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  • Foreign Policy.com on Savoie Case: US Govt advised father Chris to get children to Fukuoka Consulate! Plus lots more media.

    Posted by arudou debito on October 14th, 2009

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    Hi Blog.  I’m through giving opinions on the Savoie Child Abduction Case (see my final word on that here).  However, there is plenty of press coming out related to this, and to the issue of Japan as safe haven for child abductions, that is worth your attention.  We have to be grateful to the Savoie Case for bringing that to light.  Pertinent articles follow (excerpts, then full text):

    Particularly this bit from Foreign Policy.com, courtesy of Matt D:

    Another significant article on the Savoie case:
    The U.S. Japan child-custody spat
    Link:
    http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/10/08/the_us_japan_child_custody_spat
    Here’s something interesting:

    “Even before Savoie traveled to Japan, he contacted the State Department’s Office for Citizen Services to ask for advice on how to get his children out of Japan. State Department officials advised Savoie that because a U.S. court had awarded him sole custody on Aug. 17, he could apply for new passports for the children if he could get them to the Fukuoka consulate.”

    Well, that didn’t happen.

    If true, this exposes a deeper grain of irresponsibility within the USG — advising its citizens one thing, and then washing their hands of it when they do precisely that.

    More on Savoie:

    American father mistreated in Japanese jail, attorney says

    http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/10/12/japan.savoie.custody.battle/index.html

    TOKYO, Japan (CNN) October 13, 2009 — An American father jailed in Tokyo has been harshly treated, his attorney said Monday, while Japanese authorities said he is getting “special” treatment.

    Attorney Jeremy Morley, in a statement released Monday, said Christopher Savoie — accused of trying to kidnap his children after his ex-wife took them to Japan — is being held without trial, interrogated without an attorney present and denied needed medical treatment for high blood pressure.

    Savoie has also been exposed to sleep deprivation, and denied private meetings with attorneys and phone calls to his wife, according to Morley, who said the way his client has been treated amounts to “torture.”…

    Actually, it’s pretty much Standard Operating Procedure for Japanese police interrogations (which would be tantamount to torture in many societies; the UN has criticized Japan precisely for this, see here and here), especially when the police have a suspect who needs medicine they can withhold (see the Valentine Case here).

    And according to the Associated Press, Savoie has just gotten his second round of ten days’ interrogation for the full 23.   The difference is that unlike the Japanese press (which has a very fickle cycle of news, particularly in regards to human rights), the longer the police hold him, the more the foreign press is going to zero in on his plight and explore how nasty and unaccountable the Japanese incarceration and interrogation system is.  Good for exposure, bad for Christopher Savoie.  He’s apparently considering a hunger strike, according to Nashville TN’s Newschannel 5.

    Meanwhile, the Asahi (Oct 9, 2009) reports ex-wife Noriko Savoie complaining to prefectural police that she was “treated like a babysitter” in the US (as opposed to not having any contact whatsoever with your children, perfectly permissible here but generally impermissible there?), and for not getting enough money from her ex-husband in the divorce settlement (hey, three-quarters of a million bucks is far more than what anyone gets after divorces here, even for many celebrities!)

    Kyung Lah on CNN continues reporting on the issue, this time on a different case:

    U.S. divorcee’s Japanese custody heartache

    CNN October 13, 2009

    http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/10/13/japan.us.custody.battles

    …Spencer has severe cerebral palsy and requires constant, 24-hour medical care.

    In Japan, a country that lacks sufficient medical services for disabled children, the only person to care for Spencer is his father. Morrey says his wife left, overwhelmed by the strain of their son’s medical condition.

    That would be pain beyond what most parents could imagine. But Spencer’s mother fled while pregnant with Morrey’s daughter, Amelia. In more than a year, Morrey says he has only seen his daughter four times…

    Morrey, a native of Chicago and a U.S. citizen, was married to a Japanese woman with Brazilian citizenship. They divorced in a Japanese court.

    Under U.S. law, Morrey would likely have joint custody of both children, and Brazil has already recognized him as the joint custodian of the children…

    He is afraid that if he heads home for the U.S. with Spencer without that, he could be subject to international child abduction laws, and he also fears such a move could hurt his chances of getting the Japanese family court to give him joint custody of his daughter.

    Morrey has been forced to quit work to care for Spencer. The financial strain of living off his credit cards is adding to the stress of caring for a disabled child alone in a foreign country…

    This is a much cleaner case, except that somebody could argue that this divorce between an American and a Brazilian of Japanese descent is not a matter concerning Japan and the Hague Treaty.  Even then, the Morrey Case is grinding along in Japan’s Family Court and bankrupting him with the legal limbo.

    Man, I’m glad I’m not a divorce lawyer.  Full text of articles excerpted above follows.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

    The U.S. Japan child-custody spat

    Thu, 10/08/2009 – 12:04pm

    While most recent news and commentary about Japan has understandably been focused on that country’s dramatic election results, the U.S. government has been quietly working on a parental-custody case that has become an irritant in the budding relationship between the new Japanese and American administrations.

    State Department officials in Japan met yesterday with Christopher Savoie, an American citizen whose recent attempt to reassert custody of his children landed him in a Japanese prison under investigation for kidnapping.

