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  • CNN and NBC TODAY Show: American attempts to recover his abducted kids, is turned away from Fukuoka Consulate, arrested for “kidnapping”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on October 1st, 2009

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    Hi Blog. This has been big news all of yesterday. (I’m pretty strict about only doing one major blog post per day — otherwise I’d have floods and famines of news instead of dribs and drabs — so sorry for the delay on reporting this. And thanks to the dozens of people who sent articles.  Here goes:)

    An American named Christopher Savoie faced a case of child abduction when his Japanese ex-wife Noriko did something that is increasingly coming to light (and has been featured prominently on Debito.org in the past):  abducted their children to Japan.

    Japan has now become truly infamous as a haven for international child abductions, due not only to its non-signatory status vis-a-vis the Hague Treaty on International Child Abductions, but also because its problematic koseki Family Registry system enables one parent sole custody of the kids (and no visitation rights — I know:  I’m divorced, and despite Japanese citizenship, I’ve seen one of my daughters all of *once* over the past close to five years): abduction and lack of contact in Japan happens regardless of nationality, but it’s particularly disadvantageous for NJ because they don’t even have a koseki to put their children on (not to mention the difficulty of conducting an intercontinental custody battle).

    This issue has been brought up numerous times internationally over the years, to a lot of handwringing (and some biased domestic media coverage) on the part of Japan. Consequently, no abducted child to Japan, according to a number of embassies and and the upcoming documentary FROM THE SHADOWS, has EVER been returned. Even though, in Mr Savoie’s case, he was awarded custody of his children by a Tennessee court, and there is an arrest warrant out for his wife in the US.

    So Mr Savoie did something I consider very brave.  He came to Japan and tried to retrieve his children.  He put them in his car and did a runner for the Fukuoka US Consulate.  However, according to online and word-of-mouth sources familiar with this case, the American Consulate would not open the gate for him.  One left-behind father commented to a mailing list thusly:

    It does not surprise me one bit. I met with the U.S. Embassy in Okinawa shortly after my daughter was abducted and I found her there [in Okinawa]. They told me flat out that is what they would do if I tried to bring her [to the Consulate], in spite of the U.S. Warrants for her mother’s arrest and the U.S. Court papers showing that I had full unconditional custody of my daughter.

    I’ve known for quite some time that the USG is quite unhelpful towards its citizens, but this is getting ridiculous.  Especially since the children are also US citizens.

    Mr Savoie was then arrested by Japanese police and charged with kidnapping — a charge that may incarcerate him for up to five years, and his outcome at this writing remains uncertain.

    But it’s about time somebody took a stand like this, if you ask me, since no other channels are working (witness what happened in the very similar Murray Wood Case), and nothing short of this is probably going to draw the attention this situation needs.  Bravo Mr Savoie!

    CNN has been the leader on reporting this case, and anchor Campbell Brown did an excellent report at 10:40 AM JST (I watched it intercontinentally over skype with a friend), with CNN’s legal counsel commenting agape at how Japan’s courts ignore overseas rulings and allow one family to capture the kids after divorce.  They also had an interview with Paul Toland, a commander in the US Navy, who similarly lost his child 6 years ago — and when his ex-wife died two years ago, the Japanese courts awarded custody to his Japanese mother-in-law!  Very, very sobering.

    See that report here:

    Download that report in mp4 format here:
    http://www.debito.org/video/CNN093009.mp4

    Anderson Cooper also took it up, guest-starring Christopher’s current wife Amy Savoie and international lawyer Jeremy Morley:

    NBC’s TODAY Show took this up this morning US time, with special guests Jeremy Morley, FROM THE SHADOWS director Matt Antell, and Amy again (can’t embed, so click):
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/33068613#33086474

    CNNj’s Kyung Lah, however, did some pretty lackluster reporting, where they ended the show with relativities and how Noriko too is legally permitted the kids in Japan.  Aw shucks.  Don’t it just sting when people do these things to each other, don’tcha know?  Why can’t we just all get along?
    http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2009/09/29/lah.japan.custody.case.cnn?iref=videosearch

    Local TV in Nashville, Tennessee did a much better job, reporting surprising negligence on the part of the local judge who granted Noriko the right to leave the country in the first place with the kids, despite advance evidence in writing that Noriko was threatening to abduct them (the judge declined to comment for the report).  Text and TV here:
    http://www.newschannel5.com/global/story.asp?s=11171461

    Finally, some more media courtesy of the assiduous coverage of Mark at the Children’s Rights Network Japan (CRN), your one-stop shopping for all information relating to international child abduction cases involving Japanese.  Recent news stories up at CRN about the issue here.  And just go here for the latest in real time:

    http://www.crnjapan.net/The_Japan_Childrens_Rights_Network/Welcome.html

    The latest: CNN reports the GOJ claiming Savoie is a naturalized Japanese citizen!  See article at very bottom as this story keeps mushrooming…

    Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

    AMERICAN FATHER JAILED FOR TRYING TO RECOVER CHILDREN IN JAPAN

    A Story that CRN Japan reported on just last week has taken a sorry turn!
    http://crnjapan.net/The_Japan_Childrens_Rights_Network/itn-tktenn.html
    http://crnjapan.net/The_Japan_Childrens_Rights_Network/itn-tktenn2.html
    —————————
    http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/09/29/japan.father.abduction/

    TOKYO, Japan (CNN September 29, 2009) — Had this parental abduction drama played out in the United States, Christopher Savoie might be considered a hero — snatching his two little children back from an ex-wife who defied the law and ran off with them.

