This is an excellent report from the Australian perspective:

Japan proves safe haven for abducted kids


Posted September 07, 2011 21:09:00


Japan has not signed the Hague convention so it’s becoming notorious as a safe haven for parents who abduct their own children after a relationship has broken down.


Sarah Dingle


Source: 7.30 | Duration: 8min 45sec


Topics: divorcecrimefamily-lawparentingaustraliajapan




CHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: Japan is gaining an unwanted reputation as a black hole for international child abductions. Alone of all the industrialised nations, it hasn’t signed the Hague convention, which mediates international custody disputes, so it’s becoming notorious as a safe haven for parents who abduct their own children after a relationship has broken down. In Australia, a small but increasingly vocal group of so-called “left-behind parents” are suffering the pain of having their children held in a distant country against their wishes. Sarah Dingle reports.

SARAH DINGLE, REPORTER: After a separation, some parents will go to enormous lengths to secure access to their child.

Matthew Wyman has come to Japan. But the visit has turned ugly.

There are no winners in domestic disputes, but in Matthew Wyman’s case, his desperation runs deep.

He says his two sons were abducted.

MATTHEW WYMAN: Around Christmas 2008 my wife informed me that she wanted to take the kids back to Japan for a holiday, and I was a little bit surprised because I was thinking, “We don’t have that much money to go to Japan.” After a few weeks, I got a phone call from her just literally telling me that, “I’m not coming back.”

SARAH DINGLE: Matthew Wyman realised not only was the marriage over, but his role as a father was in jeopardy. He’s returned to Japan with his own parents to try to spend time with his children.

MATTHEW WYMAN: In Australia, we have dual custody, we have shared custody, but in Japan there’s only – it’s basically possession is nine tenths of the law. Whoever has the children keeps the children.

SARAH DINGLE: In Japan, the issue of international left-behind parents is getting harder to ignore.

At a recent protest in Tokyo, timed to coincide with the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden, parents said they’d had enough.

PROTESTOR: Just gotta bring back our children. We have rights to see our children, parents have rights to see their children.

IAN KENNEDY, FAMILY LAWYER: There is a feeling that Japan is a superior place culturally and – in terms of its social mores and that it’s the ideal place for Japanese children or children perceived to be Japanese to live and be brought up.

SARAH DINGLE: Family lawyer Ian Kennedy has advised on a number of cases of abduction to Japan. Unlike more than 80 nations, Japan still has not signed the Hague convention on international child abduction.

IAN KENNEDY: The principles that apply in most parts of the developed world in particular don’t apply to Japan and there’s not the automatic ability for the Japanese courts to send the children back to their country of habitual residence under the convention.

SARAH DINGLE: Japan’s failure to sign doesn’t just hang over the heads of parents whose children are already gone. This Sydney father of two, who we can’t identify, is trying to stop his Japanese ex-wife taking the children to Japan on holiday.

ANONYMOUS MAN: The main fear is obviously, you know, my kids returning to Japan, to the black hole of Tokyo, and not getting to see them, having no legal rights to see them. Their names’ll probably be changed, they’ll probably move address and I won’t know where they are and it’ll be basically like I’m a dead parent.

SARAH DINGLE: After separation, he realised his true predicament, where any short Japanese holiday could become forever.

ANONYMOUS MAN: The first step was to hide their passports, and I hid the passports and then found out that she had the Japanese passports. So then I put them on airport watch list. The way the law works, the father normally loses out and she’ll probably get a holiday and I’ve gotta pray that she’ll return, but the chances are she won’t.

SARAH DINGLE: He’s now filming a documentary about a group of Australian left-behind parents with children in Japan to publicise their plight.

MATTHEW WYMAN: I do think it’s very important for the Australian public to be aware that Australian kids are being abducted to Japan.

SARAH DINGLE: Matthew Wyman did manage to spend time with his children during this visit. 7.30 contacted his ex-wife, who says they’re still in mediation and she rejects claims of abduction.

A spokesman for the Japanese consulate in Brisbane told 7.30 Japan is aware of Matthew Wyman’s case and has advised him to seek assistance from the Australian embassy in Tokyo.

In May, after years of international pressure, Japan said it would prepare to sign the Hague convention, but since then, there’s been no action.

ROBERT MCCLELLAND, ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It would probably take about 18 months, I suppose, from signature to an inquiry by the treaties committee to the development of legislation. You’d have to assume you’d be looking at least that in Japan if they decide to exceed to the convention.

SARAH DINGLE: How much confidence do you have that Japan will actually sign the Hague Convention.

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Oh, look, I’m quietly confident that they will sign.

SARAH DINGLE: But in the meantime, the international loophole occupied by Japan is so large that even non-Japanese couples can be caught up in it.

So this is the last time you saw him?

ANONYMOUS WOMAN: Yes, this is the last visit and that’s the day we had to say goodbye.

SARAH DINGLE: This Australian woman’s 10-year-old son has been held in Japan by his Australian father since the boy was three. We can’t show you her face because it could jeopardise when she’s next allowed to see her child.

ANONYMOUS WOMAN: We went over and while we were there, he took the passport and I wasn’t able to return with our son and he’s been holding him there ever since. I contacted the embassy first up -’cause I really didn’t know the complications it would cause. I just assumed we were Australian and they’d be able to help us. But they basically said there’s nothing they can do and I need to get a lawyer in Japan.

SARAH DINGLE: You’re not Japanese and your partner’s not Japanese, and yet your child is being held in Japan against your wishes.

ANONYMOUS WOMAN: It just seems like a safe haven for parents that want to take their child – keep their child from the other parent.

SARAH DINGLE: For this group of left-behind parents, their meetings are their only source of support and comfort. And for most here, there’s little hope in sight. The Attorney-General has revealed that whatever Japan does, their situation will not improve.

If Japan signs the Hague convention, is it your understanding that that will apply retrospectively to existing cases?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Unfortunately, no is the answer to that. It – the obligations apply once the convention has been ratified, so it won’t apply retrospectively, as I understand it, to existing cases.

ANONYMOUS WOMAN: It’s just really sad that I’ve missed so much of his life. I have to just accept that I see my son once a year and wait – basically wait until he’s an adult and can make his own choices.

MATTHEW WYMAN: I’ve come to the realisation that they won’t be returned to Australia. I have to accept that. And I have to remind my wife and her mother that please remember that they’re not 100 per cent Japanese; they’re also 50 per cent Australian.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Sarah Dingle with that report.




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