    The prospects are not good for Savoie. Local prosecutors in Fukuoka, the western Japanese prefecture where Savoie is being held, are nearing a deadline to decide what charges to bring against the Tennessee native, who traveled to Japan to take back the children his Japanese ex-wife Norikoabsconded with in August. He faces deportation at best, five years in a claustrophobic Japanese prison at worst, and the chances that the Japanese legal system will ever grant him rights to see, much less be a parent to, his 8-year-old son Isaac and 6-year-old daughter Rebecca are slim to none.

    State Department officials have been intimately involved in the Savoie case, even before Savoie traveled to Japan, but their ability to sway local Japanese officials is negligible. They point to Japan’s cultural and legal aversion to cooperating at all on international child-abduction cases, while expressing very cautious hope that the new Japanese government might relax that country’s famously intransigent stance on such issues.

    In interviews with The Cable, three State Department officials detailed the extensive set of interactions between the U.S. government and Savoie and the ongoing efforts to advocate for him and the dozens of other Americans fighting custody battles in Japan.

    Savoie’s communication and coordination with State began shortly after Noriko left for Japan with the children on Aug. 13, never to return. A longtime former resident of Japan, he knew what he what was up against and tried to plan a trip to Japan and then return to the United States with the children.

    Even before Savoie traveled to Japan, he contacted the State Department’s Office for Citizen Services to ask for advice on how to get his children out of Japan. State Department officials advised Savoie that because a U.S. court had awarded him sole custody on Aug. 17, he could apply for new passports for the children if he could get them to the Fukuoka consulate.

    On Sept. 28, Savoie drove alongside his ex-wife and children while they were walking to school, forced the children into his car, and headed for the consulate. By the time he got there, his wife had alerted the local police, who arrested him on the spot and placed him under investigation for “kidnapping minors by force,” according to the officials.

    U.S. consular officials met with Savoie the next day, gave him legal advice, and passed some messages back to his family in the States. Since then, State Department officials have brought up the Savoie case “at the highest levels” of their interactions with Japanese officials, including between the embassy in Tokyo and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, officials said, but to no avail.

    In addition to working with Savoie’s Japanese and American lawyers, consular officials also approached Savoie’s ex-wife after yesterday’s meeting and asked for permission to visit the children to check on their welfare. She declined. The embassy plans to ask the Tokyo government to compel her to make the children available, officials said.

    Multiple units within the State Department have some activity ongoing in the Savoie case, including the Office of Children’s Issues, the section of the Office of Citizen’s Services that overseas Asia cases, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the consulate in Fukuoka, and even the East Asian and Pacific Bureau in Washington.

    But since Japan is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which would have given jurisdiction to the American court system, there is little the U.S. government can do.

    “Japan stands alone as the only G-7 country that is not a signatory to the convention,” said one official, adding that even if the country had signed it, local laws in Japan would still have to be altered to allow implementation.

    There are 82 outstanding child abduction cases in Japan, and U.S. officials are constantly trying to press the Japanese to change their approach. “Every time there is a meeting the issues get raised,” one official said.

    U.S. Amb. John Roos told reporters last week, “This is an important disagreement between our two countries.”

    But the State Department has said it is not aware of any case where the Japanese courts have returned a child abducted to Japan to the United States. And besides, Japanese cultural and legal norms often result in custody being assigned to one parent only, usually the mother.

    But State Department officials point to an interview new Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama gave in July, where he said he supports signing the convention and giving fathers visitation rights.

    “That issue affects not just foreign national fathers, but Japanese fathers as well. I believe in this change,” Hatoyama said.

    Back in Washington, New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith has called onHatoyama to follow through with this promise. Supporters of Savoy staged asmall protest at the Japanese Embassy in Washington on Monday.

    The view from Foggy Bottom is one of very guarded optimism.

    “We have received communications from the Japanese government through the embassy in Washington that they are seriously looking at it … we are very hopeful,” one official said, adding, “At this point it’s wait and see.”

    ENDS

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

    http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/10/12/japan.savoie.custody.battle/index.html

    Christopher Savoie is in jail in Japan after trying to get back his son, Isaac, and daughter, Rebecca.

    Christopher Savoie is in jail in Japan after trying to get back his son, Isaac, and daughter, Rebecca.

    TOKYO, Japan (CNN) — An American father jailed in Tokyo has been harshly treated in the Japanese prison system, his attorney said Monday

    Attorney Jeremy Morley, in a statement released Monday, said Christopher Savoie — accused of trying to kidnap his children after his ex-wife took them to Japan — is being held without trial, interrogated without an attorney present and denied needed medical treatment for high blood pressure.

    Savoie has also been exposed to sleep deprivation, and denied private meetings with attorneys and phone calls to his wife, according to Morley, who said the way his client has been treated amounts to “torture.” He acknowledged that some of the claims are based on second-hand information from Savoie’s wife, Amy, saying she has communicated with people familiar with her husband’s case.

    Japanese officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

    Savoie, 38, a Tennessee native and naturalized Japanese citizen, allegedly abducted his two children — 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca — as his ex-wife walked them to school on September 28 in a rural town in southern Japan.

