Italian Case

January 22, 2017

Source:  http://www.kizuna-cpr.org/italian-case

An Italian Case

A case of an Italian citizen has occurred. He moved with his family from Europe to Japan.
Then, his two children were taken to Nagasaki. His court case begins on January 12, 2017.

日本語テキストは以下の通りです。

English translation, Japanese translation, and image of Italian news story below.

Online article:
http://www.lastampa.it/2017/01/06/italia/cronache/luomo-che-combatte-la-legge-nipponica-per-rivedere-i-suoi-figli-2xgHMN5GrE7ImR8M5RkswK/pagina.html

Page 12 | Top News | LA STAMPA Friday 6 January 2017

 

The man that fights Japanese law to see his children again

“My wife took them and the judicial system protects her”

 

 

People

FRANCESCA SFORZA

ROME

 

 

“My dad? I don’t know where he is, nor what he’s doing.” This is what lots of Japanese people are saying once they become adults; after the parents’ separation and divorce, they have no idea where their fathers have gone. But they haven’t been abandoned; it’s the law. Something may change though, and if this is the case, it would also be thanks to the battle of an Italian father, who is fighting to have his rights respected. In case of victory, he could contribute to revolutionize the Japanese Family Law System. In Japan, joint custody does not exist. If a couple divorces, the court will take over the decision of which of the parents will take custody. Apart from some very rare cases, the children end up staying with the mother. On top of this, too often custody ends up being assigned to the parent that takes away the children first, with the result that the other parent loses his rights in that very precise moment. The visitation rights belong to the children and not of the parent. In a culture where the fathers end up spending too much time at work, and the mothers have no interest in keeping the relationship with the in-laws, you can explain well the enormity of the numbers we’re looking at; at least 3 million Japanese children, in the last 20 years, have been raised without being able to see one of their parents.

 

“We have not divorced yet, but I don’t know anything about my children from last July, I couldn’t even say Happy Birthday for my daughter’s second birthday” says Pierluigi, who requested to stay anonymous to avoid creating problems while close to the hearing, that will take place in Nagasaki in mid-January. He, an Italian citizen, and his wife, Japanese, have moved to Tokyo from Germany, the country where their two children were born. “I decided to move here because I know well and love Japan since a long time ago, and I think their educational system is very good. I did it for my children.” However, shortly after relocating, he had been surrounded by his wife’s relatives, who informed him that in order to solve the usual couple-related problems it was necessary to live separately – “If you don’t agree we’ll call the police.” After this, she decided to move near Nagasaki with the children, the city where she is from. “Even though I know so many things about Japan – says Pierluigi – I had never heard about child abductions during marriages. We are still married, and I still have all the rights on my children, but since my wife took them first, if I tried to get them back they would arrest me.” No help even from the Police or the local social services; all of them agree that this is an injustice, but the fact that children cannot see one of their parents is not considered a crime or an abuse.

 

But Pierluigi doesn’t want to stay without his children: “Between us there’s a very strong bond, when we lived together the neighbors often told me “you’re like a mother to them” … I still have a very clear image of my 4 1/2-year-old son, one of the last times that his mother allowed me to see them; he came out of the house bare foot crying and begging me not to leave.” Together with his attorneys, Pierluigi has planned a strategy that is grabbing the attention not only of foreign nationals who lost access to their children, but also of many Japanese parents, who more and more feel this type of forced separation is a violent injustice perpetrated by the legal system. The fact that the Japanese judicial system considers custody-related matters after the end of a marriage as exclusively “private”, has delayed the signing of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (that took place only three years ago and has no retroactive effect). On top of it, this has increased the understanding that the children belong to the mothers and that the father’s role is not relevant in raising a child. “We are in Japan, why should the kids speak Italian” – Pierluigi’s mother-in-law said. Also, “What’s the problem if you don’t see them for one or two years? I raised three kids without my husband.”

 

Many international governments have already pressured Japan to end abductions, and several Japanese politicians are ready to cooperate in order to improve the situation. There are lots of things to plan carefully before the hearing: “You just need to act in the best interest of the children, as it’s specified in the interpretation of article 766 of the Civil Code.” You need knowledge, courage and passion. We ask him if at least he’s a bit angry: “It’s useless, if you enter a Japanese Court angry – he says – you have lost before even beginning.”

 

3 million – It’s the estimated number of children that were raised without seeing one of their parents in the last 20 years.

 

The parents – Victims of the forced separation are not only foreign nationals married with a Japanese person, but also many Japanese parents themselves.

 

The sequence of events

Pierluigi (the name is invented) and his wife, decide to move to Tokyo, the Japanese capital city, from Germany where they were living with the two children born during their marriage.

Shortly after relocating, the wife’s relatives inform Pierluigi that in order to solve the usual couple-related problems, the only solution is to live separately for some time. The woman moves with the two children to Nagasaki, where her family originates. In July, Pierluigi sees his children for the last time.

Pierluigi and his wife are still married, but according to the Japanese law, if he tried to get his children back he would be arrested. His is one of the many child abduction cases that in Japan are becoming more and more frequent.