    A Tennessee court awarded Christopher Savoie custody of his son, Isaac, and daughter, Rebecca.

    But this story unfolds 7,000 miles away in the Japanese city of Fukuoka, where the U.S. legal system holds no sway.

    And here, Savoie sits in jail, charged with the abduction of minors. And his Japanese ex-wife — a fugitive in the United States for taking his children from Tennessee — is considered the victim.

    “Japan is an important partner and friend of the U.S., but on this issue, our points of view differ,” the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said Tuesday. “Our two nations approach divorce and child-rearing differently. Parental child abduction is not considered a crime in Japan.”

    The story begins in Franklin, Tennessee, with the divorce of Savoie from his first wife, Noriko, a Japanese native.

    The ex-wife had agreed to live in Franklin to be close to the children, taking them to Japan for summer vacations.

    But in August — on the first day of classes for 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca — the school called to say they hadn’t arrived.

    Worried, Savoie called his ex-wife’s father in Japan, who told him not to worry.

    “I said, ‘What do you mean — don’t worry? They weren’t at school.’ ‘Oh, don’t worry, they are here,’ ” Savoie recounted the conversation to CNN affiliate WTVF earlier this month. “I said, ‘They are what, they are what, they are in Japan?’ ”

    After the abduction, a court in Williamson County, Tennessee, granted Savoie full custody of the children. And Franklin police issued an arrest warrant for his ex-wife, the television station reported.

    But there was a major hitch: Japan is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on international child abduction.

    The international agreement standardizes laws, but only among participating countries.

    So while Japanese civil law stresses that courts resolve custody issues based on the best interest of the children without regard to the parent’s nationality, foreign parents have had little success in regaining custody.

    Japanese family law follows a tradition of sole custody divorces. When a couple splits, one parent typically makes a complete and lifelong break from the children.

    The International Association for Parent-Child Reunion, formed in Japan this year, claims to know of more than 100 cases of children abducted by noncustodial Japanese parents.

    And the U.S. State Department says it is not aware of a single case in which a child taken from the United States to Japan has been ordered returned by Japanese courts — even when the left-behind parent has a U.S. custody decree.

    Saddled with such statistics and the possibility of never seeing his kids again, Savoie took matters into his own hands.

    He flew to Fukuoka. And as his ex-wife walked the two children to school Monday morning, Savoie drove alongside them.

    He grabbed them, forced them into his car, and drove off, said police in Fukuoka.

    He headed for the U.S. consulate in Fukuoka to try to obtain passports for Isaac and Rebecca.

    But Japanese police, alerted by Savoie’s ex-wife, were waiting.

    Consulate spokeswoman Tracy Taylor said she heard a scuffle outside the doors of the consulate. She ran up and saw a little girl and a man, whom police were trying to talk to.

    Eventually, police took Savoie away, charging him with the abduction of minors — a crime that upon conviction carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

    The consulate met with Savoie on Monday and Tuesday, Taylor said. It has provided him with a list of local lawyers and said it will continue to assist.

    Meanwhile, the international diplomacy continues. During the first official talks between the United States and Japan’s new government, the issue of parental abductions was raised.

    But it is anybody’s guess what happens next to Savoie, who sits in a jail cell.

    ENDS

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

    Father, kids in custody case Japanese citizens, officials say

    http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/09/30/japan.savoie.children/index.html

    TOKYO, Japan (CNN September 30, 2009) — The case of a Tennessee man jailed in Japan for trying to snatch back his children from his estranged wife is not as clear-cut as it’s been made out to be, authorities here said Wednesday.

    The father, Christopher Savoie, apparently became a naturalized Japanese citizen four years ago, listing a permanent address in Tokyo, they said.

    And while he and Noriko Savoie, a Japanese native, divorced in Tennessee, the two never annulled their marriage in Japan, Japanese officials said.

    Also, the two children at the center of the case hold Japanese passports, they said.

    “His chances of getting his children back home to the States, I think, are pretty slim right now,” Jeremy Morley, Savoie’s lawyer in the United States, told CNN’s “AC 360″ on Tuesday night. Watch how dad landed in Japanese jail »

    “We’re getting this in the hands of Interpol. We’re putting the pressure,” he added. “We want diplomatic pressure. We want the United States government to act strongly.”

    Savoie was arrested Monday when he snatched his two children — 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca — as Noriko Savoie was walking them to school in Fukuoka, about 680 miles (1,100 kilometers) southwest of the capital, Tokyo.

    He headed for the U.S. consulate in that city to try to obtain passports for them, authorities said. But Japanese police, alerted by Noriko Savoie, arrested him.

    Japanese authorities said Wednesday that Savoie was eating well and was staying in a jail cell by himself.

    He will be held for 10 days while prosecutors sort out the details of the case. Watch a discussion of U.S.-Japan custody cases »

    “I know he had to go to the hospital for blood pressure issues,” said Amy Savoie, whom Savoie married after divorcing Noriko Savoie in Tennessee in January. “The gentleman from the consulate was able to contact me this morning, and he confirmed that Christopher had gone to the hospital. The first night he needed medication for his high blood pressure.”

