http://moderntokyotimes.com/2011/11/18/japan-and-child-welfare-continuing-inaction-in-child-abuse-cases-in-japan/

Final words from Akio Yokota

September 20, 2011

Thank you, Masako, for providing and translating this.

Akio Yokota, a left-behind Japanese father, committed suicide on September 11.

AKio Yokota Profile

My wife took my son in November 16th,

2010. Since then, I couldn’t contact then. One day I got a letter about divorce

settlement from Family Court. It said false DV, permission of abortion, financial

trouble, personal conflict and depression. On that’s time I was on medical

leave from job. It caused from depression.

Since then, I have tried to committed suicide

several times. I couldn’t get any evidence against DV and my wife didn’t have,

too. I filed about any other evidences in mediation. However, my wife said

everything was lie. 9 months after mediation, I met my son. We couldn’t see for

6 month. He didn’t remember father.

I have 2 hours visitation per month. My son

is 2 years old and still he doesn’t understand I am his father. My wife supposed

to not let give any visitation rights to me. I begged her about sleep-over visitation.

She refused to me. Then I begged 2 times visitation per month. She refused

this, too. She said this reason was my mental problem. My judge recommended to

have one more mediation about visitation and this judge said that I will give of

the court order 2 times visitation per month.

In my case, it is false DV.

I can raise my son. She can’t inculcate

moral to my son. It is very difficult to understand why she took my son from

me.

I was thinking to commit suicide many

times.

Still I am thinking now.

My psychiatrics doctor told me that if your son is coming

back, your depressions will be recovery.  He gave the medical certificate for me.

However, my life is hard.

I don’t have anything to live for.

I am smiling at my work. I haven’t left the house at my

day off. I remember my son and cry every day.

Kidnapping is crime and abuse.

Japanese law is nothing. The judge doesn’t think about

Children’s happiness.

Please give any good environment to our children.

Children are Japanese future.

Really I want to disappear from this world

I don’t have anything to live for and my life is

horrible.

Thank you for reading my profile.

Akio Yokota

http://crnjapan.net/The_Japan_Childrens_Rights_Network/itn-jfayk.html

Akio Yokota, may you rest in peace.

This is the third reported suicide by a left-behind parent in Japan within the last year or so.  The other suicides involved Arnaud Simon, who took his life on November 20, 2010, and Christophe Guillermin, who committed suicide in June of 2010.

How many unreported suicide cases there are by left-behind parents being denied access to their children in Japan will never be known.


Kevin Brown is riding his bike through Japan and visiting local government officials to educate them about children’s rights to both parents:

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2011/09/11/japan-and-the-rights-of-children-kevin-brown-from-children-first/

 

 

 

 

This study runs counter to the conventional wisdom and conventional practice in Japan, where it is routinely assumed children of divorce and separation are better off with the noncustodial parent completely removed from their lives.

http://www.vancouversun.com/mobile/iphone/story.html?id=5328849

 

 

 

 

http://lbp-nerima.bitsow.com/VP_Rally_Aug_23/VP_Rally_Aug_23.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are links to two articles relating to Japanese child abduction just published online in the Modern Tokyo Times:

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2011/07/10/japan-child-abduction-interview-with-sonia-denice-the-author-of-saved-by-a-whistle/

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2011/07/10/australia-leaves-behind-left-behind-parents/

 

 

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

 

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

Mexican man convicted of abducting separated daughter in Niigata

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But prosecutors did not file criminal charges against Christopher Savoie.

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

 

(Mainichi Japan) July 6, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

Children living in the Fukushima area are beginning to show internal radiation exposure in urine tests that have been conducted recently:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/30/fukushima-children-radiation-tests-caesium

 

Quite a few internationally abducted children are living in or near the radiation zone and left-behind parents are helpless to do anything about it, and are not even able to communicate with them and get information about them.

How can subjecting children to this be considered “in the best interests of the child”?

The international parental abduction issue in Japan has gone beyond being a human rights issue and has become an issue concerning the protection of children’s health and lives.

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