During the past year the U.S. Embassy in Japan deleted a page from its website that included statistics for the U.S., Canada, France, Australia, and the United Kingdom showing the tremondous growth in the number of international child abduction cases by Japanese spouses since 2000, with the number of cases having quadrupled from 2005 to 2009.

It is not clear why this information is being suppressed, but CRC of Japan has retrieved this information and is reposting it on our blog, at the following link:

Rapid Increase in Child Abductions to Japan

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

(Special thanks to CDR Paul Toland, USN, for coordinating this effort)

AN OPEN LETTER TO SECRETARY CLINTON

May 24, 2011

Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
US Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madam Secretary,

We, the undersigned, appeal to you for help as left-behind parents of 114 American children who have been abducted and remain unlawfully retained in 25 countries. We also represent a number of U.S. servicemen whose children were abducted while serving our country overseas. Some of these countries are signatories to the Hague Convention while others are not, such as Japan, where we face overwhelming odds trying to reunite with our children. We and our families are devastated − emotionally and financially − by the loss of our children and seek your assistance in ensuring that the U.S. Government is exercising all lawful means necessary to return these American children to their home country and reunite them with us.

The continued retention of our children violates international law, ethical norms, and human decency. Put simply, our children have been stolen from us, and it is our legal and moral right to be a part of their lives. As our 83 cases demonstrate, there are a growing number of countries willfully ignoring or abusing their international obligations with regard to international parental child abduction. Each of us has had exasperating experiences seeking justice in foreign courts, where our cases are often treated as custody matters, rather than as abduction cases. Often times, victim parents are told to use the court system of the foreign country when it is well known that such action will likely result in a decision with custody of our abducted children being awarded to the abducting party.

Collectively, we have limited or no contact with our children, many of whom have been turned against us as a result of parental alienation, a documented form of child abuse. Our children lost half their identities when they were ripped from their homes, families and friends. Like us parents, our children’s grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and other family members have holes in their hearts left by the abduction of their loved ones.

We were encouraged by your July 2010 appointment of Ambassador Jacobs as Special Advisor to the Office of Children’s Issues (OCI). However, in working with OCI, we have experienced little improvement in the quality of service provided by the Department of State and almost no positive results. The current system has failed us. While our children remain unlawfully in foreign lands, the number of new child abduction cases from the U.S. continues to grow at an alarming rate. There is an urgent need for change, not only to prevent more of our nation’s children from being abducted across international borders, but also to effectuate the expeditious and safe return of our abducted children.

International child abduction is a serious human rights violation in desperate need of your attention. In our experience, all too often these international child abduction cases do not appear to be addressed aggressively because of the State Department’s effort to maintain harmonious, bilateral relations with other countries or to pursue other compelling foreign policy goals. The Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual on the issue of child abduction highlights this point by instructing OCI case workers to remain “neutral” when handling these abduction cases. This inherent conflict of interest cannot be ignored and we need to place a higher priority on the welfare of our children. We understand the necessity of maintaining strong relationships with other nations, but this should not come at the expense of our children.

Over the years, both houses of Congress have held numerous hearings on the issue of international parental child abduction, yet precious little has changed as our absent children grow older. On Tuesday, another group of parents will gather in Washington, D.C. for yet another hearing. It is our hope that this will be the year that Congress and the Administration unite to pass new laws to strengthen our nation’s capacity to help the parent and children victims of international parental child abduction. We also hope that the State Department, under your leadership, will advocate for and embrace these changes to finally end this gross injustice affecting thousands of American children.

Madam Secretary, we applaud your past efforts and record on children’s rights issues, but we are desperate and plead for your assistance. It is long past time for this great country to show leadership on the issue of international parental child abduction. We cannot grow complacent with each successful return, nor can we forget about all the other children who are being wrongfully retained abroad. We are fortunate to have the strong support of groups which advocate for victims of international parental child abduction. However, we need your unwavering support and determination to bring our children home.

Madam Secretary, we would welcome the opportunity to meet with you directly to discuss how progress can be made. Please help us to be reunited with our children.