In mid-January a Family Court will examine Pierluigi’s case. Many Japanese and foreign parents are awaiting this hearing with big hopes. His case could revolutionize the Family Law of Japan.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/04/17/issues/two-years-japan-signed-hague-children-returned-old-issues-remain/#.VyUeVGNlnVo

Two years after Japan signed Hague, children have been returned but old issues remain
BY COLIN P.A. JONES
APR 17, 2016

‘What brand of Champagne did you drink?”

The lawyer delivered the question with a dramatic flourish, and I suppose it was a reasonable question to ask, even if rhetorically. I was being cross-examined as an expert witness in a child custody-related trial in a Western courtroom. One parent wanted to relocate to Japan with the child, the other was objecting.

This was 2015. In a 2008 Japan Times column written about a rumor that Japan was preparing to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, I had declared: “I do not plan to crack open any Champagne until an abducted child is actually returned home.” The rumor proved wildly premature, but Japan ultimately ratified the convention, which, together with a package of baroque implementing laws and regulations, came into effect from April 2014.

The question about my Champagne preferences (Veuve Clicquot, by the way, if anyone is buying) was reasonable as a challenge to my reliability as an expert, yet was arguably irrelevant to the issue at bar: What could the court expect in terms of preserving the relationship between the child and the left-behind parent after the other parent and their child relocated to Japan? Unfortunately, “Not very much” may still be the answer.

But first, credit where it is due: In the two years since Japan signed the convention, more children abducted to or unlawfully retained in Japan have been returned to their home countries than at any time in the past. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan’s “central authority” for convention purposes, has handled almost 200 applications for assistance, and returns have been achieved in both directions (see table).

The Foreign Ministry has put significant effort into implementing the treaty and performing its central authority role. (A ministry representative also kindly responded to my inquiries in connection with this column.) It has sought to deter abductions through awareness programs, as well as foster amicable resolutions to abduction and visitation disputes by supporting mediation programs specifically designed for convention cases. (I am a mediator for one of them.) It also provides financial assistance for the translation of court documents and has set up a special online system (named Mimamori) for supervised cross-border “virtual visitation.”

Amicable resolutions are great, but there is not always much amity left between parents when one of them unilaterally spirits the children away to another country. Sometimes fear of abuse is a factor, but not always. Sometimes it is not; sometimes the taking parent is just trying to erase the other parent from his or her life, which necessitates erasure from the children’s lives as well. Having spent over a decade watching countless cases like these transpire, I believe that intentionally denying a parent — a former spouse, or life partner at that — a loving relationship with his or her child may be the worst thing one human being can do to another, short of physical violence. It is rarely good for the child, either.

The Hague Convention makes this harder by requiring that children taken or retained across borders in violation of custody rights be returned to their home country (where the other parent is typically also resident). Returns are the rule, but there are exceptions. One of these is if the child is living in Japan with the consent of the other parent. Disputes over relocation during or after divorce also being common, a child may also end up living in Japan with one parent through the permission of a foreign court.

When Japan was not a convention signatory, it was a red flag to foreign judges whenever a parent sought leave to take the children to Japan, whether to visit or live. “Just taking the kids back for the summer to see Grandma” and then staying is a pretty common abduction scenario everywhere (with Grandma sometimes playing a role in persuading the parent to stay). In Japan it was almost always a successful strategy — one that would frustrate whatever a judge in the country of origin might have decided about the child custody arrangements. Now, this type of “abduction by retention” should result in a Japanese court issuing a return order.

With Japan having joined the treaty, parents and foreign judges alike may now feel more secure about the idea of a child being brought here to live. Yet if that happens with the consent of the other parent or permission of a foreign court, a return order will then be difficult — if not impossible — to obtain. While judges in American states may be accustomed to retaining jurisdiction over children taken to another state and being able to enforce their rulings on custody, this probably won’t work with a child taken to Japan; if the scenario does not constitute an “abduction,” parents will likely be left to seek relief in Japanese family courts outside the convention framework, and they should lower their expectations accordingly.

Judges still finding their way

First, conversations with lawyers indicate that even in abduction cases that clearly fall under the convention, the Osaka and Tokyo family courts charged with resolving them are still figuring things out. Family court judges are likely accustomed to resolving domestic cases without being constrained by the rules of evidence and procedure that should apply in Hague cases.

At the same time, however, such cases are supposed to be resolved more expeditiously, despite involving complex issues such as the interpretation of foreign law: What do “rights of custody” mean in Country X, for example? (There is an international network of “Hague judges” in which Japanese judges participate, but apparently not to the extent of using it as an informal source of information on foreign law and practice in specific cases.) Similarly, which party has the burden of proving what — a parent’s consent, for example? And what if a parent or foreign court’s permission to relocate to Japan with a child is based on the relocating parent’s promise of cooperation with visitation — a promise that is immediately broken after getting off the plane?

Some of my lawyer interlocutors complain about a lack of procedural clarity. Perhaps this is a matter of time and more cases will resolve these issues.