    With the children, Savoie headed for the nearest U.S. consulate, in the city of Fukuoka, to try to obtain passports for them. Screaming at guards to let him in the compound, Savoie was steps away from the front gate but still standing on Japanese soil when he was arrested.

    Savoie and his first wife, Noriko Savoie, were married for 14 years before their bitter divorce in January. The couple, both citizens of the United States and Japan, lived in Japan, but had moved to the United States before the divorce.

    Noriko Savoie was given custody of the children and agreed to remain in the United States. Christopher Savoie had visitation rights. During the summer, she fled with the children to Japan, according to court documents. A U.S. court then granted Christopher Savoie sole custody.

    Japanese law, however, recognizes Noriko Savoie as the primary custodian, regardless of the U.S. court order. The law there also follows a tradition of sole-custody divorces. When a couple splits, one parent typically makes a complete and life-long break from the children.

    Complicating the matter further is the fact that the couple is still considered married in Japan because they never divorced there, police said Wednesday. And, Japanese authorities say, the children are Japanese and have Japanese passports.
    ENDS
    =======================================

    http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/10/13/japan.us.custody.battles

    By Kyung Lah
    CNN
    Decrease font
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    U.S. divorcee’s Japanese custody heartache

    OKAZAKI, Japan (CNN) — At Spencer Morrey’s home, there are two constant sounds: His dad, Craig, murmuring, “You’re okay, Spence. You’re okay, buddy,” and the sound of a machine clearing the toddler’s airway.

    Both sounds come every few minutes, in between hugs, tears and kisses.

    Spencer has severe cerebral palsy and requires constant, 24-hour medical care.

    In Japan, a country that lacks sufficient medical services for disabled children, the only person to care for Spencer is his father. Morrey says his wife left, overwhelmed by the strain of their son’s medical condition.

    That would be pain beyond what most parents could imagine. But Spencer’s mother fled while pregnant with Morrey’s daughter, Amelia. In more than a year, Morrey says he has only seen his daughter four times.

    “She wouldn’t recognize me,” Morrey said, with Spencer propped on his lap. “She wouldn’t call me daddy. She’s just starting to talk now. But she’s not going to know who I am. I think she deserves my love. And I think she deserves to be with Spencer and Spencer deserves to be with her.”

    Morrey, a native of Chicago and a U.S. citizen, was married to a Japanese woman with Brazilian citizenship. They divorced in a Japanese court.

    Under U.S. law, Morrey would likely have joint custody of both children, and Brazil has already recognized him as the joint custodian of the children. What do you think about Spencer’s case? Have your say

    But in Japan, where only one parent gets custody of a child in a divorce, the family courts have left the case in legal limbo for a year because they have not decided which parent legally has custody of the children. Typically, the parent with physical custody of a child retains custody.

    Morrey has stayed in Japan the last year, trying to get the courts to recognize that he has joint custody of the children in Brazil (he has not yet applied for such custody under U.S. law).

    He is afraid that if he heads home for the U.S. with Spencer without that, he could be subject to international child abduction laws, and he also fears such a move could hurt his chances of getting the Japanese family court to give him joint custody of his daughter.

    Morrey has been forced to quit work to care for Spencer. The financial strain of living off his credit cards is adding to the stress of caring for a disabled child alone in a foreign country.

    Despite his pleading with court mediators and repeated court filings claiming that joint custody is the law in both the U.S. and Brazil, Japan’s slow and antiquated family courts have let the case languish.

    “Kids need both parents,” Morrey said. “Whether the parents are married or not is irrelevant in my mind. The Japanese courts, and I realize you’re going against years and years of cultural differences and everything else, but they don’t care about the welfare of the child.

    “In Japan, it’s considered too messy. It’s too complicated. It deals with personal feelings so they don’t want to deal with it. So the best way is to not deal with it.”

    CNN contacted Morrey’s ex-wife four times by telephone and once by fax. She declined to discuss the case.

    The International Association for Parent and Child Reunion believes there are an estimated 100 American families in situations like Morrey’s in Japan and dozens involving those from Britain, France and Canada.

    One of those cases is that of American Christopher Savoie.

    Savoie, 38, a Tennessee native and naturalized Japanese citizen, was arrested on September 28 in Yanagawa, Japan, for attempting to abduct his two children, eight-year-old Isaac and six-year-old Rebecca.

    Savoie drove his children to the nearest U.S. consulate in the city of Fukuoka to try and obtain passports for them.

    Steps away from the front of the consulate, Japanese police arrested him. Savoie is now in jail, awaiting a decision by prosecutors on a possible indictment.

    Savoie and his first wife, Noriko Savoie, were married for 14 years before their bitter divorce in January. According to court documents, she fled with the children to Japan in the summer. A U.S. court then gave Christopher Savoie sole custody of the children.

    But Japanese law recognizes Noriko Savoie as the sole custodian, despite the U.S. order.

    “It’s like a black hole,” Morrey said. “If you go through a divorce, there’s this joke. If you have an international marriage with a Japanese, don’t piss them off because you’ll never see your kids again.”

