe78aF

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/08/09/national/supreme-court-manual-lays-out-procedures-for-hague-treaty-child-retrievals/

 

 / 

Top court seeks to minimize trauma to kids

Manual issued for Hague treaty child retrievals

BY MAGDALENA OSUMI

STAFF WRITER

AUG 10, 2013 

The Supreme Court has issued a case-by-case manual for court-appointed administrators on how to retrieve children in parental cross-border abduction cases under the Hague Convention, minimizing the use of force to avoid traumatizing the kids, the court’s spokesman said.

The manual, issued June 14, outlines measures the administrators who would be assigned the task of returning children to their place of habitual residence, even by force, should take as Japan considers joining the Hague Convention by the end of next March, the spokesman said Friday.

It says the administrators “should take utmost consideration” to protect the interests of the child.

The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction mandates procedures for a child abducted by one parent of a failed marriage to be swiftly returned to its country of habitual residence. The convention only applies to children under the age of 16.

The nation has come under fire in recent years over cases in which Japanese parents in estranged marriages overseas have brought children to Japan in defiance of divorce court custody or visitation rights rulings abroad.

Often, the estranged Japanese spouse claims to have fled from an abusive relationship. But the removal of a child from its country of habitual residence has been deemed a violation of that nation’s law, and the abducting parent a fugitive.

Under legislation that cleared the Diet in May, a court-designated officer can forcibly retrieve a child abducted or retained by a parent residing in Japan in defiance of an overseas custody ruling and who refuses to hand over the child.

The manual calls for the officer to attempt to take custody of the child at the home of the abducting parent, in an environment where privacy is thus protected and the child feels safe. Taking a child away in a public place, such as a day care center or on a street, may lead to “unpredictable situations” and traumatize the child, it said.

If the child cries or refuses to be returned to the other parent, the officer should not use force, according to the manual.

Should an officer visit a home to retrieve a child and is told it is not present, the child’s name should be called out and a check made on the presence of the child’s belongings, the manual says.

The officer is authorized to forcibly enter and search a home if there are indications the child is inside.

In the case of an infant, the manual allows the officer, with the parent’s consent, to remove it from the crib. But the officer must not try to forcibly take custody of an infant if the parent is hugging it tightly to prevent such action.

The manual, issued by the Supreme Court’s Civil Affairs Bureau, is based on meetings involving judges and other court officials nationwide in January and February. The gatherings covered past cases of failed domestic marriages where one parent fled with a child from the country of habitual residence without the consent of the other parent.

Court-designated officers have retrieved children in those cases but have not had specific manuals or regulations to follow. The latest document urges such officers in domestic cases to follow its instructions to avoid harming the child in any way.

In past divorce custody cases in Japan, officers apparently tried to retrieve children in public places, resulting in shouting matches.

Fiscal 2010 saw 120 domestic cases processed in which a parent demanded the forcible return of an offspring. The figure was 133 in fiscal 2011 and 131 in fiscal 2012.

Japan is the only Group of Eight member yet to accede to the Hague Convention. If it becomes a signatory, the cases will be handled by a family court in Tokyo or Osaka.

http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/04/207483.htm

I’m also very aware about the question of the child abduction convention. And I want to thank the government for submitting to the Diet. We’re very hopeful that that will be able to be passed, but we’re also sensitive to the fact that there are ongoing cases that will not be grandfathered into the new Hague legislation. And I want to emphasize to the Foreign Minister that the United States is ready to assist in helping to get those cases resolved.

http://japandailypress.com/supreme-court-fines-woman-after-denying-ex-husband-access-to-child-0326288

Supreme Court fines woman after denying ex-husband access to child

posted on APRIL 3, 2013 by ADAM WESTLAKE in NATIONAL

The Japanese Supreme Court ruled last week that a woman pay her ex-husband 50,000 yen (approx. $535) for each time that she denied him access to visit their daughter. The mother had agreed to regular meetings between the child and father in a family court settlement, and this marks the first time that Japan’s highest court has ordered penalties on a parent with custody for breaking their visitation agreements.

The Supreme Court’s decision was an upholding of a ruling made by the Sapporo High Court, and the measure of “indirect enforcement” is said to often be used in cases where a debtor is ordered to make cash payments to a creditor as a way of having a psychological impact on those failing to obey a court’s decision. Justice Ryuko Sakurai said in the ruling that a parent can be ordered to make payments when the date, frequency and length of a meeting, or transfer method of a child that were agreed upon are disregarded. Other courts have set precedence of punishing custodial parents for not meeting their agreements, but as this is the first time the Supreme Court has made a ruling, it is expected to set a far-reaching standard.