Mixed messages on visitation

Second, visitation in Japan remains patchy and difficult to enforce. The convention provides for facilitation of cross-border access (aka visitation) but with limited substance. While the Foreign Ministry offers support, it is just that — support, such as contacting the other parent and offering online visitation and mediation. Such support has reportedly resulted in visitation in some cases, and even led to a few instances of children being returned.

If cooperation is not forthcoming, however, the parent seeking visitation is left seeking recourse in family courts, pretty much like everyone else. Here the stories I hear seem have not changed dramatically: parents going for months without seeing their children, mediation sessions where nothing seems to happen, judges who seem unduly solicitous of parents engaging in alienating behavior, and courts making decisions based on expediency rather than the best interests of children.

There are some signs of changes: Courts seem to be awarding visitation more, and I hear more about overnight stays, though recent judicial statistics show them occurring in less than 10 percent of cases. Also, in a December 2014 decision, the Fukuoka Family Court transferred legal custody of a child from mother to father due to the former’s obstruction of visitation. Only last month, the Matsudo branch of the Chiba Family Court ordered a mother to hand over her daughter to the father after years of blocking contact between the two. Japanese family court professionals have long written about the “good parent rule” — giving custody to whichever is more understanding of visitation with the other — as a remedy for such intransigence, but these are the first instances I have seen of it actually being applied.

Yet such developments should be treated with caution. Seemingly revolutionary decisions have to survive appeals and be enforced to be truly meaningful. In the Fukuoka case, only legal custody was transferred, something that can be accomplished simply by filing the judgment with the family registry; it does not automatically equate with the father getting contact, only the mother needing to seek his cooperation to take legal acts like applying for a passport on their child’s behalf.

As for the other case, branch family courts have long been the dumping ground for judges disfavored by the judicial hierarchy, meaning the Chiba case could be an anomaly as much as a harbinger of true change. Even the family courts’ increased acceptance of visitation seems to be tied to growing use of supervised visitation through NPOs staffed by (surprise!) retired family court personnel. In other countries supervised visitation is limited to cases where a parent is abusive or potentially dangerous; in Japan it seems to be becoming the easy-to-award/recommend default solution for when the custodial parent is intransigent.

Visitation thus still seems to be driven by what the custodial parent can be convinced to agree to, rather than what might be meaningful for the child. The Foreign Ministry’s Mimamori online supervised visitation system seems to be an extension of this logic: that any contact is better than none, and might lead to something more meaningful (which is sometimes the case). Understandably, some parents who have done no wrong yet are expected to accept being treated like criminals in order to interact with their own children find this abhorrent.

Lack of enforcement — and details

Third, an order from a Japanese court to return a child, whether across the street or to another country, can often still be frustrated by a parent simply refusing to comply, or getting the child to refuse. This is said to have already been an issue in convention cases, which should not surprise anyone: Before the treaty came into force, the nation’s shikkōkan — the bailiffs who enforce civil judgments — announced that it would likely be impossible to enforce return orders without the child’s cooperation. While the process of implementing the Hague Convention has brought some clarity to the theory and practice of enforcing returns, without sanctions for contempt (which Japanese judges lack in these cases) or other police-like powers to back them up, court orders can end up being meaningless pieces of paper.

Fourth, and finally, after two years and a number of cases, the workings of Japan’s Hague courts remain invisible. No judgments have been published, nor do there appear to be any statistics available on case resolutions. There is no way for outsiders to know how Japanese courts are deciding whether or not to return children.

At least I can drink some Champagne (Moet & Chandon is fine too): Japan did join the convention, and lawyers tell me it is having a real effect in deterring abductions. Yet it shouldn’t be forgotten that the convention’s potential remains limited by the constraints of the Japanese family justice system as a whole. Describing those requires more words than a single column allows, so keep watching this space.

Colin P.A. Jones is a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto. The views expressed are those of the author alone. Law of the Land appears on the second Monday Community Page of the month. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

(April 1, 2014, to March 31, 2016) APPLICATIONS FOR HELP WITH RETURNS APPLICATIONS FOR HELP WITH VISITATION
APPLICATIONS TO MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS RELATING TO CHILDREN IN JAPAN (AND THE FOREIGN COUNTRY INVOLVED)
U.S. 11
France 4
Australia 4
Germany 3
Canada 2
U.K. 2
Singapore 1
Italy 1
Spain 1
Russia 1
Switzerland 1
Belgium 1
Sri Lanka 1
Turkey 1
Fiji 1
Colombia 1
South Korea 1
U.S. 39
U.K. 6
France 5
Australia 4
Canada 4
New Zealand 3
Singapore 3
Mexico 2
Germany 1
Costa Rica 1
Subtotal 37
Rejected* 8
Total 45
Subtotal 68
Rejected* 7
Total 75
APPLICATIONS TO MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS RELATING TO CHILDREN IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES
Thailand 6
Russia 4
Brazil 4
South Korea 3
U.S. 3
Germany 2
Canada 2
France 1
U.K. 1
Italy 1
Spain 1
Switzerland 1
Slovakia 1
South Africa 1
Peru 1
Romania 1
Sri Lanka 1
Belarus 1
Sweden 1
U.S. 5
Russia 3
Canada 3
Germany 2
Ukraine 2
Thailand 2
Australia 1
South Korea 1
Uruguay 1
Netherlands 1
Poland 1
Hong Kong 1
Subtotal 36
Rejected applications* 3
Total 39
Total 23
TOTAL APPLICATIONS 84 98**
STATISTICS IN TABLE COURTESY OF MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