Sincerely,

David Brian Thomas, father of Graham Hajime Thomas (Nishizawa) (Age 20)

Abducted to Japan in November, 1992

Walter Benda, father of M.B and E.B (Ages 22 and 20)

Abducted to Japan in July, 1995

Charles A. Hamilton, father of Dakota Carmen (age 15)

Abducted to Spain in December, 1996

Eric Kalmus, father of Amy Ito (Kalmus), (age 14)

Abducted to Japan in 1998

 James Filmer, father of Sarah (age 13)

Abducted to Germany in October, 1998

David Hendricks, father of Daniel and Patrick (ages 17 and 13)

Abducted to Norway in June, 1999

Mark & Lydia Harrison, father and grandmother of Jessica Danielle (age 15)

Abducted to Mexico in July, 2000

Craig Alciati, father of Peter Spencer (age 12)

Abducted to France in March, 2001

Michael C. Gulbraa, father of Michael K. & Christopher R. Gulbraa (ages 21 and 20)

Abducted to Japan in November, 2001

CDR Paul Toland, USN and Linda Toland, father / sole surviving parent and stepmother of Erika (age 8)

Abducted to Japan in July, 2003

Richard B Kephart Jr and Martha Kephart, father and grandmother of Richard Kephart III and Nicolle

Hyler Kephart (ages 15 and 10)

Abducted to Japan in November, 2003

Brett Weed, father of Takoda Tei Weed & Tiana Kiku Weed (ages 13 and 10)

Abducted to Japan in January, 2004

Klaus Zensen, father of Maria Carolina (age 7)

Abducted to Brazil in July, 2004

Ariel Ayubo, father of Lorenzo (age 10)

Abducted to Brazil in September, 2004

Robert A. McConnell, father of Bianca Damanik (age 8)

Abducted to Indonesia in January, 2005

Deana Hebert, mother of Bianca Lozano (age 17)

Abducted to Mexico in April, 2005

Paul Brown, father of Liam Shiratori Paul Brown (age 8)

Abducted to Japan in June, 2005

William J Lake, father of Mary Victoria Lake (age 14)

Abducted to Japan in August, 2005

Stephen Christie, father of James Kento Christie (age 16)

Abducted to Japan in October, 2005

John Donaldson, father of Michiru Janice Donaldson (age 10)

Abducted to Japan in November, 2005

George A. Petroutsas, father of Andonios (age 6)

Abducted to Greece in December, 2005, re-abducted in June, 2010

Michele Swensen, mother of Amina, Layla, and Sami (ages 14, 12 and 10)

Abducted to Yemen in February, 2006

Didier Combe, father of Chloe (age 7)

Abducted to Mexico in March, 2006

Kelvin Birotte, father of Kelvin Jr. (age 5)

Abducted to Brazil in July, 2006

Timothy Weinstein, father of Paul and Anna (ages 13 and 10)

Abducted to Brazil in August, 2006

Marty Pate, father of Nicole (age 10)

Abducted to Brazil in August, 2006

Nigel Lewis, father of Jasmyn Lewis and Cody Lewis (ages 9 and 7)

Abducted to Japan in November, 2006

Donna Hesse, grandmother of Kai Noel Hachiya (age 12)

Abducted to Japan in December, 2006

Michael McCarty, father of Liam Gabriele (age 9)

Abducted to Italy in March, 2007

Douglas Brian Gessleman, father of David and Joshua Gessleman (ages 7 and 9)

Abducted to Japan in May, 2007

Trevor Richardson, father of Andrew (age 5)

Abducted to Mexico in August, 2007

Paul Wong, father and sole surviving parent of Kaya Summer Xiao-Lian Wong (age 7)

Abducted to Japan in August, 2007

Kirsten M. Snipp, mother of Joichiro Yamada (age 13)

Abducted to Japan in September, 2007

Michael G. Canopin, father of Christian Lehua Haolalani Yuuki Inamura-Canopin (age 13)

