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  • Guardian UK on child abductions in Japan, this time concerning UK citizens

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on September 16th, 2008

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog.  Last day on the road, I’m finally heading home today after more than six weeks of living out of a suitcase.  It’s been a long and very productive trip (with well over a dozen speeches), but I can honestly say that I’m ready to be a homebody for a little while, and don’t want to look at a plane or shinkansen for at least a month.  Meanwhile, here’s an article that Tony Kehoe sent me this morning (thanks!), about the continuing adventures of the GOJ and the international child abduction issue.  It happens often enough in Japan between Japanese after divorce.  Here’s hoping that international attention will make things better for Japanese children of torn parents regardless of nationality–this system as it stands must not, for the children’s sake.  More referential links below.  Arudou Debito in Morioka

    ==================================

    Family: Custody battle in Japan highlights loophole in child abduction cases

    · Girls taken from UK on pretext, claims father 
    · Courts ‘habitually’ side with Japanese parents

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/sep/15/japan.childprotection

    By Justin McCurry in Tokyo, Monday September 15 2008

    Shane Clarke had no reason to be suspicious when his wife took their two children to Japan to see their ill grandmother in January.

    The couple had married four years earlier after meeting online, and settled down with their daughters, aged three and one, in the west Midlands. Clarke, they agreed, would join his family in Japan in May for a holiday, and they would all return together.

    Last week, however, he faced his wife and her lawyer in a Japanese courtroom, uncertain if he would ever see his children again. When his wife left the UK, Clarke now believes, she never had any intention of returning with him, or of letting her children see him.

    “From the moment I met her at Narita airport I knew something was wrong,” Clarke told the Guardian before a custody hearing in Mito, north of Tokyo. “I soon realised she’d played me like a grand piano. The whole thing had been orchestrated,” he claims.

    Clarke, a 38-year-old management consultant from West Bromwich, has gone to great lengths to win custody. The Crown Prosecution Service said his wife could be prosecuted in the UK under the 1984 child abduction act.

    However, he can expect little sympathy from Japanese courts, which do not recognise parental child abduction as a crime and habitually rule in favour of the custodial – Japanese – parent.

    Japan is the only G7 nation not to have signed the 1980 Hague convention on civil aspects of child abduction, which requires parents accused of abducting their children to return them to their country of habitual residence. He is one of an estimated 10,000 parents, divorced or separated from their Japanese spouses, who have been denied access to their children. Since the Hague treaty came into effect, not a single ruling in Japan has gone in favour of the foreign parent.

    Campaigners say Japan’s refusal to join the treaty’s 80 other signatories has turned it into a haven for child abductors.

    The European Union, Canada and the US have urged Japan to sign, but Takao Tanase, a law professor at Chuo University, says international pressure is unlikely to have much impact. “In Japan, if the child is secure in its new environment and doesn’t want more disruption, family courts don’t believe that it is in the child’s best interest to force it to see the non-custodial parent,” he said.

    Japanese courts prefer to leave it to divorced couples to negotiate custody arrangements, Takase said. Officials say the government is looking at signing the Hague treaty, though not soon.

    “We recognise that the convention is a useful tool to secure children’s rights and we are seriously considering the possibility of signing the convention, but we’ve yet to reach a conclusion,” said Yasuhisa Kawamura, a foreign ministry spokesman.

    “We understand the anxieties of international parents, but there is no difference between the western approach and ours.”

    Clarke’s two custody hearings this week did not go well. An interpreter arranged by the foreign office failed to materialise. The British embassy in Tokyo provided him with a list of alternative interpreters but said it could offer no more help.

    The judge was forced to postpone his ruling, but Clarke is convinced he will never see his daughters again.

    “We are talking about two British citizens, and no one will help me. The message our government is sending out to foreign nationals is that it’s perfectly all right for them to commit a crime on British soil, and as long as they leave the country quickly enough, they’ll get away scot-free.”