    Not seeing his daughter Amelia again is what is keeping Morrey in Japan. He has been selling off everything he owns, trying to keep himself and Spencer afloat, hoping the Japanese court will bring him some legal connection to his child. He is stuck choosing between caring for his son, who needs the better resources of the U.S., and hoping to be a father to his daughter.

    “How do you make that choice? It’s not — once you’re a dad, you’re always a dad.”

    ENDS
    ================================

    Custody extended for US man for snatching own kids

    By MARI YAMAGUCHI (AP) – October 10, 2009

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i1wNIMvNzJOj4tJ3S-nfVaZ6lCGAD9B7NH1O7

    TOKYO — Japanese police said Friday that they are keeping an American man in custody for 10 more days before authorities decide whether to press charges against him for snatching his children from his ex-wife.

    Christopher Savoie, of Franklin, Tenn., was arrested Sept. 28 after allegedly grabbing his two children, ages 8 and 6, from his Japanese ex-wife as they walked to school. He will remain held in city of Yanagawa where he was arrested, on the southern island of Kyushu, police official Kiyonori Tanaka said.

    Savoie’s Japanese lawyer, Tadashi Yoshino, was not immediately available for comment.

    “Obviously it’s a huge disappointment,” Savoie’s current wife, Amy Savoie, told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “It’s a court system over there unlike what we have here, there’s no due process at all.”

    Amy Savoie, who remains in Tennessee, said she considers the extra jail time to be a delay tactic on the part of Japanese authorities.

    “They enable the children to reside with the Japanese native as long as possible, so they can say ‘Well, the children are here now and they have adjusted, so it would be disruptive to return them,’” she said. “So this is a delay tactic in order to keep the children in that country.”

    The case is among a growing number of international custody disputes in Japan, which allows only one parent to be a custodian — almost always the mother. That leaves many divorced fathers without access to their children until they are grown up.

    That stance has begun to raise concern abroad, following a recent spate of incidents involving Japanese mothers bringing their children back to their native land and refusing to let their foreign ex-husbands visit them.

    The United States, Canada, Britain and France have urged Japan to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. The convention, signed by 80 countries, seeks to ensure that custody decisions are made by the appropriate courts and that the rights of access of both parents are protected.

    Tokyo has argued that signing the convention may not protect Japanese women and their children from abusive foreign husbands, but this week Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said officials were reviewing the matter.

    Tanaka said that Savoie’s Japanese ex-wife, Noriko Savoie, is staying with her Japanese parents in Yanagawa with the children, but they have refused to talk to the media.

    The family lived in Japan beginning in 2001 and moved to the U.S. in 2008. The couple was divorced in Tennessee in January 2009. In August, Noriko secretly brought the children to Japan.

    Savoie could face up to five years in prison if convicted of the crime of kidnapping minors. Tanaka said Savoie has told investigators that he was aware what he did was in violation to Japanese law.

    U.S. Consulate spokeswoman Tracy Taylor said Thursday that American officials have visited Savoie regularly since his arrest, and that he appeared “OK physically.”

    Amy Savoie said she’s only been able to communicate with her husband through letters and U.S. consular officials, but that she has resisted the urge to go to Japan.

    “I’ve thought about going, but I think right now I can do more good here,” she said. “The story is not just about Christopher. There are other families contacting me stating that Japan has treated them horrifically, too.”

    Associated Press Writer Erik Schelzig contributed to this report from Nashville, Tenn.

    ENDS

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

    米から子どもと帰国の元妻「ベビーシッター扱い受けた」

    朝日新聞 2009年10月9日3時16分

    http://www.asahi.com/national/update/1009/SEB200910080034.html

    日本人の元妻が米国から連れ帰った2人の子どもを無理やり連れ去ったとして、米国人の男が福岡県警に逮捕された事件で、元妻が県警の調べに「(男に)ベビーシッターのような扱いを受けた」などと話していることが、捜査関係者への取材でわかった。一方、米国では、子どもを勝手に日本に連れ帰った元妻に対する批判が強い。逮捕された男も取材に対し、「親が自分の子に会うことに刑法がかかわるのは違和感がある」などと正当性を主張。お互いに譲らない。

    捜査関係者によると、元妻は離婚や子どもと帰国した経緯を説明する中で、男の態度に不満があったという趣旨の話をしているという。「離婚後の財産分与でも財産を隠された」とも話しているらしい。

    一方、逮捕された男は8日、柳川署で朝日新聞記者との接見に応じ、「元妻が連れ去った自分の子どもを連れ帰ろうとした。その因果関係がなければ僕はここにはいない」と述べた。今年1月の離婚後、子どもは元妻と一緒に米国の男の自宅近くで住むことで合意していた点について「元妻は自分の意思で(子どもと米国に住むことを)決めたはず。決めた通りに戻してほしい」とも語った。

    関係者らによると、夫婦は95年に米国で結婚。その後、日本での生活を経て、男は日本国籍を取得したが、08年6月に家族で渡米。離婚後、男は別の女性と再婚。元妻が8月に子どもと帰国し、男は9月、福岡県柳川市内で登校中の子ども2人を連れ去ったとして未成年者略取容疑で逮捕された。(小浦雅和、小林豪)

    ENDS

    25 Responses to “Foreign Policy.com on Savoie Case: US Govt advised father Chris to get children to Fukuoka Consulate! Plus lots more media.”