NOTES

* Applications for assistance may be rejected by the Foreign Ministry because they do not satisfy requirements for assistance (e.g., the requesting parent is unable to demonstrate rights of custody or visitation). In some instances, rejections reflect the fact that the taking parent has already returned with the child voluntarily, rendering the application moot.

** The far greater number of requests for visitation assistance for children in Japan in part reflects the fact that Japan allowed applications for assistance with visitation with children in Japan even in cases pre-dating the Hague Convention’s coming into force.

RETURNS

• The data regarding returns reflects applications to the Foreign Ministry for assistance in achieving the return of a child either in Japan or in a foreign country, which in the first instance involves encouraging the taking parent to return voluntarily or to mediate with the other parent. Accordingly, only some of these cases are ultimately resolved through court.

• According to the ministry, 14 children were returned from Japan, through mediation or other voluntary arrangements, alternative dispute resolution or court orders, and nine children were returned to Japan.

• These figures do not include some voluntary returns in cases where the Foreign Ministry was not formally involved.

• Three returns from Japan and one to Japan reportedly resulted from the visitation assistance process rather than the return process.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201510270089

U.S. official calls for direct meetings between parents, children ‘abducted’ to Japan

October 27, 2015

By TAKASHI OSHIMA/ Correspondent

A senior U.S. official called on Tokyo to give American parents “direct, in-person contact” with their children living in Japan during custody battles with Japanese parents under a child abduction treaty.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Karen Christensen called for such one-on-one meetings in referring to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which stipulates what member nations should do when mothers or fathers take away their offspring without the consent of their spouses.

“We believe that the Japanese central authority really does take its responsibilities in the Hague Convention very seriously,” Christensen said in a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo.

“When we say ‘meaningful access,’ in the end we mean direct contact and unsupervised contact,” Christensen said. “We have not yet seen that kind of direct, in-person contact that we’re looking for. We would like to see this happen quickly.”

According to Washington, more than 30 Americans have requested meetings with their children living in Japan since Tokyo joined the Hague Convention in 2014.

Although some of the U.S. parents have talked to their children in Japan through video conferences or met them in the presence of observers, no in-person, unmonitored contact has been provided so far.

According to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Japanese parents concerned about the risks of unmonitored meetings with their children have requested that such meetings be done through video conferences or under supervision.

“We will continue our proper support based on laws to realizing person-to-person contact,” a Foreign Ministry official said.

By TAKASHI OSHIMA/ Correspondent

 | 

DEALING WITH DIVORCE

Japan may empower courts to handle more cross-border divorce suits

BY 

STAFF WRITER

After 18 months of deliberations, the Legislative Council of the Justice Ministry has drawn up an outline for legal revisions aimed at resolving a problem many failed marriages face: whether the Japan-based spouse can file for divorce here rather than overseas.

The council on Friday submitted a proposal to Justice Minister Mitsuhide Iwaki that lists several scenarios in which Japanese family courts should be authorized to handle divorce involving couples of whom only one partner is still living in Japan.

If enacted, it would will mark the first time the government has clarified international jurisdiction rules for divorce.

Following are questions and answers on the issue:

What is the current situation?

Japan has no law that spells out the circumstances under which family courts can handle cross-border divorce disputes between a spouse who sues, the plaintiff, and his or her ex-partner, the defendant.

In the absence of a legal framework, family courts have traditionally decided on a case-by-case basis whether they have jurisdiction in divorce cases, relying only on past Supreme Court rulings.

The rulings acknowledged jurisdiction of the Japanese courts when the defendant was resident in Japan, because the inconvenience of being forced into a legal battle, it was deemed, merited greater consideration than the inconvenience faced by a plaintiff. If the defendant was overseas, that was where the case should be heard.

The-case-by-case approach means there has been no consistency in court judgments, while plaintiffs and their lawyers have had to convince the courts that they meet the special circumstances required to sue for divorce in Japan.

The lack of clear rules has placed prospective plaintiffs under emotional stress as they await a court’s decision on where their suits should take place, said Tokyo-based lawyer Tomohiro Hayase.

Under what circumstances have spouses been able to file for divorce in Japan?

A plaintiff in Japan who fled an allegedly abusive marriage abroad may qualify to have a family court hear the case because unconditionally prioritizing the whereabouts of the defendant can incur problems, Hayase said.

“For example, in cases where a Japanese wife has fled her abusive foreign husband and moved back to Japan, it would be unfair if she has to return to the husband’s country to start divorce (proceedings) against him,” the lawyer said.