    After their Tennessee divorce, Noriko Savoie agreed to live in Franklin, Tennessee, to be close to the children, taking them to Japan for summer vacations.

    In March, Savoie requested a restraining order to prevent his wife from taking the children to Japan, fearing she would not return.

    “I was on a speaker phone telephone call once when she proclaimed to him, ‘You have no idea what I’m capable of,” said Amy Savoie. “So, yes, he had the idea.”

    Noriko Savoie could not be reached by CNN for comment.

    On the day that the two children were to begin school in August, Savoie learned Noriko Savoie had fled with them to Japan.

    After that, Savoie filed for and was granted full custody of the children by a Tennessee court. And Franklin police issued an arrest warrant for Noriko Savoie.

    But Japan is not a party to a 1980 Hague Convention on international child abduction.

    Foreign parents have had little luck in regaining custody, the U.S. State Department said.

    “She has committed a felony, the mother,” Morley said. “It’s a very serious felony. She would go to jail for serious time if she were here.

    “But Japan has a different legal system and a different set of customs and ideas about custody. And their idea is that somebody who is Japanese and the mother should be entitled to have the kids and have the kids alone. The fact that they were living here is kind of irrelevant, and the fact that there’s a court order here is irrelevant.”

    So, Savoie flew to Fukuoka to try to get back his children — and landed himself in jail.

    “These kids are the ones that are suffering,” Morley said. “These kids are without their father, and their father needs to be a part of their life. It’s not fair that he’s been taken away from them.”
    ENDS

    57 Responses to “CNN and NBC TODAY Show: American attempts to recover his abducted kids, is turned away from Fukuoka Consulate, arrested for “kidnapping””

    1. Tornadoes28 Says:

      This story is sickening. I can imagine how this poor father feels as I have two young children as well and the thought of losing them in this manner would be terrifying. I hope that something good comes from this story.

      Jon

    2. Mike Says:

      Dude you can be assured that if a Japanese employee inside the embassy or US base was accused of wrong doing, the USG would be doing back flips, trying to appease them or the Japan government. I know, Ive witnessed it. Ive witnessed criminal activity by non US citizens and the USG powers that be played dumb but if I did the same thing, oh hell no your off to jail. The consulate aint going to help you man. They are here to appease the Japanese. I hear now the embassy is requiring citizens to make an appointment to get a passport, no more walk ins. Better take of them Japanese wanting to study in the US though. You should hear the diplomats speaking that Japanese. I thought the US citizens were priority.

    3. Hoofin Says:

      They don’t say who it was at the Fukuoka U.S. Consulate who wouldn’t let Mr. Savoie in, but their boss in the Japan Foreign Ministry must be very proud of them.

    4. crustpunker Says:

      Sickening.

      Three cheers for Mr. Savoie. His actions will be condemned by many to be sure. His tactics will be called desperate, poorly thought out, criminal and wrong. However to me, the love that this man showed for his children by doing what he did should be evidence enough that Japan’s “laws” regarding custody and parental rights are so juvenile, so utterly flawed and contemptible, so flat out wrong/bordering on evil that a seemingly normal parent like Mr. Savoie believes (rightly so) that he would have a better chance at getting his children back in this manner then through the courts. If in a similar situation, I might be tempted to do something similar.

      I pray that this case will be the impetus for massive international outcry and force those in power to hang their heads in shame.

      Japan wants so much to eat at the big kids table but just does not seem to have the ability to grow up.
      Has this story gained ANY attention at all here in country? Or has it been blacklisted in the media?

    5. darridge Says:

      And don’t forget this is the America that’s taking the moral high ground on the Polanski case. I wonder if they are seeking extradition for the wife seeing as she also has an arrest warrant on her for a very serious charge? It may not get the kids back, but would at least land the mother in jail where she too belongs.

      – I think comparing this with the Polanski Case generates more heat than light.

    6. john Says:

      So how can we send support to this guy? and keep this in the press? on U tube?
      Is there a US politician we can e,mail?
      He is indeed a brave man and maybe that’s what japan needs.More men Or women to do this and put in on the agenda? Civil disobedience, in this case certainly raised the issue.

      – US politician to email: Chris Smith of New Jersey.

    7. Doug Says:

      I have noticed that CNN this morning is quoting Japanese sources that say the father is a naturalised J citizen!?Will be interested to see how this one plays out!

      In spite of the result, bravo for the father for trying to do so and I hope all the publicity will sway public opinion and get the J Government to do someting positive to rectify this.

      Doug

    8. David V Says:

      I went to the Fukuoka consulate recently, before this incident. At the consulate in Fukuoka, at the gate there are two Japanese guard men. Beyond the gate is an airlock-style security room where you go in, get your stuff checked, then go on into the compound. The airlock security guy? An old, very Japanese ji-chan with poor English skills. It must have been shocking and a letdown for Mr Savoie to rush the gates, only to have 3 Japanese staring back at him and not letting him in.

      – Same with Sapporo US Consulate. There are no Marines at the front gate with discretionary powers (like in the movies, cf. Richard Gere in RED CORNER). The J-cops run the front gate.

    9. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Under what grounds did the Japanese arrest Mr. Savoie, given that child abduction is not necessarily a crime in Japan?

