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

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Please help Left Behind Parents Japan with their joint custody signature campaign.  A bilingual version of the petition is at the following link:

http://lbpjapan.org/LBPJ_JC_Signature_Campaign/page.html

Below is a link to the notes by Bruce Gherbetti  from a meeting of members of the leadership of Left Behind Parents Japan with Yoshinori Oguchi, member of the House of Representatives in Japan, on Monday, January 16th, 2012.

Mr. Oguchi is a member of the New Komeito party, the third largest political party in the Diet, and he was a member of the MoFA committee which discussed modifying Japan’s civil code last fall in order to sign The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

http://4rionandlaurenandjulia.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/japan-firm-on-not-addressing-existing-cases-of-parental-child-abduction/?mid=580496

Here is a report of a January 11, 2012 meeting between former Justice Minister Eda and left-behind parents Masako Suzuki Akeo, Carlos Smith, and Bruce Gherbetti.

http://4rionandlaurenandjulia.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/meeting-with-justice-minister-2011-satsuki-eda/#comment-106

The approach described here would probably be more effective for left-behind parents instead of Japan signing the Hague Convention.

http://4rionandlaurenandjulia.wordpress.com/2011/10/29/japan-needs-to-ratify-the-optional-protocols-on-the-un-treaties-it-has-signed/?mid=516

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12358440

Japan custody heartache for foreign fathers

By Roland BuerkBBC News, Tokyo

Thousands of Japanese people marry foreigners every year. Many are happy – but if the marriage breaks down the foreign spouse may end up cut out of the children’s lives.

Alex KahneyAlex Kahney often visits the places he used to take his children

Alex Kahney, who works for a medical publisher, still lives in what was once the family home, now nearly bare of furniture but full of memories.

There are photographs of his daughters on the walls of the small four-storey town house in one of the nicer Tokyo neighbourhoods.

Their favourite stuffed toys, a dog and a mouse, are on the back of the sofa – reminders of the little girls, aged nine and seven, who he has not seen for months.

His Japanese wife took them with her, along with much of the contents of the house, when their marriage broke down, and is refusing to let him see them.

Mr Kahney first tried the police.

But when he told them that his wife had abducted their children, they laughed at him.

What makes it more painful is that their new home is just down the road.

Pressure for change

“They’re on a second-floor apartment,” he says. “I can hear them talking inside. I go and stand underneath the balcony listening to them. It’s tough.

“For the first few months I cried, I howled. For half an hour sometimes. I hardly sleep. I’m usually awake most of the night. And I have dreams, I dream about my children every night.”

Lef-Behind Parents demonstratingMany Japanese parents are also campaigning for change

In Japan, the courts normally give custody to one parent after a marriage breakdown and it is up to that parent if they let the other parent have any access.

Many separating couples come to amicable agreements, but it is not unusual for one parent to be cut out of their children’s lives forever.

When the former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi divorced, he got custody of his two eldest sons, who have not seen their mother since.

She was six months pregnant at the time, and Mr Koizumi has never met his youngest son.

But now there is pressure for a change in the law.

Every few weeks Alex Kahney joins a demonstration organised by a group called Left-Behind Parents, Japan.

They have lobbied members of the Diet, and on a recent Sunday they marched, more than 100 strong, through the centre of Tokyo.

Among the demonstrators were many Japanese parents.

Courts defied

There are a quarter of a million divorces in Japan every year, which is relatively low by international standards, but a dramatic increase from earlier generations.

Continue reading the main story 

Number of cases

Twelve countries have been urging Japan to sign up to the Hague Convention:

  • US: 131
  • Canada: 38
  • UK: 38
  • France: 30
  • Germany 2
  • Australia, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand and Spain – no figures available
  • Belgium and Colombia – 0 cases

It is the cases involving foreigners, though, that are drawing the most attention.

Japan’s customs around divorce have become a diplomatic issue because the country has yet to sign up to the 1980 Hague Convention on child abduction. As a result, Japanese parents who bring their children home after a divorce abroad can defy joint custody orders made by foreign courts.

The British embassy is dealing with 38 cases involving children, other embassies many more.

“There are 12 embassies involved in this,” says David Warren, the British ambassador in Tokyo.

“We have been making frequent representations to the Japanese government. We’ve been saying to them that Japan cannot any longer go on without becoming part of the international legal framework for resolving these cases.”

Abusive relationships

Japan is considering ratifying the Hague Convention.

A newspaper report earlier this month said an announcement could come as soon as the spring.

Continue reading the main story 

‘Women look after the children’

Osamu, who doesn’t want to use his full name, got divorced five years ago and his daughters are now 17 and 14. He sees the younger girl once every two months, the older girl about twice a year.

“I thought about their best interests,” he says. “So I gave in and let their mother have custody.”

Osamu says that at the time of the divorce he thought of splitting up his daughters, with the parents having custody of one each. But he decided it would not be good for them.

“In Japan traditionally men go out to work and women look after children. We tend to think women will be better off taking care of them, especially when they are small.

“Of course, there are exceptions. Maybe the father’s family has a business and needs the next generation to take over.”

Osamu added that men tend to think they can go on, get married again and start a new family more easily than women. From his experience it’s usual for fathers not to see children at all.

But implementation is likely to be a long process.

It would mean a change from the expectation that families should largely work things out for themselves, to the state enforcing agreements on access and child-support payments.

Some people are also worried that the convention could hinder Japanese trying to flee abusive relationships abroad.

Akiko Oshima is a marriage counsellor who has worked as a mediator in the family court.

“These women who come back, do not do it because they want to,” she says.

“They feel this is the only way out. They want their child to be brought up in Japan, and not in the host country where the father is abusive and she has no control over her children’s education, and so forth. Not even, say, getting a job to support herself. This is the problem.”

Alex Kahney spends a lot of time visiting places he went with his children, like the playground near his home.

He says he was a good parent and his daughters were daddy’s girls.

If he is to see them again he must only hope their mother takes pity on him.

Demonstration walk in Shibuya (Yoyogi park) on Jan 16th (Sunday)
Time
Sunday, January 16 · 1:00pm – 4:00pm

Location Yoyogi Park

Created By

More Info We will walk together with people around the world to recover our relationship with our beautiful children.~ Ratify Hague convention, achieve joint custody and shared parenting in Japan.

Date and Time : Jan 16th(Sun) at 1:00PM
Meeting Place: Outdoor stage in Yoyogi Park. As same as the place for Santa Claus demo.
Transportation: 3-minute walk from Harajuku (JR line), Yoyogi-Koen (Chiyoda line).
6-minute walk from Yoyogi-Hachiman (Odakyu line).
http://www.tokyo-park/

1:15PM: Opening:
1:20~2:30PM: Left Behind Parent’s Speech
2:30~3:30PM: Street Demonstration
From Outdoor Stage in Yoyogi Park~Shibuya Station~Outdoor Stage in Yoyogi Park
5:00PM~: Get-together party (around Shibuya Station)