Under such circumstances, domestic family courts have customarily decided they will handle the plaintiffs’ cases in Japan — even if the defendants are abroad — in accordance with what the top court called “the idea of fairness between the parties and just and speedy hearing of the case.”

What new rules are being considered?

The Legislative Council, an advisory panel to the justice minister, has come up with seven scenarios under which domestic family courts would preside over cross-border divorces in Japan, including those in which both parties are Japanese nationals.

Other cases include those in which a couple lived in Japan until just before they were separated internationally — a rule Hayase said will make it easier for Japanese to initiate a divorce action against a spouse who left Japan. While this will be a common scenario, the nationality is in fact irrelevant: It could involve two Americans, one of whom continues to reside in Japan and initiates the action.

Until now it has been hard for a Japanese husband, for example, to file for divorce if his foreign wife deserts him, leaves the country and does not inform him where she is. This is because regardless of any culpability the residence of the wife — the defendant in this case — took priority.

The husband would traditionally have to go through reams of paperwork to persuade a family court that he is not to blame for a failed marriage to win jurisdiction over his case. But the new rule, if realized, will grant him the right to initiate proceedings in Japan merely on the grounds that he shared a Japanese address with her before they separated.

“Although beneficial to Japanese, the rule is likely to prove more of an inconvenience to foreigners who left Japan for whatever reason, because unlike before, under the new rule it would be possible to drag them into a court battle in Japan from abroad — even though they are the defendants,” Hayase said.

What will change if the rules are enacted?

The council said the rules will “improve the foreseeability of litigants” and “contribute to swiftly resolving conflicts.”

Hayase agrees. “Whenever clients who sought an international divorce came to us for consultation, we weren’t able to tell them for sure beforehand whether they could proceed with a lawsuit in Japan. All we could do was study past court rulings and do some guesswork,” he said, noting most of his Japanese clients preferred to file for divorce in Japan to avoid the hassle of dealing with a foreign language and having to fly overseas.

“If more precise determinations are possible, that would be a huge load off their shoulders.”

What else does the outline cover?

Subject to the council’s discussion was not only jurisdiction over divorces but also child custody rulings.

Family courts have customarily claimed jurisdiction over cross-border custody battles if the child is in Japan. The proposed rule by the council endorses this tradition, declaring that Japanese courts are authorized to handle such cases when “the child has an address in or is staying in Japan.”

However, should the child be repatriated abroad in the midst of a custody battle, such as one under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Japanese courts are likely to have to terminate the debate and relinquish jurisdiction to their overseas counterparts, said Muneki Uchino, councilor of the Civil Affairs Bureau at the Justice Ministry.

Uchino said the Justice Ministry will compile an amendment based on the outline and submit it to the Diet “as soon as possible,” at the latest by early next year.

How many international marriages take place in Japan?

There were 21,130 new international marriages registered in Japan in 2014, according to data released by the welfare ministry in September.

Of the total, 14,998 couples were those between Japanese husbands and foreign wives, mostly Chinese, Koreans and Filipinos. The remaining 6,132 were of Japanese wives, with the foreign husbands predominantly Americans and Koreans.

There were 14,135 international divorces in 2014.

Business Standard
Thursday, November 20, 2014 | 07:19 AM IST

http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/first-japan-linked-child-returns-home-under-abduction-treaty-114111200752_1.html

First Japan-linked child returns home under abduction treaty
AFP | Tokyo
November 12, 2014 Last Updated at 14:30 IST

The Japanese government has helped return a boy to his German home in the first such case since adopting an international treaty on cross-border child custody disputes, an official said today.

The foreign ministry said it intervened in a case involving a five-year-old boy, brought to Japan by his Japanese mother, who left the boy’s German father.

The mother took the boy in June without the father’s consent, a ministry official said.

“In August, the father contacted us to request assistance. We have located the boy, and contacted the mother,” he said.

“In October, the mother took the boy to his home,” he said, adding that the parents will have to work out their difference in Germany.

Tokyo’s official involvement became possible after Japan enacted in April the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Japan had long been the only member of the Group of Seven major industrialised nations not to ratify the convention, which requires nations to return snatched children to the countries where they usually reside.

Japanese courts virtually never grant custody to foreign parents, which has previously left few legal avenues for those whose former partners have fled to Japan with their children.

Hundreds of US parents have complained that they have been left unable to see their half-Japanese children. At least 120 have filed cases in Japan, invariably to no avail.

Major European nations such as Britain and France have also pressured Japan to join the shared rule among leading powers.

The Japanese government has 13 pending requests from non-Japanese parents for return of their offsprings taken to Japan, the foreign ministry official said.

There are nine cases where Japanese parents are asking for return of their children taken abroad, he said.

The foreign ministry has also accepted 46 requests from non-Japanese parents requesting meetings with their children in Japan but not asking for their return.