      – Kidnapping, they say.

    10. Mark Hunter Says:

      Hi Debito. Thanks very much for updating us on this issue. I just tried emailing Chris Smith and the site requires a 4th district zip code. Any way of getting around this?

      – Find a 4th District zip code?

    11. Justin Says:

      How did the J-cops know not to let him in like anybody else? Did somebody call ahead and tip off the consulate?

    12. MMT Says:

      This story, like so many before it are truly heart-wrenching. I feel for the father and the children. Japan not being a signatory to the Hague Treaty is a huge problem, as are Japan’s antiquated family and divorce laws.

      However, Christopher Savoie seems to have not thought things through very well. It appears that he is a Japanese citizen. It is likely that he entered the country on his Japanese passport. Technically, he’s not supposed to be a dual-citizen, thus he will likely be treated as a Japanese in the eyes of the courts. Even countries that allow dual-citizenship state that while dual-national is staying/living in the other country of nationality, they cannot expect consular help while they are there.

      On the other hand, if he IS in fact, Japanese, (the same as his wife) then this situation creates a rather large, new precident: the police deciding to get involved in a domestic family custody dispute. Normally they don’t; leaving fights over the kids to the family members involved. Normally they don’t throw up police roadblocks over child custody issues.

      Mostly, I feel for the kids, who must be very much hurt and confused. Ripped away from their home in America and their father. Then ripped off the street from the arms of their mother in a father’s desperate attempt to claim them back. Regardless of the intentions of everyone involved (and I include the Japanese government’s family laws), it’s the children who end up being hurt the most.

      – Still awaiting confirmation on his J citizenship from Mr Savoie’s lawyer.

      Still, the question to ask is, are these people US citizens? His kids obviously are, as they were born Stateside. And if Christopher still is a US citizen (which is entirely possible), then all of them are still entitled to the protections of US citizens, including consular access.

    13. Charles Says:

      To Crustpunker:

      While I really don’t recommend ANY person trying to take their kids back in any situation, I have totally sympathy for the father and being one myself and also having a friend that did the same thing.

      All good points. I agree. Around 7 years ago my friend trying to attempt the same thing, but his situation was a bit more dramatic, they could have made a TV movie about it. He did the perfect snatch and take, hired a bunch of Peruvians, Yaks and an Israeli paid them off, arranged 5 rental cars(same make, color etc.)drove by the mom’s house around 4 am. bound, tied up her and her family. 1 got the child, 2 stayed in the house(to give them a 30min. jump start)then left the house, got in the get away cars parted their ways. My friend made it to the airport, met up with a female friend got on the plane, used her American passport and fled to Seoul. Stayed overnight by this time, the mother and her family called the cops, she got an emergency passport and followed. While in Seoul since my friend stayed overnight(which gave the mother time to catch up since there is 1 international flight per day) while in the hotel, he was approached by the J-embassy staff(already knew the info where he was)knocked on the door and told him that he needs to return his daughter, she is a Japanese citizen, basically, he told them to fuck off! Next day as he was standing in line to make his connecting flight to LA while standing in line, the girls mom saw them in the line and of course you can imagine what happened next! She was screaming and crying and going crazy
      Grabbing and tugging on the child. The Korean police came and people were freaking out(9/11 was still fresh on folks mind)they agreed to be quiet, go to the states, find a lawyer and settle it in child court. When they arrived at LAX as soon as the plane docked, over the PA the pilot asked for my friend and his family to walk towards the front exit of the plane. So he was in shock as to what was going on and when he did that, he was greeted by FBI agents. Japan had put him on Interpol. They were going to lock him up for 8 years for kidnapping, but because the mother was on the same flight, it boiled down to a he said, she said kind of thing. While they were at the station, Social workers came, convinced him that the child should stay with the mother. They provided her a public lawyer and told them to show up the next day. You all probably know what I am about to say next….
      She wasn’t going to stick around and wait for a Judge to give her kids joint custody. so she took the Red Eye and went back! Now my former friend is blacklisted from Japan, the family changed their number and so far has heard nothing of his child in 7 years. At the time she was 5 years old. Yes, he was wrong for snatching her here in Japan, but he tried for 3 years to follow the legal channels in Japan, spent money on lawyers, going to courts etc. but nothing worked.
      In these kind of situations, most women know that US, UK, German or any other country that involves children and legal custody issues are not recognized by the Japan courts. I also heard that when women seek counseling that they are advised to bring the child back to avoid any legal backlash, but I don’t know if this is true or not.

      – I’ll approve this, but it would help the story if we had names, dates, etc. to substantiate and corroborate.

    14. Justin Says:

      Answering my own question: I read a news article (CNN) that says his wife called the police and told Mr. Savoie had taken his kids. So the cops were on the lookout for him.

    15. Justin Says:

      From a purely legal perspective, is it kidnapping for a Japanese citizen father (which Mr. Savoie is) to take his kids somewhere? Moreover, he was still legally married to Noriko in Japan, so he couldn’t possibly have been violating some sort of post-divorce custody ruling. How has this man commited any crime, even just in theory?

    16. Justin Says:

      Charles, forgive me, but that story sounds a bit hard to believe. Just for starters, how did the mother know that the father had fled to Seoul, Korea, as opposed to anywhere else in the world? And how did they know what hotel in Seoul he was staying at?