    Backstory

    The rise in the number of parental child abductions has been fuelled by a dramatic increase in marriages between Japanese and foreign nationals. According to the health and welfare ministry, there were 44,701 such marriages in 2006, compared with 7,261 in 1980, the vast majority between Japanese and Chinese, Koreans and Filipinos. An estimated 20,000 children are born to Japanese-foreign couples every year. Though Japan does not keep an official count, there are 47 unresolved cases of US children being taken to Japan – only Mexico and India are more popular destinations – and 30 involving Canadian citizens. British officials are dealing with 10 cases, a foreign office spokeswoman told the Guardian, including that of Shane Clarke.

    GUARDIAN ARTICLE ENDS

    ===================================

    REFERENTIAL LINKS:

    More cases at the Children’s Rights Network Japan.

    Good roundup of the issue at Terrie’s Take (issue 469, May 18, 2008)

    ABC News on what’s happening to abducted children of American citizens. (Answer=same thing:  “Not a single American child kidnapped to Japan has ever been returned to the United States through legal or diplomatic means, according to the State Department.”)

    What’s happening to Canadians:  The Murray Wood Case and Japanese courts ignoring Canadian court custody rulings in favor of the NJ parent.

    And it happens to Japanese citizens too, thanks to the lack of joint custody and unenforceable visitation rights.

    ENDS

    17 Responses to “Guardian UK on child abductions in Japan, this time concerning UK citizens”

    1. Kimpatsu Says:

      Note the bloody useless British embassy in this issue. “Here’s a list of alternative interpreters; now bugger off and leave us alone.”
      I don’t know whether the fault is McCarry’s or his editor’s, but once again I find this article mealy-mouthed. Nowhere does it mention the real reason why the Japanese courts ALWAYS award custody to the Japanese parent: racism. These are the same courts that rule that black people can’t be trusted, and can’t speak Japanese, remember? When is the international fourth estate going to start writing about that?

      –Give us some links to sources (I know what cases you’re talking about, but other readers might not) to make the second paragraph of your comment better grounded.

    2. John C Says:

      I compleatly agree with Kimpatsu, the british embassy are utterly useless.
      It makes me ashamed to be British when I hear how little they do.
      The only consolation is that in a few years (alright 14-15) this guy will be able to come over here and meet his daughters when they are old enough to decide… its not much but it is a little. I would tell him to keep a diary and copies of all letters he sends to them.
      It is 100% racism by the courts and 100% uselessness by the (in this case) British, they have enough power to pressure Japan but won’t.

      I got my own experiences with the Brit embassy and know from first hand experience that they are useless, I also have the honour of being the only person (I know of) to swear on the bible through bullet proof glass for my “certificate of no impediment”, so I could marry because they wouldn’t let me in the consular offices with comfy chairs, as is supposed to be my right as a british citizen.

      I would like those links to the cases mentioned above by kimpatsu, not heardof that ruling that blacks can’t be trusted.

    3. Behan Says:

      “The European Union, Canada and the US have urged Japan to sign, but Takao Tanase, a law professor at Chuo University, says international pressure is unlikely to have much impact. “In Japan, if the child is secure in its new environment and doesn’t want more disruption, family courts don’t believe that it is in the child’s best interest to force it to see the non-custodial parent,” he said.

      This kind of sounds like an after the fact excuse.

      What about children who have spend time in the countries they were abducted from? I am sure at least some of the children were secure in pre-abduction environments and one reason they might become secure in their new environement, Japan, is that the courts here won’t return them.

    4. E.P. Lowe Says:

      Well, given this:

      “In Japan, if the child is secure in its new environment and doesn’t want more disruption, family courts don’t believe that it is in the child’s best interest to force it to see the non-custodial parent”

      Why doesn’t someone do a follow-up study and see if this is actually the case, or, as I suspect, is just an excuse for a judge not to have to think about the case?

      Of course, that study would never be done, and if done would not be publicised – as we couldn’t have anyone showing the Judicial System in Japan to be ineffective.

    5. Justin Says:

      I think Kimpatsu is referring to the Valentine case, which Debito has posted about extensively, in which a judge excluded the testimony of a black witness on the grounds that the defendant was also black. To the judge, this meant that obviously the witness would be lying to try to help another black man in trouble. Really, I’m not making this up.

      http://www.debito.org/japantimes081407.html

    6. Justin Says:

      Have foreign parents ever abducted Japanese dual-national children to the foreign country? Is the official Japanese government view in those cases that it is best to leave the child in the foreign country, or does Japan try to get the child back?