There are 13 cases of Japanese parents requesting meetings with their kids taken abroad, the official added.

http://www.katu.com/news/local/Police-Man-violates-custody-order-could-be-leaving-US-with-4-children-272892381.html

Police: Man violates custody order, could be leaving U.S. with 4 children
By News Staff Published: Aug 27, 2014 at 10:04 AM PDT Last Updated: Aug 27, 2014 at 10:30 AM PDT

Police: Man violates custody order, could be leaving U.S. with 4 children

EUGENE, Ore. — Officers said they are looking for a man who may be taking his four children from their mother, who has custody in Eugene.

Eugene Police said 40-year-old Torata Tanaka violated a restraining order and failed to return the children to their mother Tuesday morning.

Tanaka could be taking two girls, ages 10 and 3, and two boys, ages 8 and 6, to Canada or possibly back to his native country of Japan, Eugene Police spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin said.

Tanaka could be driving a 2002 Acura MDX with Oregon license plate ZEJ-686. Eugene Police didn’t specify the car’s color.

Anyone with information on Tanaka, the children, or his vehicle is asked to call 911 immediately.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/04/24/national/politics-diplomacy/summit-kept-script-sidestepped-many-issues/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=summit-kept-script-sidestepped-many-issues#.U1pnr47D_4g

National / Politics & Diplomacy| ANALYSIS

Summit kept to script that sidestepped many issues

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Apr 24, 2014
Article history

High-level summits like Thursday’s between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are mostly scripted affairs, with a clearly defined agenda revolving around the most pressing, or politically important, issues.

The Japan-U.S. summit covered America’s military commitments to Japan under the bilateral security treaty, including standing tough on the Senkakus and North Korea. They also covered the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

But in any summit, there are always pressing issues that are downplayed, left off the agenda or deemed not worthy of high-level attention.

The most difficult aspect of the summit was the TPP negotiations. Whatever is or is not eventually announced by the U.S. and Japan, Obama will return to Washington to strong opposition to the pact in a Congress that, while concerned about beef, pork and the other points of contention making headlines in Japan, is perhaps even more worried about other issues.

“There are roughly 30 votes in the House, out of 435 total, by members who represent a district with any real prospect of improving their agricultural exports by opening up the Japanese market. Agriculture is a factor, but it’s not a very big factor in congressional opposition,” Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Florida who serves on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a telephone press conference earlier this week.

Lori Wallach, director of the Washington-based Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, lists the most contentious TPP-related issues for Congress, which were downplayed or not discussed by Obama in his meeting with Abe.

“Even if the continuing bilateral negotiations resolve U.S.-Japan auto and agricultural trade issues, there are scores of other deep deadlocks in TPP negotiations,” she said, rattling off issues ranging from disputes on medicine patent and reimbursement policies to environment and labor standards.

Some 60 U.S. senators and 230 U.S. representatives have insisted the TPP include enforceable disciplines on currency manipulation. But other TPP countries oppose this, and to date the issue had not been addressed, Wallach added.

Also downplayed was the fact that the TPP is unlikely to be approved by Congress if Obama does not receive special negotiating authority from the legislative body to do a deal. There is strong opposition in both parties to giving him such authority, and few in Washington believe it will happen this year.

“Fast track (trade promotion) authority from Congress is highly unlikely. Fast track has been announced as dead until the (November congressional) elections. But I think it’s dead after the elections as well,” said Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman, who serves on a committee dealing with international trade.

Also left off the summit agenda were proposals for resolving tensions over historical issues between Japan and South Korea, and Japan and China.

Anger toward Japan, and particularly Abe, over the “comfort women” issue in particular is causing problems not only in East Asia, but also in the United States, including in Glendale, California, where human rights groups persuaded the city to erect a memorial statue to the wartime sex slaves.

Some U.S. municipal and state governments have passed resolutions condemning Japan’s stance on the comfort women, while extreme right-wing Japanese politicians are demanding the statues be removed.

While the State Department says these statues and resolutions are local issues, they make it more difficult for both Tokyo and Washington to move forward on larger issues of regional cooperation.

Obama also offered U.S. support regarding Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea. But neither leader appears to have raised Japan’s other so-called abduction issue: the more than 400 children of Japanese and American parents who were allegedly taken from the U.S. to Japan by an estranged Japanese spouse without permission.

During her Senate confirmation hearing last year, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy said she was concerned about the issue. The Hague Treaty on child abductions, which specifies that nations are required to facilitate the return of children taken by any parent away from the country marked as their usual residence, came into effect in Japan only on April 1, but does not apply to children abducted before then.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/04/04/national/child-abduction-agreement-too-late-for-many-parents/#.U0KzqI7D_ui

Child abduction agreement too late for many parents

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Apr 4, 2014

To some parents, Japan’s official entry Tuesday into the Hague convention on cross-border child abductions doesn’t represent the light at the end of the tunnel, but the arrival of more obstacles in the prolonged effort to retrieve their children, experts say.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was drafted in 1980 to ensure that children abducted and taken overseas by a parent involved in a failed international marriage will be promptly returned to their country of habitual residence.