    1. American Dad in Japan Jail Backwash « Hoofin to You! Says:

      [...] Comment I’m done with the he-said-she-said about this case. But I happened to find out from Debito’s website that there is a lot of discussion about it in diplomatic-oriented [...]

    2. level3 Says:

      A point hasn’t been made clear in any of the articles I’ve seen, but is it safe to assume that the consulate door guards are Japanese? Or actual Japanese police?

      It’s not a case of a US Marine Embassy Guard standing in Savoie’s way while he pleads to enter the consulate, but of Japanese guards loyal to Japan denying him passage onto “US soil” because either they are following inflexible rules, or just naturally assume a white gaijin tugging along Japanese-looking-ish kids can’t be trusted?

      Time to replace the guards in all US consulates, I think.
      With armed US Marines.
      A small but strong gesture.

      – I’ve said this before in this space, but I know for a fact that if you’re trying to get into the US Consulate Sapporo, the first people you’ll be dealing with will be Japanese police (with batons and/or riot shields courtesy of the NPA depending on the state of alert). There is no American Marine etc. standing guard there. Never has been. I strongly doubt Fukuoka is much different.

    3. Jerry Says:

      The first article points out my biggest problem with the whole thing, you had a US Citizen(s) trying to get into a US consulate who was not allowed in.

      If they advised him to go there I hope he has the name of whomever he spoke with – although most likely it wasn’t phrased as “my ex-wife took my kids to Japan, I’m going to grab my kids and make a break for it” it was more likely phrased as I’m having a custody dispute and my ex-wife won’t sign the paperwork for new passports, I have sole custody how do I get the kid’s US Passports so we can leave Japan”.

      But what I am still waiting for is information on why they refused to let him in. That seems like a cut and dry problem – if he was wanted for a “crime” then they could turn him over to the Japanese authorities, but as a US Citizen he should have been allowed in rather than stopped at the gate.

      – We don’t know. And the consulate ain’t talkin’.

    4. Justin Says:

      Same thing at the U.S. embassy in Tokyo. You have to pass through a separate guard station manned exclusively by Japanese before you even get to walk to the embassy building.

    5. Charles Says:

      #2 Level3 and Debito

      Since I live in Fukuoka, I can assure you that there are NO American police/military guards overseeing the Embassy. When I go there, I always see from the entrance to even “most” of the staff are Japanese.
      Funny, but in Los Angeles, if you go to the Japanese Embassy, you will not see any NJ working there.
      Something really needs to change, because whether we debate over Savoie’s action were right or wrong or how complicated their private lives are, one thing is for sure. “Light is the best disinfectant”
      for this case and if nothing changes in the nearest future, these kind of scenarios will play out again and again. Seems like this time there is overwhelming pressure on Japan to update their laws and to hopefully and ultimately sign the Hauge Convention on International Child Abduction.
      From my own experience as a child of divorced parents, divorce and being abducted can leave irreparable scars. Adults will be will always do what they see fit for their lives or circumstances. We need to worry and put more emphasis on the children and how they feel. They are humans too and their hearts as well as their feelings always need to be taken into consideration.

    6. Scott Says:

      At the Canadian Embassy in Manila, there are only Filipino guards.

      At the Canadian embassy in Cambodia, there are only Cambodian guards.

      Most embassies around the world do not employ native citizens as security guards out front. This is common practice around the globe, especially for bigger embassies.

    7. Frodis Says:

      It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that they should find Japanese police providing security around embassies, consulates, and homes of consular officials. By tradition, it is always the local country that is responsible for security at such installations. Inside the grounds, however, security is the domain of the individual home country. This is the same the world over. Embassies should not be treated like a home-free place for nationals to run (movies don’t count) when they have broken a local law no matter how we may choose to view said laws. Individuals are governed by the law of the land they are in and it sets a bad precedent were people to be encouraged to flee in order to expect a more beneficial outcome or a perceived safety from local prosecution — with certain exceptions notwithstanding. An embassy is not there to play arbiter of civil law.

      The more I read of this Savoie case, the more sympathetic I am to the wife’s case. As details keep coming out, it becomes more evident to me that the American judge may have erred in his original judgement that the children should be forced to remain in America — although the waters have become terribly muddied with all the issues involved. This “he said/she said” is painting them both in an unfavorable light. I get a feeling that he was trying to manipulate his wife and kids as to be advantageous to him and she just did him one better. My feelings on the larger issue of child abduction and family law in Japan aside, I am tending to be much more sympathetic to the wife than I thought I was going to be when this story first broke.

      Although this case is perhaps raising some valuable light on the greater issues, I think it is a terrible one to put forth as a representative sample.

    8. ningen Says:

      Strictly speaking, the Asahi article quotes the police as saying that the mother said that assets were hidden from her by the father during post-divorce property division. That is not necessarily the same as complaining that she did not get more money.

      – I think it is.