    7. Justin Says:

      Your link says the power of attorney you gave your parents expired over a year ago. Did you renew it? Have you tried to get back in touch with your daughter? We need an update!

      –Well, at the beginning of the 2007 school year, the school system said they had a copy of my ex-wife’s POA (procured separately by my parents), so they didn’t need my signature, apparently. She stayed in the US for a total of two years in the end, and came back to Japan two months ago (my ex told me my parents got tired of her, which is within character). Am of course still trying to get in touch with my daughters, talked to the younger by phone some months ago. It’s a heartbreakingly delicate balance to preserve — wanting to show that I care and am still thinking about them, while not forcing myself upon them if they’re not ready to talk yet. I went through this too as a child of divorced parents, and had no contact with my birth father until I was 29 years old. So if my kids are anything like me, I fear I’ll be waiting a while.

    8. Justin Says:

      All I will say about your situation, Debito, is that it sounds like you had a few bad experiences with lawyers who were supposed to be helping you, and it looks like that put you off using lawyers all together. Try again. In America, any halfway decent lawyer should be able to get a caring father some sort of visitation rights with his own children! And good luck.

      –Thanks very much. It’s academic now. My daughter’s back. And she’ll soon be fifteen sixteen and able to travel on her own without her parents’ permission.

    9. TJJ Says:

      Behan said

      “What about children who have spend time in the countries they were abducted from? I am sure at least some of the children were secure in pre-abduction environments and one reason they might become secure in their new environement, Japan, is that the courts here won’t return them.”

      Absolutely.

      Incidentally, if taking the children from an environment they are already comfortable in is harmful to children (as the courts say it is), then hasn’t the (Japanese) abductor harmed their child?

      Why would you leave a child in the care of such a person who deliberately harms their children?

    10. Stevie Says:

      “…And she’ll soon be fifteen and able to travel on her own without her parents’ permission.”

      Back up there aways. What do you mean? A 15 year old can travel anywhere regardless of perental permission? Could you point to the law regarding that?

      Regards, St.

      –Sorry, my mistake. It’s sixteen. Hague Convention on Child Abductions:

      Article 4

      The Convention shall apply to any child who was habitually resident in a Contracting State immediately before any breach of custody or access rights. The Convention shall cease to apply when the child attains the age of 16 years.
      http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.text&cid=24

    11. Stevie Says:

      @debito:

      “–Sorry, my mistake. It’s sixteen. Hague Convention on Child Abductions:…etc”

      This doesn’t seem to be quite the same thing as a 16-year old being able to go where-ever he/she likes. Just says the convention doesn’t apply. Japan isn’t a signatory anyways :-(

    12. Kimpatsu Says:

      The case I was referrign to was the Valentine case
      http://www.debito.org/index.php/?s=thick+as+thieves
      Note this from the judge’s ruling: “In light of the fact that the witness has been acquainted with the Plaintiff , visiting him in hospital after his leg was broken, and is a friend of quite some closeness, and the fact that they associated with each other within the Black Community in Kabukichou, witness Francis’s testimony as an eyewitness account is not something we can see as having objectivity, and as such cannot possibly believe.”
      That means that, by the same token, the testimony of the cops can’t be trusted, because the possibility of collusion is even greater; they share affinity as cops, as Japanese, and as participants in the case. As the judge didn’t mention this, the only conclusion is that the judge regards the testimony of a black man as inherently inferior because he is black.
      It’s the same argument that used to be made in the Southern states. It’s called racism.

    13. TJJ Says:

      From the article above:

      “We understand the anxieties of international parents, but there is no difference between the western approach and ours.”

      I wanted to ask, is this a typo? Is he really saying there is NO difference.

      –I’ve seen the Guardian UK in action. They assiduously fact-check. I think this is what he really said.