    17. Zurui Says:

      Hi Debito,

      Great post! I added comment and links to your blog via Twitter and BT at http://www.blacktokyo.com/?p=4223

    18. Mark Hunter Says:

      Debito…thanks! (duughhh!)

    19. adamw Says:

      i dont understand why heis being charged with kidnapping..
      hes japanese and also not divorced from his japanese wife in japan..

      as hes divorced in us and remarried then this is going to be a dreadful mess to sort out

    20. ineedadrink Says:

      While we’re waiting final word on his status, what about their marital status? CNN.co.jp reported their divorce was not filed in Japan.

      Lastly, if his naturalization sticks, and indeed they’re still married, this case also becomes a talking point of gross discrimination: “Japanese with slick-talks the cops into nabbing a decidedly non-Japanese looking Japanese citizen. On what grounds? Her word and his looks.”

    21. ineedadrink Says:

      I must ask…is there anything wrong with taking your kids to the US consulate? No. But we all know once the police run a lead on something, (in this case, her word that he’s kidnapping ther kids), they go for confession and conviction. Especially since he’s “NJ” looking.

    22. American attempts to recover his abducted kids, is turned away from Fukuoka Consulate, arrested for “kidnapping” | Nihonde Says:

      […] reports on the tragic case of an American man having his wife abduct his kids to Japan. An American named Christopher Savoie faced a case of child abduction when his Japanese ex-wife […]

    23. The Fukouka U.S. consulate wouldn’t open the gates for Christopher Savoie « Hoofin to You! Says:

      […] Debito is of course on this story as a prominent and topical civil rights matter. Debito’s written about it for years, and hopefully someone in Chris Smith’s office will follow up with him as a resource. […]

    24. iago Says:

      “And if Christopher still is a US citizen (which is entirely possible), then all of them are still entitled to the protections of US citizens, including consular access.”

      Although the US Embassy does indicate it’s more complex in the case of dual citizenship:

      http://tokyo.usembassy.gov/e/acs/tacs-7118.html

      Not that the guys on gate duty at the consulate would be able to make that call…

    25. M&M Says:

      Comment 12&15 – I was thinking the same thing. If he was an American and divorced in Japan I at least understand where the arrest and a charge of kidnapping is coming from.
      The Japanese officials are saying he and the children are Japanese and that the parents are not divorced – it is hard to see what crime he might have commited. I thought perhaps in his understandably passionate state, he may have been arrested on the catch all Obstrucion of Official Duty charge that Debito mentions on this site.

      His situation seems additionally complicated as he divorced and remarried in the U.S. while still married in Japan (which I thought would not be possible).

      Although it sounds all too familiar, it is probably not right at this stage for us to paint the wife entirely in the wrong either – we don’t have enough details. According to the Mainichi article today (notably only in the English edition), they were in Japan from 2001-2008 and went to the U.S. in 2008. A few months on and they are divorced and he has remarried.

      It is a great shame that they couldn’t work it out between themselves and even sadder that there is not a formal mechanism they can rely on to deal with this equitably.

    26. Graham Says:

      Interesting to see how once we find out he naturalized into Japanese citizenship, people all over Japan (at least on the internet) are shouting “He’s Japanese! He’s Japanese!” and demand that this case be treated as a J-vs-J divorce case rather than an international dispute, as opposed to “you may have Japanese citizenship, but you are not truly Japanese in spirit.” I guess everyone likes to pick and choose circumstances based on which is favorable…

    27. Tornadoes28 Says:

      Don’t just email the congressman in New Jersey. You can and should email your own congressman and Senator in your own state. Tell them that the US government should take a stand on this issue for once.

    28. Mumei Says:

      According to CNN:

      “The father, Christopher Savoie, apparently became a naturalized Japanese citizen four years ago, listing a permanent address in Tokyo, they said.”

      Source: “Father, kids in custody case Japanese citizens, officials say”
      http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/09/30/japan.savoie.children/

      Japanese media:
      「福岡で逮捕の米国人父、日本への帰化が判明 弁護士は外交問題と」
      http://www.cnn.co.jp/usa/CNN200909300021.html

    29. Michael Says:

      I know him. Smart passionate guy. But him being Japanese (if it is true) takes it away from being a foreigner got fucked over situation with a rightfully indignant US government, hopefully applying pressure, to someone who has two nationalities which is not supported by Japan. But at the same time, as a Japanese father of Japanese children he can take his kids anywhere he wants including the consulate? Really complicates things. Either way, the kids are probably gone for him. But he may not have committed a crime as it is just a J on J domestic fight? Guess he will get the 23 days and some face saving way to j-government to get him out. But can he be stripped of J-citizenship and banished and no visa to come back and try again someday in court or to visit?

    30. Jerry Says:

      If the current rumors are true (and if the J-cops were running the front gate that is even more problematic) and he and the kids, as US citizens, were turned away at the gates then there is some serious righteous indignation that needs to be tossed at the US State Department.

    31. iago Says:

      I don’t think the Japanese police are running the gate. If it’s like the US or British embassies in Tokyo, the Japanese police are outside; in the case of the US Embassy, it’s a small army. The gate is run by (Japanese) rent-a-cops or embassy employees.