    9. Jerry Says:

      Charles, I don’t know about LA but at the Japanese consulate in Seattle the gentleman who greeted me the 2 times I visited might be a Japanese citizen (I didn’t ask) but he’s definitely not going to be mistaken for a “native” in terms of his appearance or his accent. And there is no shortage of Japanese ex-pats and their families in the area. That being said there was absolutely no security either time I visited.

    10. InJM Says:

      I think it’s kind of ironic to complain about being treated like a baby sitter when she probably gives the kids to a day care center or leaves them with their grandparents while she works. I know there’s no proof of this but given what single parents have to do to make a living, I think it’s likely. This is a big terrible, convoluted mess anyways.

    11. Marc Says:

      In French embassy in Tokyo,it’s same,there is no French guards and to go inside embassy you have to be checked by Japaneses first
      In Japanese embassy in Paris ,everybody are Japanese,no French guard at the entrance.

    12. MD Says:

      Anyone knows if the new DPJ leadership is favorable to adhering to the child abduction treaty and/or modify the laws?

    13. Mumei Says:

      MD:

      Regarding the Hague, please read the following interview with Hatoyama:
      http://japantherald.blogspot.com/2009/07/yukio-hatoyama-interview.html

      If even a fraction of it actually happens, then we will have a lot to look forward to.

    14. Jerry Says:

      An interesting thought. While the US Consulate is an arm of the US Embassy is it US soil? I’m pretty sure it isn’t. Perhaps it would have been different if he’d headed to the embassy in Tokyo but even if he’d gotten into the consulate it is possible the Japanese police could have entered to arrest him (although unlikely since that would have caused a serious international incident)…

      And perhaps a warning to anyone else thinking of trying such an action. That and don’t go to the closest consulate…

    15. Doug Says:

      Or don’t get divorced in the first place. When things were going badly here in the US, she matter-of-factly told me she of course was going to take the kids to Japan and bye-bye. I knew it’d be futile so here I am years later still married, but I still get to see the kids so that’s good, right?

      – Deterrence (or ersatz Mutual Assured Destruction) is one way to keep a marriage intact, I guess.

    16. MD Says:

      Interesting Mumei, thx

      Though I think it’s probably too easy to just blame every problem on the LDP. I guess the legal status quo is always extremely difficult to change, sadly

    17. Joseph Says:

      Hello,

      This is a very confusing case due to all of the “facts” that are flying around. I have read everything that I can find, including the court transcripts (http://wtvf.images.worldnow.com/images/incoming/Investigates/savoie1.pdf and http://wtvf.images.worldnow.com/images/incoming/Investigates/savoie2.pdf) and I’m wondering whether anyone can add to any of this:

      It has been reported that Noriko has either US citizenship or US permanent residency status. Some have suggested that this is false because she only just came here this year, and could not have gotten either in such a short amount of time. However, in the transcripts I mentioned above, Noriko states that she and Christopher have known each other for 18 years, and have been married for 14 years (See page 79 http://wtvf.images.worldnow.com/images/incoming/Investigates/savoie2.pdf).

      This would mean that they met sometime in or around 1991, and married sometime in or around 1995. From reading around, it seems that they had lived in Japan from 2001 through 2008. That would mean that they met outside of Japan? This seems to corroborate the information relayed on this message board by Amy Savoie (http://www.topix.net/forum/source/wtvf/T40LV9OOMRME6BAHB/p2) Specifically, she stated that Noriko had been working in Silicon Valley, and that Isaac was born at Stanford University, in California. This suggests that the claims of Noriko’s US citizenship / permanet residency status might have some truth after all.

      Combining those dates, with the other significant dates, allows one to contruct a possible timeline:

      - 1991: Noriko and Christopher met in California, where Noriko was working? (Partial Speculation)
      - 1996: Noriko and Christopher were married in California? (Partial Speculation)
      - 2001: Issac was born at Stanford University, in California? (Partial Speculation)
      - 2001: Noriko, Christopher, and Issac moved to Japan after Issac’s birth (Confirmed)
      - 2003: Rebecca is born in Japan (Confirmed)
      - 2005: Noriko and Christopher were separated. (Confirmed)
      - 2005-2008?: Noriko asks for a divorce in Japan (Confirmed)
      - January 2009: Noriko comes to Tennessee for the divorce (Confirmed)
      - September 2009: Noriko takes children, and returns to Japan (Confirmed)

      I will state outright that this timeline is partial speculation, but it fits the facts, and it does seem to paint a somewhat more sympathetic picture of Christopher.

      He meets a Japanese woman in California in 1991. They are married, in California, in 1996. Their first child, Isaac, is born at Stanford University, in California, in 2001. Shortly after Issac’s birth, Noriko convinces Christopher to move to Japan. What the reasoning for that move was, only those two can know for sure, but knowing what I know of Japanese families (I am married to a Japanese national. My wife’s sister is a happily married Japanese woman, married to a Japanese man, and she and the children spend 75% of their time at her mother’s house. This is common over there), I am going to assume the reason was so that she could have lots of help raising Isaac (and eventually Rebecca) from her mother and extended family. Again, whatever the reason, the three of them move to Japan. Rebecca is born there three years later. Sometime between Rebecca’s birth and 2005, things fall apart, and he and Noriko are separated.