    14. jim Says:

      it is useless to expect the GOJ, to change there policy because the only way that we can put any pressure on the GOJ will be when NJ,get voteing rights in japan then we can make a difference..again nothing will change until that happens..

    15. E.P. Lowe Says:

      “it is useless to expect the GOJ, to change there policy because the only way that we can put any pressure on the GOJ will be when NJ,get voteing rights in japan then we can make a difference..again nothing will change until that happens..”

      The only other way to get policy change would be if someone could convince a major US, or maybe UK paper to run a series on the ‘Dark Side’ of Japan.

      Every month on this site there is something completely outrageous. The Trainee kidnapping case really boiled my blood – but does this get reported outside of Japan? No, not at all.

      Look at the Valentine case – utterly outrageous. A contemptible cover-up by the police and judiciary – using logic that an elementary student could drive a truck through to justify themselves.

      Now, how could we get this series going?

    16. Col Says:

      That fact that this issue hasn`t been resolved yet or made a priority by top officials baffles me and infuriates me. This Japanese abduction nonsense must be brought to the attention of the masses overseas and pushed at the UN. Isn`t this the perfect example of how little your politicians are doing for you? I`m always hearing about this Megumi case and N Korea on Japanese news but nothing about their own abductions. I wonder why? What HYPOCRACY! What a sad story. Why are countries even doing business with such an unfair and hypocritical system. SANCTIONS! Makes me sick!

    17. Shane Clarke Says:

      Hi

      I am Shane Clarke, the guy in the Guardian article. What actually happened to me over there was a disgrace. I was hung out to dry by my own foreign office and subjected to humiliation and institutional racism in the court room.
      My foreign office confirmed to me 4 times that a translator would be provided by the court, but when I arrived there, the court clerk said there was none. I called the foreign office and they called the court and got back to me saying that they were “sending one down from upstairs”.
      When I got into the courtroom, there was, in fact a woman there, but she refused to translate for me. I called the FCO again, they spoke to the court clerk. The clerk said the woman would translate, then when they got off the phone, she refused. At one point she asked me for money. I said, “Okay, how much”, then she smiled and said, “I’ll tell you in 2 weeks. Come back then.”
      Everyone in the court started talking to each other in Japanese – my wife, her lawyer, the judge, the clerk and the woman, and they were all having a good laugh at my expense. I called the FCO 3 times from the room, and every time, it was the same ridiculous farce. In the end, I managed to beg the judge to give me another hearing the next day. He did, and I left the courtroom.
      I called the FCO in front of Justin McCurry from the Guardian. The FCO said there was nothing they could do except give me a list of translators, even though they knew I couldn’t afford one, which is why they’d tried to arrange one in the first place.
      In the end, the FCO said they would arrange another translator through the court and come with me the next day to make sure things worked out.
      The next day, I went to the court, and there was no translator and no one from the foreign office. I called, and the guy there, Simon Lavender, said he wouldn’t be coming and there was nothing he could do for me.
      When the judge found out, he sent my wife and her lawyer home. He did, however, allow me an audience with him, and this guy who, a day before hadn’t been able to speak a word of English, suddenly spoke it perfectly well, and we spoke for more than 2 hours.
      During that time we discussed the court order I have from the British High Court. He agreed that he should actually enforce the order under Article 118 of the Japanese civil code, but he refused to do so. I had loads of excuses, two of the best being “It’s complicated”, and “This is a Japanese court; if you want me to make an order you have to ask me in Japanese.”
      When I pressed him further, he suddenly lost the ability to speak English and called for the woman that was in the room the day before. Suddenly she was willing to translate for me, just enough to basically tell me to bugger off.
      So, my 2 young children are in the care of a woman who almost broke the older one’s arm last year, and I came back from Japan having spent the last of my money for nothing. I don’t know what’s going to happen now.
      By the way, for the record, the judge’s name was Norio Kojima, and it took place at Mito Family Court.
      Also, the British CPS are treating mine as a case of Child Abduction and have taken the unprecedented step of asking the Japanese authorities for help. Unfortunately, they are refusing to cooperate, despite the fact that a Mr Isozaki at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they should take action under Articles 3 and 226 of their penal code.

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