      Interestingly, and a bit of an aside, a couple or so years ago, outside the US Embassy in Tokyo, I saw a car pull up near the gates and a guy jumped out and high-tailed it toward the entrance. The Japanese cops were all over him — he didn’t get close. Within minutes the street was clogged with marked and unmarked police cars and vans. After about a half hour, around twenty Japanese police bundled the guy into the back of a blue van. No idea who he was, what his beef was, or even what his nationality was: could never find anything about it in the news.

    32. GordonM Says:

      Absolutely heart breaking… :(

    33. Eric Says:

      Thank you for this post Mr Debito,
      Others informations for everybody on
      crnjapan.net and frij.net

    34. Kimberly Says:

      The more information comes out about this, the harder it becomes to be as completely sympathetic toward the father as I was this morning. The difference between the English and Japanese (language at least, even within Japan) coverage of this case is astonishing…. but with so many contradicting “facts” coming out now, I’m wondering if my first reaction (and the reaction of many others) wasn’t possibly misinformed?

      Is he a Japanese citizen or not? Were they ever divorced in Japan, and if so was it before or after the US court gave custody to him? Did the Japanese divorce proceeedings (if there were any) give custody to the mother? Were they divorced in January, or three years ago as the Mainichi Japanese article claims? Did the Japanese police catch him before he could make it to the consulate, or did he actually reach the consulate to be turned away?

      There’s just so much conflicting information coming out now that I still feel for this guy…. but kind of want to hear the mother’s side if she’s got one, and don’t know what to think legally speaking anymore.

      – In my view, the issue boils down to this:

      1) The father and his children are US Citizens, and have the right to the consular protections denied them by the Fukuoka US Consulate.

      2) The father and his children have the right to reside together due to US court order.

      3) The father and his children may not be separated via abduction, under international convention against international abduction, as happened in this case.

      4) The mother is in the wrong for abducting, and the children should be returned to him.

      5) How the mother and father want to arrange visitation is between them, but the mother’s behavior has further voided her right to custody of the children.

      These are not US/J citizenship issues. Don’t fall for the red herring the GOJ is throwing at the media.

    35. Mike Says:

      “And if Christopher still is a US citizen (which is entirely possible), then all of them are still entitled to the protections of US citizens, including consular access.”

      Dont count on it. If your a Japanese looking to go study abroad, get in line, they will do backflips for you and treat you like a dignitary. If your a US citizen looking to get a passport or other US citizen support, please dont call, you must make an appointment and if you must call them, you will be charged for it.

    36. Mike Says:

      Also, to add to that-

      If your a US citizen looking for a local hire position at the US Embassy, in almost every cases they require fluent Japanese. We are talking 1 kyu level. Can somebody tell me why a visa assistant would need to be that fluent in Japanese? The back flippist from the HRO will inform us that Oh! dont you know? we have Japanese who come to our window seeking visas to come to the US!! Well from my experience working in Japan, at every company I have worked at it was required of me to be able to speak/comprehend Japanese. If a Japanese is going to live and work in the US, wouldnt it be required of them to speak English??? Why in the hell would a local hire need to have native level fluency to work at the embassy? I aint buying it. Im betting the Japanese are running the HRO and screening who they want.

    37. Hoofin Says:

      Debito, if Savoie obtained a Japanese passport, wasn’t he supposed to tender the U.S. one (like you did) pursuant to Japanese laws?

      America doesn’t have an issue with dual citizens, except in rare cases, but I think the Japanese do. I ran a U.S. federal register search for “Quarterly Publication of Individuals, Who Have Chosen To Expatriate, as Required by Section 6039G” but no Savoie.

      For the readers, a listing is required in the Federal Register primarily to call attention to Americans who give up their citizenship for tax reasons. But the net catches everyone. i think it’s a very personal decision for whatever reason people turn theirs in. I’m not going to flip out otherwise. I’ve met folks who gave it up and do more for Americans than the regular Americans do.

      But it does seem to me, that if Savoie were playing by the rules, he would have given up the U.S. one. I wonder if the Japanese can hold him on that, or kick him out and ban him for some sort of status of residence violation.

      – BTW, was my name on that federal register?

    38. A Man In Japan Says:

      I just got wind of this story. What a horrible and disgusting action this woman has done. I will admit it. I am worried that my wife is going to try this on me. She used to ask me all the time “When do you want to have a baby?” or “When can have a baby?” Seems Japanese women just want to get married to people outside of Japan, just to have “kawaiiiiii baybee”

      IS there anything that can be done before a couple have a baby, to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen? And did you notice what the woman said was the reason for taking them away to Japan? She said that “It’s very HARD to watch the children grow up and loose their Japanese identity” What about their American identity?

    39. Meat67 Says:

      Am I missing something here?

      If Christopher and Noriko are still married in Japan then how can his taking children anywhere be illegal? It just doesn’t make sense. How can you kidnap your own kids unless custody has been awarded to the other parent? If they are still married then the only custody that has been awarded to anyone is the custody awarded in The USA.

      If that is true, then Christopher has broken no laws. Could he then use the fact that his wife is a wanted felon in the US as a reason why he should be awarded custody in Japan too?

      Of course, since he is in jail in Japan and obviously upset, there is no telling what the police will get him to say that can be used against him later.