This decision seems like a significant contribution to the changes in parental rights in cases of divorce in Japan. The country almost always grants custody to the mother, and there is no recognition of dual-custody, often leaving the father with no rights to see their children. In the last decade, the number of court cases involving divorced, non-custodial parents demanding to see their children has tripled, less than 3,000 in 2001, to well over 8,000 in 2011. In addition, the Japanese government has finally committed to joining the Hague Convention on child abduction, an international treaty that requires taken children to be returned to the country of their original home in order to resolve custody in a failed international marriage. Up until now, Japan has been seen as a safe-haven for its nationals to bring their children back to without notifying their foreign spouses.

http://www.dw.de/dads-doubt-tokyos-commitment-to-abduction-treaty/a-16647298

Society

Dads doubt Tokyo’s commitment to abduction treaty

Tokyo is inching closer to signing the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, but foreign parents who have not seen their children for years have little faith the treaty will help them.

In the last 18 years, Walter Benda has only managed to see his two daughters once. That was for a few moments on a street in a Japanese town in 1998 after a private investigator managed to track down the girls and their mother.

His Japanese wife disappeared from their home in Chiba Prefecture, just outside Tokyo, after seeing him off to work one morning and rebuffed all his efforts to make contact with them. And as soon as he did find them again, they vanished once more.

Benda’s case is far from unusual. Critics of the Japanese judicial system accuse it of abetting Japanese nationals who want to leave their foreign spouse abroad and prevent them from staying in touch as the children grow up. And as Japan is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Japanese courts set the rules on access.

The situation is largely about foreigners living abroad with their Japanese partners who return to Japan, but the issue also affects foreign nationals who marry Japanese and opt to live in Japan. Unsurprisingly, foreign parents have been given short shrift in legal efforts to see their children in Japan. An estimated 20,000 children are born to mixed-nationality couples here every year.

Currently, Washington is dealing with 100 cases of US children being abducted to Japan, 30 cases involve Canadian citizens and British officials admit to dealing with around 10 cases.

Promises from Tokyo

The US is investigating nearly 50 cases of abductions to Japan

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with US President Barack Obama during his recent trip to Washington, the issue came up. The Japanese leader promised that politicians in Tokyo would soon sign the Hague Convention into law, bringing the country into line with 89 other signatory states.

Of the Group of Eight nations, Japan is the only one not to have signed the agreement. But even if Tokyo does sign the pact, foreign parents do not believe that Japanese courts will be even-handed.

“I believe it is quite possible Japan will sign it this year, but I feel it will just be window dressing, as is the case with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that Japan ratified in its entirety in 1994,” said Benda, the joint founder of the Japan chapter of the US-based Children’s Rights Council (CRC). “That agreement provides for regular, direct contact between children and both parents, but Japan does not honor it.

“I’m not very optimistic. I believe Japan is doing this more for symbolic reasons to satisfy its foreign allies rather than out of sincere concern about children’s rights.”

Benda’s experience with Japan’s appalling track record on child abduction dates back to July 21, 1995.

A normal farewell

“I had no clue that this was going to happen,” he explained. “It was the first day of school vacation, so the children were still at home when I left for work in the morning.

“I remember hugging both my daughters at the front door of our house before I left. When I returned home that evening, I immediately sensed something was wrong when I noticed that the children’s bicycles, which were normally parked in front of the house, were gone, and their shoes, and their mother’s shoes, were all gone.

“As I walked into the house I noticed a lot of the furniture, paintings and appliances were gone as well,” he said. “There was a note from my wife, along with a business card for an attorney, on the dining room table. In the note, my wife asked me to forgive her for leaving me.”

Talking to Japanese friends, however, he felt confident that he would be seeing his children soon and that the system would handle the situation in a similar way as is done in the US.

He was quickly to come face-to-face with the rules of parental abduction in Japan. Even though he remained legally married and shared equal custody of the children, it took Benda three-and-a-half years to even find out where they were living as none of the Japanese authorities would help locate them or provide information about their health or school situations.

He approached the local police, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, the local city office, the health and welfare ministry, schools and education officials, the US Embassy, INTERPOL and various other organizations set up to assist foreigners in Japan. None were willing or able to help and he was forced to approach authorities in the US to have his children registered as missing and have an international arrest warrant issued against his wife for kidnapping.

No visits with daughters

“I have pursued custody and visitation rights through the Japanese courts twice now, each time appealing my case all the way to the Japanese Supreme Court,” said Benda. “I have never been granted a single scheduled visit with my daughters.”

Foreign fathers are often powerless in finding their children

In the US, the Justice Department has indicted his former wife under the International Parental Kidnapping Act as the girls are US citizens being retained overseas. The Japanese government, however, refuses to recognize the charge and will not take any action on the extradition request.

“I feel very angry and misled by the Japanese legal system,” he explained. “The Japanese Constitution guarantees the husband and wife equal rights in family matters and the Japanese have signed international treaties which guarantee children regular direct access with both parents.