      Once again, the reasons for the divorce are known only to Noriko and Christopher. People can speculate that it was because of Amy, but we do not yet know if the relationship with Amy started before or after the separation. Additionally, I have also read speculation or accusations that it was becasue Christopher was abusive, but the facts do not support this. Noriko was divorced here, and had her day in court. If he was abusive, she easily could have brought that up, received sole custody of the children, alimony, and carte blanche to return to Japan with the children permanently. She made no such claims, and Christopher was awared substantial visitation rights.

      Either way, during this separation, Noriko asks Christopher for a divorce in Japan. Christopher knows that if he divorces in Japan, he will, with almost absolute certainty, have no contact whatsoever with his children, and refuses. He then talks Noriko into coming to Tennessee for the divorce, where he will receive the visitation rights he would never get in a Japanese court, and where she would recieve a large monetary settlement that she would never receive in a Japanese court.

      She accepts this arrangement, comes to the US specifically for the divorce, and receives: (1) $800,000 in a lump sum; (2) $30,000 in an account for Isaac; (3) $30,000 in an account for Rebecca; (4) an unspecified (in the transcript) amount money for Noriko’s education; (5) unspecified (in the transcript) monthly alimony payments; (6) primary custody of the children (7) The right to take the children to Japan for 6 weeks every summer, with Christopher paying for all airfare (please see page 95-96 http://wtvf.images.worldnow.com/images/incoming/Investigates/savoie2.pdf)

      While staying here, the two of them continuously spar via email, culminating in an email from Noriko in which she basically threatens to take the children to Japan, and cut off all contact with him. This causes Christopher to file for a restraining order preventing Noriko from taking the Children to Japan for the six week vacation awarded in the marriage dissolution agreement, out of fear that she will not return, and that he will never see his children again.

      It is at that hearing (again, the transcripts can be found at http://wtvf.images.worldnow.com/images/incoming/Investigates/savoie1.pdf and http://wtvf.images.worldnow.com/images/incoming/Investigates/savoie2.pdf), that Noriko repeatedly lies to the court:

      Pg 77————————————————————–

      Q: And do you think it’s important for the children to visit their father?

      A: Yes, of course.

      Q: Do you have plans to move permanently to Japan since we signed the – since you signed the permanent parenting plan and the final decree was enacted?

      A. No, I haven’t.

      PG 88————————————————————–

      Q. Ms. Savoie, you know that one of Dr. Savoie’s biggest fears is that you will take the children to Japan, and he will never see them again –

      A. Right

      Q. — you know that correct?

      A. Yes, I do.

      Q. And he’s expressed that to you many, many times?

      A. Yes, he did.

      Q. But even knowing that, you put in writing to him, february 12th that “it is very hard to watch the kids become American and losing their Japanese identity. I have tremendous fear for my children and myself. I’m overwhelmed without a problem. Therefore, please cooperate with me in order for us to stay here”?

      A. Correct.

      Q. The only way I can read that is that was a threat to him; that if you don’t do what I want you to do, I’m going to take your children away and you will never see them again. You understand the fear?

      A. I do understand his fear, however –

      Q. Well, what can you do today to alleviate that fear; what can you do, what can you say to Judge Martin, what can you say to their father that assures us that when you get to Japan –

      A. Yes

      Q. — you will not let your parents and your friends and your — as you said, all the people that came to the airport, influence you to just stay there, what assurance do we have?

      A. Yes, actually that’s why I brought this here. First of all, I have never thought about taking children away from their father, never. And — but based on that –

      Q. Well, let me ask you this — and I’ll ask the questions, if you would — do you have plans to take your children and move to Japan?

      A. No, I don’t.

      Q. And are your plans to take the children for a vacation and return home?

      A. Return home means –

      Q. To Tennessee.

      A. Yes.

      p 100————————————————————–

      Q How can we know that when you go, that you won’t let your family persuade you to stay there;

      A. Because I won’t; I mean, because I won’t stay there.
      ———————————————————————

      In the end, it is that lying, and that dishonesty, that I have a real problem with. That, and the fact that the Japanese courts, with regards to this sort of thing, are a complete and total mess.

      In Japan, sole custody is awarded to one parent, and one parent only. This means that if there is a messy divorce, as it appears to be in this case, and the mother doesn’t want to allow the father to see his children, there is nothing that can be done. Peroid. Christopher was obviously well aware of this, and knew that if he wanted to have any access to his children, he needed to have his divorce here.

      Noriko, with full knowledge of Amy, came here specifically for the purpose of getting that divorce – she was not “tricked” into it. She came here, she had her day in court, she received a large financial settlement, she repeatedly assured the court that she had no intention of removing the father from his childrens’ lives, and then she went ahead and did just that. She took the children away, took the money, and now she happily spends her days walking the children to and from school, while he spends his being interrogated in jail. He sits there knowing that, as the Japanese courts always favor the Japanese parent in these cases, he will in all likelyhood never see his children again.

      – Wow. You should quit the day job and become a reporter. Or a sleuth. Thanks for this.