Japan’s refusal to sign the convention earned it a reputation as a “safe haven” for international child abductions. But from now on, the Foreign Ministry will be legally bound to locate abducted kids and facilitate their return at the request of parents abroad. The same will apply to children whisked away from Japan, as long as the country where the child is staying is a signatory of the convention.

While widely hailed as a breakthrough, participation in the pact does not satisfy everyone.

For one thing, the treaty is not retroactive, meaning repatriation is possible only in cases that take place from Tuesday on.

Regardless of the date of the abduction, however, the government can still assist parents seeking visitation opportunities, such as by trying to locate their children, according to the treaty. But these benefits can only be given to parents whose kids were under 16 years of age as of Tuesday. Anyone else does not benefit from the treaty.

A group of parents trapped in this legislative limbo went to the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday to explain their plight.

Miho Watanabe, a 53-year-old Japanese citizen, said she took refuge in a women’s shelter in United States in 1995 with her 3-year-old daughter to escape alleged mistreatment by her husband, an American, whom she married in Japan.

Shortly afterward, she took their daughter back to Japan and got divorced with the help of international lawyers in 1999. But in 2005, after she sent her 13-year-old daughter to the U.S. for a visit at the request of her ex-husband, he spirited her away and has refused to let Watanabe have access.

The daughter visited her once in Japan recently, but Watanabe said she has no clue about her current whereabouts.

“I was told (by the American family) I would become a ‘kidnapper’ if I ever tried to bring back my own girl to Japan,” Watanabe said.

Watanabe, who campaigned for Japan to join the Hague convention for years, said she was vaguely aware the pact only applies to children under 16. But she had always held out hope that she might benefit from it somehow, she said, noting that her faintest hopes were dashed on Wednesday, when ministry officials told her there was nothing they could do. Her daughter is now 21 and living independently of her father in the U.S.

“In my case, the abduction took place ages ago. At that time, she was still a little kid. It’s so unfair, after all these years that I waited, that my case is not considered eligible,” Watanabe said.

Masako Akeo, head of Left Behind Parents Japan, a group of Japan-based parents separated from their children, expressed outrage over the government’s ingrained “tardiness.”

Akeo’s husband, who is also Japanese, took their son, raised in Canada, to Japan in 2006 without her consent. A Japanese family court later granted him sole custody of the boy, effectively denying Akeo any visitation rights. She has no idea where he is today.

“We all looked very much forward to this day. But now we’re devastated to find out we’re not even eligible to ask for the government’s support to locate and help us visit our kids,” Akeo said.

While acknowledging that their situation is a pity, legal experts argue that the convention’s current framework does not allow such parents to be helped.

“It’s not like there is absolutely nothing they can do. They could go to the U.S. and litigate a case themselves. But I understand it will be a very, very laborious task,” said lawyer Masami Kittaka.

“The sad reality is that Japan’s accession to the convention does nothing to directly improve their situation,” she said.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201404040015

Child abduction treaty gives hope to parents separated from their kids

April 04, 2014

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

American Jeffrey Morehouse has no idea where his son lives, knowing only that the 10-year-old’s address is somewhere in Toyama Prefecture.

His last contact with the boy was when his divorced Japanese wife lived in the United States. He lost all contact after she and her son abruptly moved to Japan.

But Morehouse, who lives in Seattle, is finally taking a big step toward getting in touch with his son again, and perhaps bringing the child back to the United States.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction took effect for Japan on April 1, giving parents overseas, like Morehouse, and in Japan a legal means to visit their children.

The so-called Hague Abduction Convention governs cross-border child custody disputes resulting from broken marriages. Under the treaty, if a marriage fails and the parents start living in separate countries, the decision on who receives parental rights to raise children under 16 falls under the jurisdiction of the country where the family lived with the child before the breakup.

Before Japan signed the treaty in January, a number of high-profile cases surfaced about the plight of overseas parents who had no legal way of even contacting their children taken to Japan by their former spouses. However, Japanese parents are also expressing hopes that the treaty will help them be reunited with their children who live overseas.

A Japanese woman living in Chiba Prefecture last month wrote a letter to the parents of her ex-husband, who are currently raising her 14-year-old daughter in the United States.

“I have the right to meet with my daughter,” the 34-year-old woman wrote.

She later received an e-mail instructing her to never again try to contact her daughter.

The woman was married to an American who worked at a U.S. military base in Kyushu. After they divorced, the ex-husband returned to the United States with their 8-month-old child in 2001 without the mother’s consent and asked his parents to raise the girl.

The mother visited the home of her former husband’s parents in the United States two years later, but she was allowed to meet her daughter only three times.

Five years ago, the ex-husband’s family refused to let her to see the child.

The woman said she expects the Hague Abduction Convention to help her in the battle against her ex-husband and his parents.

“I hope the Japanese government will negotiate (with U.S. authorities) as equals,” said the mother. She plans to use the Foreign Ministry to repeat her demands that her ex-husband’s parents allow her to visit her daughter.

Although cases involving children “abducted” before April 1 will be exempt from the convention, parents can still call for governmental assistance in setting up meetings with their children.