“The reality is, the Japanese courts thumb their noses at these legal obligations.”

At the root of the problem, CRC of Japan believes, is that Japanese judges do not have very strong enforcement authority in family law cases. That means that even if the abducting parent is ordered by the court to ensure the other biological parent has access to the child, the court is essentially powerless if that arrangement is not adhered to. In other jurisdictions, if a parent is ordered to allow visitation and refuses to do so, that person can be charged with contempt of court and be imprisoned.

Pressure on Japan

CRC believes it is only the cumulative effect of international publicity and increased public awareness that have led the US and other foreign governments to put pressure on Japan.

In many ways, CRC Japan co-founder Brian Thomas admits, he and Benda are relatively lucky as they have at least sufficient financial resources to contest the legal cases through the courts and devote time to supporting other parents in similar situations. The majority of international marriages in Japan are between Japanese men and foreign women from other Asian nations. When those relationships hit the rocks, the women have fewer resources to fight for their right to see their children.

Parental abduction not only affects international marriages. Because there is no equivalent organization to fight for the rights of parents, CRC of Japan has several cases on its books of Japanese couples seeking access to their children as well.

Thomas moved to Japan from South Wales in 1988, two years after meeting his wife Mikako. Their son, Graham Hajime, was born in January 1990, but Thomas has not been permitted to see him since April 1993. He carries his son’s photo with him at all times.

And he is not optimistic that Japan signing the agreement will bring about meaningful change for him or other parents in his predicament.

“I hope that Japan can change for the better, for the sake of its own people, and I would like to be optimistic,” he said. “But history does not lend itself to optimism when dealing with Japanese matters of this nature.”

DW.DE

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130219/japan-eyes-change-over-snatched-kids

Agence France-PresseFebruary 19, 2013 23:00
Japan eyes change over snatched kids

(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be under pressure when he meets US President Barack Obama this week to pledge progress on a long-stalled treaty to prevent the snatching of children by a Japanese parent in international divorce cases.

Abe is expected to promise that Japan will follow through on a decades-old pledge to ratify the Hague Convention on child abduction, giving some legal muscle to hundreds of foreign fathers — including Americans, French and Canadians — kept apart from their half-Japanese children.

“Those are only the reported cases,” French Senator Richard Yung told AFP during a recent trip to Tokyo to press officials on the issue.

Japan is the lone member of the G8 industrialised nations — the others being the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia and Canada — not to have adopted the 32-year-old international treaty.

Key allies including the US, France and Britain have long demanded Tokyo step into line.

Diplomats say ratification of the Hague Convention could come during Japan’s current parliamentary session, which ends in the summer.

That would make it the 90th state to adopt the treaty, which is aimed at securing “the prompt return of children wrongfully removed or held” in another treaty state.

“These cases are particularly cruel — birthday or Christmas presents are returned,” said Yung, who added that he met a vice foreign affairs minister but was refused a sit down with Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki.

The changes would also offer hope to hundreds of thousands of Japanese fathers who face similar estrangement under domestic custody laws.

Japan is unique among major industrialised nations when it comes to the children of estranged parents.

Courts do not recognise joint custody — for foreigners or Japanese nationals — and almost always order that children live with their mothers, leaving desperate fathers with almost no recourse to see their children.

Many lose touch with their offspring if the ex-spouse blocks access, a common occurrence due to the widely held opinion that child rearing is a task for women, while men earn the money.

Yasuyuki Watanabe, the deputy mayor of a small Japanese town, has not seen his daughter in years. After the country’s devastating 2011 quake-tsunami disaster, he says he tried to make contact with the now five-year-old girl.

“And my wife called the police on me,” he said.

Michael, a foreigner who has lived in Japan for three decades, had a messy divorce that ultimately saw two of his three kids tell a Japanese court they had no wish to ever see their father again.

That, he says, was the product of “brainwashing” by his ex-spouse. Michael, which is not his real name, has never met his two grandchildren.

Sometimes, judges do order the custodial parent to send photos of a child to their former spouse, or to allow a short monthly visit.

But police almost never intervene when those orders are commonly ignored.

Ratification of the convention would not automatically change Japanese laws, but it offers hope for hundreds of thousands of Japanese men cut off from their kids, including Watanabe who said he recently met with the justice minister.

“I told him how the judicial system is malfunctioning and that judges encourage these abductions, whether it is international or in Japan,” he added.

But ratifying the treaty alone is no silver bullet and there are fears that future changes to domestic laws could lack both scope and substance, warned Yung, who cited public opinion as the biggest weapon in winning the fight for access.

Richard Delrieu, president of advocacy group SOS Parents Japan, has not seen his own half-Japanese son in years and also said that ratifying the treaty alone won’t change things overnight.