Abducted to Japan in October, 2007

Jose Maria Cacho Polo, father of Jose Martín (age 11)

Abducted to Japan in January, 2008

Michael Sanchez, father of Emily Machado (age 5)

Abducted to Brazil in March, 2008

Randy Ernst, father of Joseph and Nicole (ages 13 and 11)

Abducted to Russia in May, 2008

Sean A. McKnight, father of Kelly and Julia (ages 15 and 7)

Abducted to Poland in May, 2008

Randy Collins, father of Keisuke Christian Collins (age 8)

Abducted to Japan in June, 2008

Carlos Bermudez, father of Sage Antonio (age 4)

Abducted to Mexico in June, 2008

Bandi J. Rao, father of Anand Saisuday (age 6)

Abducted to India in July, 2008

Carl Hillman, father of Sean (age 8)

Abducted to Japan in July, 2008

Conrad Washington, father of Conisha Kanna and Maximus Riku (ages 16 and 7)

Abducted to Japan in July, 2008

Patrick McCoy, father of Yuuki McCoy (Kojima) (age 3)

Abducted to Japan in August, 2008

Regan Haight, mother of Chloe and Aiden Kobayashi (ages 9 and 5)

Abducted to Japan in September, 2008

James Robert Allen, father of Joseph Martin (age 2)

Abducted to Colombia in September, 2008

Brandon C. Neal, father of Alexander Hikaru Neal (Sugashima) (age 4)

Abducted to Japan in September, 2008

Michael Elias, Nancy Elias and Miguel Elias, father, grandmother and grandfather to Jade Maki Elias and

Michael Angel Elias (ages 5 and 3)

Abducted to Japan in December, 2008

Jessie Duke, Roy Duke and Deborah Duke, father, grandfather and grandmother of Shanonyuma Ishida

and Rikki (ages 8 and 4)

Abducted to Japan in December, 2008

Matt Wyman, father of Jake Taylor and Alex Michael (ages 10 and 6)

Abducted to Japan in January, 2009

Roy Koyama, father of Emily Alina (age 2)

Abducted to Costa Rica in February, 2009

Devon Davenport, father of Nadia Lynn (age 2)

Abducted to Brazil in February, 2009

John Henry Richardson III, father of Matthew and Dylan (age 8 and 7)

Abducted to Mexico in April, 2009

Dhanika Athukorala, father of Kali Soleil (age 3)

Abducted to Dominican Republic in April, 2009

Richard C. Nielsen, Peter Nielsen and Karin Heintz, father, grandfather and grandmother of Leo Nielsen

(age 4)

Abducted to Japan in April, 2009

Darshaun Nadeau, father of Kaya Nadeau (age 2)

Abducted to Japan in May, 2009

Mzimaz Youssef, father of Ghali (age 2)

Abducted to Morocco in May, 2009

James Patrick Carol, Jr., father of Andrea Vanessa and James Patrick (ages 7 and 6)

Abducted to Mexico in June, 2009

Tracy Baumgart, mother of Saxon Rayne Kawar (age 10)

Abducted to Jordan in July, 2009

Michael M. Bergeron, father of Ami Amor (age 6)

Abducted to Peru in August, 2009

Douglass Berg, father of Gunnar and Kianna Berg (ages 11 and 10)

Abducted to Japan in August, 2009

Christopher and Amy Savoie, father and stepmother of Isaac and Rebecca (ages 10 and 8)

Abducted to Japan in August, 2009

Colin Bower, father of Noor and Ramsay (ages 10 and 8)

Abducted to Egypt in August, 2009

Evangelina Pena, mother of Ilias Badys (age 4)

Abducted to Morocco in September, 2009

Brett Purcell, father of Dante (age 1)

Abducted to Argentina in September, 2009

Bruce R. Gherbetti, father of Rion Suzuki, Lauren Gherbetti and Julia Gherbetti (ages 8, 6 and 4)

Abducted to Japan in September, 2009

Mark Gomez, father of Haydn (age 3)

Abducted to China in January, 2010

Jeffery Morehouse, Madeline Morehouse & David Sorlie, father, grandmother and grandfather of