    40. International divorce: Stop snatching children and taking them overseas (Voices from Japan) « The Baboose Says:

      […] more information on actual cases and details of the problem, please check out this post by Debito here […]

    41. Matt Says:

      I’ve been doing some research this evening, and from what I can make it out, Noriko isn’t actually guilty of child abduction as defined by the Hague Convention.

      The Hague only applies to abductions to countries that are not the children’s “habitual residence,” and these kids lived their entire lives in Japan until June last year. At that time Noriko and the kids went to live with Christopher in Tennessee, but divorce/custody proceedings began almost immediately.

      Under the Hague, therefore, the US would not order the return of the children from Japan because the latter would surely be considered their habitual residence. Similarly, a Japanese court would side with Noriko and say that, under the Hague, Christopher was guilty of child abduction – for attempting to take them to a country that is not their habitual residence.

      Unfortunately, Christopher is not a suitable candidate to be a poster boy for campaigns to get Japan to sign the Hague. According to its provisions, it is he that would be considered the child abductor.

      Japan’s failure to grant and enforce access rights to foreign (and Japanese) parents remains, of course, an issue in this case, and it is this issue that people need to focus on.

      – Yes. Quite. Assuming you have the legal training to define “habitual residence” and can overrule an American judge.

    42. George Says:

      Just to clear things up for people here who wonder why there are Japanese cops around an American consulate, even under normal circumstances. It is because the host nation is required to protect consulates and embassies by international law.

      From the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963

      “Article 31
      Inviolability of the consular premises…

      3.Subject to the provisions of paragraph 2 of this article, the receiving State is under a special
      duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the consular premises against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the consular post or impairment of its dignity.”

      Of course, the roadblocks were there for a different reason in this case, but still, the Japanese police aren’t to blame here. From their point of view someone had kidnapped the children of a Japanese parent with legal custody and was trying to take them out of the country. This is indeed a sad and appalling case. However, the problem is with Japan’s refusal to sign the Hague treaty. The police were just doing their job.

      >There are no Marines at the front gate with discretionary powers (like in the movies, cf. Richard Gere in RED CORNER).

      I would say that the practice of stationing marines inside but still visible to the people on the outside of embassies is a practice that doesn’t usually apply in allied nations, although from memory I think there is a marine behind the entrance gate at the consulate in Naha.

    43. Hoofin Says:

      Supplementary note: court documents apparently indicate that she has been experiencing a lot of trauma during her stay in the US, such as breaking down into tears. She was not happy over there. If so, did she ever want to go over there in the first place?

      http://wtvf.images.worldnow.com/images/incoming/Investigates/SavoieFilings.pdf

    44. Mike Says:

      *Under the Hague, therefore, the US would not order the return of the children from Japan because the latter would surely be considered their habitual residence. Similarly, a Japanese court would side with Noriko and say that, under the Hague, Christopher was guilty of child abduction – for attempting to take them to a country that is not their habitual residence*

      Dude you make no sense. She broke the law in the US, while she was living there. Japan didnt sign the Hague convention and doesnt recongnize it. He was granted custody by the judge in Tenn. She took the kids when she had no custody and left the country. That does not sound like a misdemeanor…

    45. Mike Says:

      *She said that “It’s very HARD to watch the children grow up and loose their Japanese identity” What about their American identity?

      Good point dude. More of that selfish childish b.s. I hear all the time. To be straight, and I told my wife this, if I have kids, I want them to be raised in the US. They will have less issues with their identities over there than they would here. every halfu I have worked with has had some hang ups about it. The japanese drill that bs in the minds. japanese identity? What the hell is that anyway?

    46. Mike Says:

      *i think it’s a very personal decision for whatever reason people turn theirs in. I’m not going to flip out otherwise. I’ve met folks who gave it up and do more for Americans than the regular Americans do.*

      Thats a very good point. I used to judge Debito on what he did, but after I thought about it, how else could you get the GOJ to take you seriously if you werent a resident of this country? If I was out there fighting for us gaijins civil rights, the citizens of Japan would just blow me off, after all Ill be leaving someday. Debito done allot of good work and it sets a precident for years to come.

    47. George Says:

      Yes, David Christopher Aldwinckle.

      http://www.thefederalregister.com/d.p/2002-10-31-02-27736

    48. Chris K Says:

      Debito wrote: “1) The father and his children are US Citizens, and have the right to the consular protections denied them by the Fukuoka US Consulate.”

      Actually, no. I spoke with a nice lady at the US embassy awhile back when I was going through the naturalization process. She stated that when a US citizen holds an additional nationality, the US Embassy will not render extraordinary assistance to that citizen in the citizen’s “other” country.

      The link in Iago’s comment (#24) says this:

      “In cases where a dual national encounters difficulty in a foreign country of which the person is a citizen, the ability of the U.S. Government to provide assistance may be quite limited since many foreign countries may not recognize the dual national’s claim to U.S. Citizenship.”

      … which matches what I was told by the embassy representative.

      I’m not saying that it’s the way that things should be, but that’s the way things are. If Savoie is in fact a Japanese citizen, that is.

      – Is that formalized in law or just policy?

    49. Chris B Says:

      The whole issue is a shambles, the new Japanese governement must make sweeping reforms to the whole area of child custody and visitation rights without delay.