“This situation is not worthy of a great country like Japan,” he said.

jlh-pb/hg/ao/pdh

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130219/japan-eyes-change-over-snatched-kids

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/02/15/national/ldp-gets-behind-the-hague-convention/#.USJvjqXBG5K

From Japan Times:

LDP gets behind the Hague Convention
BY REIJI YOSHIDA
STAFF WRITER
FEB 15, 2013
Now that a majority of the Diet appears to support joining the international treaty on settling cross-border child custody disputes, the government expressed determination Thursday to push for quick ratification of the 1980 Hague Convention.

The Liberal Democratic Party’s joint foreign and legal affairs policy panel gave the green light Wednesday for the government to sign the convention, making it almost certain that the necessary legislation will be enacted before the Diet session ends in June.

The LDP panel is expected to formally approve the bills next Tuesday.

“We’re now making our utmost efforts to conclude the convention quickly,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

Some members of New Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, had been cautious about approving the treaty and related bills, fearing that Japanese mothers who flee domestic violence overseas could lose protection.

But New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said Tuesday the party is willing to approve the treaty by the end of this Diet session.

The Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, is expected to get on board because it had submitted similar bills to the Diet last year.

“(Joining) the Hague Convention is important for our country as well,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Lower House Budget Committee on Wednesday.

Abe has cited the increase in international marriages in recent years as another reason for joining the convention.

The number of international divorces involving a Japanese spouse more than doubled to about 19,000 in 2010 from about 7,700 in 1992, which has meant a corresponding increase in the number of cross-border disputes over child custody.

Japan is the only member of the Group of Eight richest countries not to join the convention.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the U.S. government had requested Tokyo help solve 81 alleged child abduction cases involving a Japanese parent as of last September, while the British and Canadian governments have sought help on 39 cases each and the French government 33 cases.

During his first summit with President Barack Obama in Washington next week, Abe is expected to express his determination to have Japan join the Hague Convention.

ジャックコロー 11月2010年 from kingyochingyo on Vimeo.

Sad commentary on attitudes of the Japanese system, the law enforcement system in particular, towards peaceful, kind-hearted left-behind parents who go through tremendous efforts to try to reach out to their children. It is obvious how uncomfortable the law enforcement is with this issue, to the point that it interrupts the filming of this complete event.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/9803796/Hopes-raised-for-British-parents-denied-access-to-children-in-Japan.html

Hopes raised for British parents denied access to children in Japan
British parents denied access to their children with Japanese partners will be given renewed hope when the government here announces that a bill to ratify The Hague Convention is to be put before the Diet.

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MR Swire is the first British minister to visit Japan since Shinzo Abe was elected prime minister in mid-December Photo: Cathal McNaughton for the Telegraph
By Julian Ryall, Tokyo5:23PM GMT 15 Jan 2013

Dozens of foreign parents – usually fathers – are being refused contact with their children after their partners moved to another part of Japan, with courts invariably ruling that the child is better off with a single parent. In the eyes of judges in Japan, the preferred parent is always the Japanese parent.
At present, there are 37 British nationals involved in child custody cases that would be covered under The Hague Convention on the abduction of children, while numerous other requests for access have been registered with foreign embassies here.
Hugo Swire, the Foreign Office minister, welcomed the Japanese government’s decision after talks with Shunichi Suzuki, the parliamentary senior vice-minister for foreign affairs, in Tokyo on Tuesday.
“There does seem to have been significant movement on this issue and we have been told that this legislation is to be submitted to the Parliament here,” Mr Swire told The Daily Telegraph.
“This issue has been going on for a long time and we welcome this news,” he said.
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Japan is the only G7 nation not to have signed The Hague Convention, which dates from 1980 and requires a parent accused of abducting a child to return them to their country of habitual residence.
A formal statement on Tokyo’s decision is expected on Wednesday, in part due to growing international pressure for Japan to fall into line with other G7 member states.
With more than 34,000 marriages involving a Japanese and a national of another country each year, there are an estimated 20,000 children born to mixed-nationality couples annually.
Yet when such relationships break down, the Japanese parent has until now been able to avoid sharing custody or even providing access to her former partner by simply moving away. Japanese living abroad have only need to get back to back to Japan to be protected by the legal system.
Under Japanese law, parental abduction is not considered a crime, although foreign nationals who have attempted to re-abduct their children have in the past been charged with kidnapping and imprisoned.
The first British minister to visit Japan since Shinzo Abe was elected prime minister in mid-December, Swire arrived in Tokyo on Monday evening to open the UK-Japan Politico-Military Talks on Tuesday.
His discussions with his Japanese counterparts included defence co-operation and potential joint development projects, education issues and British companies’ expertise in clearing the debris left by the March 2011 earthquake in north-east Japan.
The two sides also discussed ethical investment in Burma and shared concerns over the “isolated, rogue, pariah state” of North Korea, Swire said.