    18. Doug Says:

      Based on Japan’s stance for one parent custody and previous history in not following other countries custody laws, the US court should not allow custody to the Japanese parent at all. All those questions, “do you plan” are irrelevant because she can just say she changed her mind.

      Being married to a Japanese national in the US, I can vouch for the fact that my wife would do the exact same thing through deception etc to get those kids back to Japan no matter what if a divorce were to happen. This rings very true to me.

    19. Joseph Says:

      Debito,

      I have been checking things out on another forum, and have been corrected. It is being incorrectly reported that he was in Japan starting from 2001-2008. It is incorrect. He was there at Kyuushuu University around 1995.

      This seems to be one of the worst things about this case. The US media is doing a VERY poor job of getting the facts together.

    20. Sasuke Says:

      Here is some additional information regarding Chris Savoie. Chris Savoie studied Immunology in graduate school at Kyushu University in Fukuoka Japan in the latter half of the 90′s. He obtained a PhD, although I’m not certain if it was at Kyushu Univerity. While he was a graduate student at Kyushu University he did some work as an English conversation teacher at a school on Fukuoka, which is where I became aquainted with him. I met Chris and his ex wife together in Fukuoka on one social occasion, so I can confidently attest that Chris and Noriko were living in Fukuoka Japan in the 90′s.

      Due to his prior stay in Fukuoka as a graduate student Chris would have been familiar with the location of the US Consulate in Fukuoka, which is in affluent residential area next to the most famous park in the city. There is a mini police station in this park (Ohori Park) right across the street from the US Consulate, a police guard in front of the US Consulate itself , and various police guards standing on the streets in the vicinty of the US Consulate. Chris would have know that getting through this police protection and into the Consulate itself would be extremely difficult. His heading to the Consulate indicates that he expected his ex wife Noriko to alert the police, and the location where he took his children from Noriko is easliy more than an hour by car distant from the Consulate.

      It would be interesting to find out whether or not Chris had consulted with the US Consulate in Fukuoka prior to taking his children from his ex wife in Yanagawa City. Chris is obviously an intelligent person and so I have to assume that he did. He must have been aware then that admission to the Conuslate is by appointment only, so his going there would indicate prior knowledge on the part of the authorities at the Consulate. On the other hand, the stress of losing his children may have led him to chance it without consulting the Consulate beforehand.

    21. Paul Says:

      The CNN banner says: Japanese authorities drop all charges and free from jail American accused of snatching back his children from ex-wife.

      http://edition.cnn.com/WORLD/

    22. Lance Says:

      *Funny, but in Los Angeles, if you go to the Japanese Embassy, you will not see any NJ working there.

      Yes it is a funny thing, but the same thing goes on in the US embassy in Tokyo. Most of the FNs (foriegn nationals) that work there are Japanese. Check out these jobs here, they all require fluent Japanese:

      http://japan.usembassy.gov/e/info/tinfo-jobs.html

      These people are paid by US tax dollars. Now the Japanese will argue that in Los Angeles, only Japanese need work there because the embassy is their for the Japanese national. Somebody tell my why the majority of the staff at the US embassy are Japanese? Who are we looking out for?

    23. Johnny Says:

      I would say that a lot of the Japanese working at the LA consulate would be people hired locally.

      Certainly that’s what I found in NZ, and they did also have a couple of NZ nationals working there as well from what I could see.

      It’s simply a budgetary thing, sending people over from America to Japan means housing to be paid for, business class flights, international school fees to be paid for etc. etc. Obviously for some positions, they need a US national for the job, but where a US national is not required, it’s far cheaper to hire locally.

    24. Karl Says:

      Lance, I’m not entirely sure about why you linked the job listings. As far as I can see they all require both “fluent” Japanese and English (defined as JLPT Level 1 and Step Level Pre-1, which isn’t too demanding in either case,) but that seems like a reasonable requirement for an American embassy operating in Japan. In theory any qualified American would be just as eligible for the job.

      I think I see what you’re trying to get at, but what I would wonder is how many American applicants does the American embassy get for jobs?

    25. Lance Says:

      *It’s simply a budgetary thing, sending people over from America to Japan means housing to be paid for, business class flights, international school fees to be paid for etc. etc. Obviously for some positions, they need a US national for the job, but where a US national is not required, it’s far cheaper to hire locally.*

      Sorry, wrong again. There are many Americans living in Japan that want to work at the embassy and apply but are turned down by the HRO because they dont meet the Japanese requiremts. These people qualify as local hires, as you put it. Of course it makes sense to hire somebody locally for many positions, that is a no brainer and off topic. Many local people are Americans. Im talking about the non diplomatic positions. Im sure if we checked the HRO is run by Japanese. Its not simply a budgetary thing.

      To Karl,

      I agree with your point that in some instances Japanese language ability would be an advantage, however I also feel that this requirement is being used to screen out NJs from even applying. I knew a locally hired American down there and he told me he often wondered why the Japanese language requirement was even required for him. I called the HR manager once, and that person was not an American. Their explanation was that somebody had decided that Japanese fluency was required. There are many more details I could add about this circus but I wont do it here. Its not just a budgetary thing or a requirement.

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