“Mochi” Atomu Imoto Morehouse (age 7)

Abducted to Japan in February, 2010

Stan Hunkovic, father of Gabriel Julius and Anastasia Sierra-Marie (ages 3 and 1)

Abducted to Trinidad & Tobago in February, 2010

Sara Edwards, mother of Eli Kiraz (age 3)

Abducted to Turkey in March, 2010

Michael Hassett, Dennis and Ann Hassett, father, grandfather and grandmother of Noah and Kynan

Hassett (ages 10 and 7)

Abducted to Japan in March, 2010

Alex Kahney, father of Selene and Cale (ages 9 and 7)

Abducted to Japan in April, 2010

Brian Prager and Morton Prager, father and grandfather of Louis “Rui” (age 5)

Abducted to Japan in June, 2010

Antonio Quintana, father of Victoria and Virginia (ages 4 and 3)

Abducted to Argentina in July, 2010

Rex S. Arul, father of Rhea Immaculate (age 4)

Abducted to India in July, 2010

Simon Williams, father of Noan John (age 2)

Abducted to Brazil in August, 2010

Sheena Howard, mother of Talan and José Otavio Ribeiro da Silva (ages 5 and 2)

Abducted to Brazil in September, 2010

Dennis Patrick Burns, father of Victoria Emma and Sophia Marie (ages 4 and 2)

Abducted to Argentina in September, 2010

Richard Joseph Gatt, father of Natasha Joanie (age 6)

Abducted to Brazil in October, 2010

Douglas Trombino, father of Morgana Gray (age 2)

Abducted to Colombia in November, 2010

Ray Rose, father of Kaia (age 15 months)

Abducted to Japan in November, 2010

Robert W. Makielski, father of Isabel Marie and Gabriel Leonardo (ages 8 and 4)

Abducted to Dominican Republic in January, 2011

Tim Johnston, father of Kai Endo (age 6)

Abducted to Japan in March, 2011

On its website, the U.S. Embassy in Japan has compiled statistics for the U.S., Canada, France, Australia, and the United Kingdom showing the tremondous growth in the number of international child abduction cases by Japanese spouses since 2000, with the number of cases having quadrupled from 2005 to 2009.  The chart shows that there are about 400 reported cases just for these 5 nations since 2005, and many of these cases involve more than just one child.

http://tokyo.usembassy.gov/e/p/tp-20100122-85.html

 

NOTE:  The U.S. Embassy in Japan has deleted the above link.  CRC of Japan has retrieved this page and reposted it at the following link:

 

Rapid Increase in Child Abductions to Japan

Susan Roos is wife of the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and has recently spoken out regarding Japan’s position on the international child abduction issue:

“I’m a firm believer that children should have the love of both of their parents and so I feel that it is important for these international couples to be able to have both the fathers and the mothers see their children”

Here is the link to the full article:

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20101021f2.html

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100522b3.html


http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=pol_30&rel=j7&k=2010052101141 (in Japanese)

22 U.S. Senators have signed a letter calling upon President Obama to take action on the international child abduction issue during his trip next week to Japan to meet with Prime Minister Hatoyama.

Here are links to the press releases from Senator Boxer’s and Senator Corker’s offices:

Senator Boxer press release

Senator Corker press release

Below is a copy of the actual letter.  We especially want to recognize the exceptional efforts of the office of Senator Barbara Boxer in taking the intiative on this and garnering bipartisan support for this letter.

11.5.09 Obama on Japanese Abduction11.5.09 Letter to President Obama P1

11.5.09 Obama on Japanese Abduction P211.5.09 Letter to President Obama P2

11.5.09 Obama on Japanese Abduction P311.5.09 Letter to President Obama P3

This is good news for all left behind parents with children in Japan.  The U.S. and 7 other countries (Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand and Spain) told Justice Minister Keiko Chiba that Japan should sign an international convention on child abduction and set up ways to allow foreign parents to visit their children.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/world/AP/story/1285710.html