A Canadian man moved to Japan in 2011 to see his three daughters.

His ex-wife had returned to Japan with the children and had rejected all of his requests to visit the girls.

The Canadian said he met his children three times last year without prior appointments, and that he expects the convention to make it easier for him to visit his daughters.

The U.S. State Department said it received 24 applications on March 31 from divorced parents calling for meetings with their children overseas. A number of parents, including Morehouse, visited the State Department that day to request measures to set up visits with their children in Japan.

According to the State Department, 58 cases concerning 80 children unfairly taken from the United States to Japan have yet to be settled, the third highest figure after Mexico and India.

A representative of a group of those visiting parents said meetings with the children will be the first step in getting the children returned.

Paul Toland, a co-founder of Bring Abducted Children Home, a U.S. nonprofit organization calling for the return of children taken to Japan, said he wants the Japanese government to quickly take measures under the spirit of the Hague Abduction Convention.

Toland, himself, on March 31 called on the State Department to work with the Japanese government to set up a meeting with his 11-year-old daughter in Japan.

Beth Payne, director of the Office of Children’s Issues in the State Department, promised that the U.S. government will continue efforts to settle cases reported before April 1 by negotiating with Japan’s Foreign Ministry.

The U.S. Congress is currently discussing legislation to enable the president to impose sanctions on nations that fail to take adequate measures to resolve the child abduction problem. The House of Representatives has already passed the bill.

One issue of concern among Japanese parents is how courts will weigh domestic violence in deciding if their children should be returned to the nation where the family resided before the divorce or separation.

Under the convention, Japan’s Foreign Ministry will help foreign parents find arbitration organizations for their demands that their children in Japan be returned to them.

If the Japanese parents refuse the demands, the Tokyo or Osaka family courts will decide whether to issue orders for the children to be sent to the country where the family originally lived.

If the courts recognize the existence of serious domestic violence, the Japanese parents will be allowed to refuse to return their sons and daughters to their former foreign partners.

The Hague convention will also cover cases in which both parents are Japanese and one of them takes the child overseas.

Regardless of the parents’ nationalities, cases involving a divorced husband or wife taking a child elsewhere in Japan will not be subject to the treaty.

Under Japan’s Civil Law, parental rights are granted to one parent after they split. Although a divorced couple can discuss visitation rights at the time of the divorce settlement, the decision is not legally binding.

In many cases, the parents take their children elsewhere in Japan without the consent of their former partners.

Lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties are currently discussing legislation to address such domestic cases.

(This article was compiled from reports by Satomi Sugihara and Tsuyoshi Tamura in Tokyo and Takashi Oshima in Washington.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1463285/activists-say-japan-will-try-bend-rules-child-abduction-convention

Activists say Japan will try to bend rules of child abduction convention

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 10:53pm

UPDATED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 2:35am

Julian Ryall in Tokyo

Japan’s commitment to the Hague Convention on child abduction went into effect this week, but children’s rights activists warn that authorities are already looking for ways to avoid complying with the treaty.

Before Tuesday, Japan was the only G8 nation not to have ratified the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which generally stipulates that a child should be returned to his or her country of habitual residence when they have been taken out of that country by a parent without the consent of the other parent.

Pressure had been growing on Tokyo to adopt the legislation as a growing number of international marriages – estimated at 40,000 a year – are also ending in separation and divorce.

Embassies in Tokyo are handling about 400 cases in which the Japanese parent has violated the terms of the convention by taking a child back to Japan, but international authorities have been powerless to act once they get there.

“We have been pressing for this for many years now and we are pleased that it has finally been ratified,” said Brian Thomas, joint founder of the Japanese arm of the US-based Children’s Rights Council.

“But we do have reservations,” he admitted, pointing to cases in Japan in which judges have invariably sided with a Japanese woman who claims she has been hit by a partner.

“The Japanese government keeps making excuses every time any Japanese national claims they have been subjected to domestic violence – and, of course, every lawyer now knows that is a legitimate defence,” said Thomas, who moved to Japan from Britain in 1988, two years after meeting his wife Mikako.

Their son, Graham Hajime, was born in January 1990, but Thomas returned from work one day to find their home locked and empty. He has not been permitted to see his son since April 1993, but carries his photo at all times.

“In this sort of situation, there is a clear need to have an outside expert assess a situation and to make a decision on what is really going on,” he said. “I’m really worried that the Japanese courts and the government here will continue to manipulate the situation in favour of their own nationals.”

Even more upsetting for Thomas is the fact that the legislation is not retroactive and cannot therefore be applied to his own situation.

“This does not help me at all,” he said. “But I will fight on for other parents who are affected by their child being taken away.”

Under the terms of the new law, a central authority has been set up within Japan’s foreign ministry to locate children who have been removed from their place of habitual residence overseas and brought to Japan.

The ministry will make efforts to encourage the parents to settle the dispute voluntarily, but if that fails, family courts in Tokyo and Osaka will institute hearings and issue rulings.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Tokyo adopts child abduction treaty