    50. Mike Says:

      *I would say that the practice of stationing marines inside but still visible to the people on the outside of embassies is a practice that doesn’t usually apply in allied nations, although from memory I think there is a marine behind the entrance gate at the consulate in Naha.*

      The Marines are a representative, a symbol so to speak, of the United States. Thats why he just stands there in his dress uniform, usually kahki shirt and blue pants and the Japanese do all of the screening. He is the first thing you see when you enter the Embassy. I believe other embasses do the same, Italian etc. They are also a reactionary force and are capable of doing things I wont post here.

      I havent seen any post on this guys legal status. Is he married to an American? If so, that gives him rights and access to facilities. Akebono, a naturalized Japanese, was seen in the New Sanno many times because his wife is American, he gets access. As far as this guys wife crying and having a pity party about life in the US, welcome to the world of international marriage. Most of us have probally had it tougher than any Japanese would have in the states. Cant have it all one way you know.

    51. Hoofin Says:

      Debito, I don’t think #43 above was me. I had one in there about the Federal Register (per #37)…

      – Sorry Hoofin, don’t know what happened with your post. I pressed “approve” and somehow it disappeared. Please repost? Thanks.

    52. Hoofin Says:

      Debito, it looks like George picked up a similar link in #47.

      I ran just “Savoie” at the Federal Register’s government site, and nothing from 2005 to 2009. That means he–or any ohter Savoie–never turned the U.S. passport in, like I assume Japan would require. This was with a two-year grace period, right?

      When you did it, you followed the Japanese rule. But there must be several more people around Japan who have not.

      In the original post, I mentioned that the notice is placed there officially for tax reasons. The U.S. tax code has it here:

      http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/26/usc_sec_26_00006039—G000-.html

      “§ 6039G. Information on individuals losing United States citizenship”

      But I think one of the Senators or Congressmen meant to establish a bit of a shame badge factor to the thing.

    53. Los extranjeros y el registro familiar en Japón | ¡Un mexicano en Japón! Says:

      […] este “boom” no es algo nuevo, pero se puso de moda nuevamente la semana pasada cuando un estadounidense viajó de su país a Japón porque su ex-esposa se llevó a los niños de E… ¿Resultado? El padre enfrenta cargos por secuestro y podría pasar mínimo 5 años en prisión, […]

    54. Mumei Says:

      Yesterday I read the following minor update on the case:

      「犯罪とは思わなかった」と元夫 実子取り戻し逮捕の米国人

       別れた日本人の妻が米国から連れ帰った子ども2人を福岡県内で取り戻そうとしたとして、未成年者略取の疑いで県警に逮捕された米国人の元夫クリストファー・サボイ容疑者(38)が7日までに、拘置先の柳川署で共同通信の接見に応じた。

       「自分の子どもを連れ帰ろうとしただけで犯罪になるとは思わなかった」と犯意を否定。国際結婚が破局した場合でも両方の親が必ず子どもに会えるシステムを日本でもつくるべきだと訴えた。

       米国では、無断で子供を自国に連れ帰ることを防ぐ「ハーグ条約」に日本が加盟していないことが事件の背景にあるとの見方があり、CNNなど米国の記者が連日、取材に訪れるなど関心が高まっている。しかし柳川署は「日本人でも外国人でも国内での犯行は、日本の法律に基づき調べていくだけ」と粛々と捜査に当たる考えだ。

       接見は6日、15分に限り認められた。サボイ容疑者は堪能な日本語で身ぶり手ぶりを交えて応対。話題が子どもに及ぶと「会えなくて悲しい」と涙を浮かべた。

      http://www.47news.jp/CN/200910/CN2009100701000687.html

      There have been several conflicting accounts, so I really am not sure about certain details. But this article specifically refers to Chris as an American ex-husband (米国人の元夫) in contrast to his Japanese [ex-]wife. It then refers to their relationship as being international marriage (国際結婚). Then the police department makes the following specific statement about investigating national crimes of both Japanese and foreigners (日本人でも外国人でも) based on Japanese law.

      However, other articles indicate that Chris 1) naturalized so is Japanese and 2) that he is still married in Japan. Are these points still not clear? There are complicating factors, but in the end it seems to be a married Japanese father trying to pickup his child. Legally he is no different than the Japanese mother.

    55. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Mumei, both Chris and Noriko are dual nationals. I wonder what Noriko said to the police when she notified them that Chris was attempting to take the kids to the consulate. I’m betting that she refered to herself as (solely) Japanese and to her husband as being American. Were they both Japanese, both foreign, or both dual, I don’t think the police would have responded as quickly and one-sidedly.

    56. adamw Says:

      also i dont understand why the hague convention is so stressed here.
      she broke an american court order which is why she is a fugitive from justice.
      this point has been conveniently whitewashed

    57. Mumei Says:

      Mark in Yayoi,

      That is my understanding as well. However, he is not under arrest for being a dual national. He is under arrest for the abduction of a minor (未成年者略取の疑い). Surely the matter of his, as well as Noriko’s, dual citizenship will be addressed at some point. But at present, in Japan where he is under arrest, he is apparently a married Japanese father with a child. (Similarly Noriko is a married Japanese mother with the same child.) If picking up your own child as a legally married parent is a crime, then many other parents may need to begin worrying. Sure the police can hold him or anyone for up to 23 days, but I do not think that they have any legal basis to charge him for a crime.

      I’m not a lawyer, but that is my interpretation of the situation.

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