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  • Colin Jones in Japan Times: What the media attention from Savoie Child Abduction Case highlights

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on October 21st, 2009

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    Hi Blog.  People have asked what the Savoie Child Abduction Case actually brought to light.  I’ll let lawyer Colin Jones explain that below.  Again, whichever side of the custody battle you support, you have to give Christopher credit for bringing the international spotlight on one of Japan’s dirty little secrets.  Excerpt follows.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

    The Japan Times Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009
    THE ZEIT GIST
    Signing Hague treaty no cure-all for parental abduction scourge
    ‘Best interests of the bureaucracy’ standard applies in Japan
    By COLIN P. A. JONES

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20091020zg.html
    Excerpt follows:

    …Thus, the fact that police have recently started to arrest parents like Mr. Savoie despite the Japanese penal code remaining unchanged may simply reflect the police having decided that parental abduction is a problem they should do something about either in general, or in specific cases. Having made this decision, what the law actually says or is intended to address doesn’t really matter, so long as there is a vaguely drafted statute they can point to as justification.

    A similar dynamic plays out in Japanese courts. In custody disputes, courts purport to apply a “best interests of the child” standard. Fortunately for the courts, this standard remains undefined by either statute or clearly announced judicial rules, meaning that judges are free to resolve cases in whatever way is most convenient for the court — which more often than not is the status quo, which they have little power to change. Thus, the real standard being applied is probably what is in the best interests of the court.

    A similarly bureaucratic approach may also explain the apparent willingness of Japanese courts to cooperate with other bureaucracies such as police and prosecutors by ratifying seemingly novel applications of criminal law arrests and prosecutions that seem to stretch the law. In another parental abduction case earlier this decade a Dutch man was arrested for trying to leave Japan with his daughter. He was prosecuted for violating an obscure human trafficking statute and duly convicted. In rejecting his appeal, Japan’s Supreme Court noted that there is a high degree of unlawfulness in taking a child whose life is established in one country to another country, even if the person doing so is one of that child’s parents. Apparently, neither this statute nor this logic has ever been applied to any of the scores of cases of abduction to Japan.

    My own view is that as a matter of law, Japan could start returning abducted children tomorrow without having signed the Hague Convention — just as children who have been abducted to countries like the United States or England have been returned to Japan notwithstanding the country’s nonsignatory status. Mr. Savoie’s case clearly demonstrates that it is not actually necessary to waste time and money in futile family court proceedings to get your child back: The police will do it for you if it is in their interests to arrest the abducting parent. The converse is that they may not do anything if it is not, and this is also why it is conceivable that Japan could sign the Hague Convention and immediately appear on the U.S. State Department’s list of noncompliant treaty partners.

    Whatever the law says, it is very hard to imagine it being in the interests of the police and prosecutors to be seen taking crying half-Japanese children away from distraught Japanese mothers.

    This is why the media attention is so important on this issue. Because law in Japan tends to serve the bureaucrats first and the people second, legislation and litigation may not lead to solutions if the bureaucrats are part of the problem. Thus, it will likely be criticism — relentless pressure and attention from both domestic and foreign sources — that will probably carry the day in Japan shedding its shameful status as an abduction haven. If so, it will be because the criticism risks damaging the authority of the bureaucrats by making them look bad…

    Full article at:
    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20091020zg.html
    ENDS

    10 Responses to “Colin Jones in Japan Times: What the media attention from Savoie Child Abduction Case highlights”

    1. HO Says:

      It is a big disappointment to see a prominent scholar like Colin Jones has no clue in his field of self claimed expertise.

      Why is Christopher a criminal in Japan, whereas Noriko is not?
      Because he used force whereas she did not. It is simple as that.

      Look at the unofficial translation by GoJ of Article 224 of the Penal Code of Japan, which you can find here.
      http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/?re=02

      Article 224 A person who kidnaps a minor by force or enticement shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not less than 3 months but not more than 7 years.

      He used force. So, he violated article 224. She did not use force or enticement when she took her children to Japan. So, she is not a criminal under Japanese law.

      The definition of “kidnap” is different between the US and Japan. In the US, section 1204 of title 18 of US code defines international parental kidnapping as obstruction of parental rights. Professor Jones should have known better.

      – Define “force”. Christopher Savoie claims in today’s news that he did not “use force”:

      Savoie told Williams the physical act of taking his children from their mother wasn’t aggressive, saying, “Oh, no, hugging your kids and putting them in a car, I hardly think that is a violent act.”

      Savoie added he didn’t push or hit his ex-wife when he took the children.

      So what’s your evidence that he did?

      You’re a funny fellow, HO. You’re all too ready to cite laws on the books at face value as some sort of primary source for how police behave. Then you’re ready to cite hearsay as fact when it comes to law enforcement re NJ issues. I think you’re the one who should know better.

      I’m pleased you’re not a member of our police forces. Your standards of evidence are too low.

    2. Odorikakeru Says:

      Can we also have a legal definition of “enticement” from our friend HO? Particularly with regard to “She [Ms. Savoie] did not use force or enticement when she took her children to Japan.”. As far as I was aware the manner with which Ms. Savoie took the children has not been made public, so I am quite surprised to see HO be so sure that neither force nor enticement were used. Our we to be told that coming to Japan was in fact the children’s decision?

    3. Aji No Tokei Dai Says:

      I sometimes wonder if HO works for the police or government. Always seems to have something to explain the Japanese side of things but not such a well rounded view from the other side of things. Come to think of it, it would be the perfect chance for the government to “explain” things to the foreigners living in Japan who read this site and care about the issues discussed here.
      There goes my inner conspiracy theorist. No offense intended to HO.

    4. adamw Says:

      i think its always interesting to hear HOs views cos they do represent the warped way the japanese government think and makes the comments on here less one sided.
      still remember him denying it ever possible that foreigners could be given urine drugs tests in the street.

    5. HO Says:

      http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20091016-00000007-nnp-l40
      サボイ氏は9月28日、元妻の実家がある福岡県柳川市で元妻と一緒に通学中だった小3の長男(8)と小1の長女(6)を無理やり車に乗せ、連れ去った疑いがあるとして同署に逮捕された。

      “Mr. Savoie was arrested on September 28 on the charges that he forcibly took his 3rd grade son (8 years old) and 1st grade daughter (6 years old) into his car when they were going to school with his ex-wife in Yanagawa, Fukuoka where her parents’ house is located.”

      福岡地検は「サボイ氏は法を犯したことを反省し二度と同様の犯罪をしないと誓っており、子どもの養育に関しては、代理人を介した話し合いで解決を図ることを誓約している。身柄拘束は不要と判断した」としている。
      “Fukuoka district attorneys office said, “Mr. Savoie repents the fact he violated the law and vows he would not commit the same crime again. He vows that he will settle the child custody dispute by negotiation through attorney. Further detention was unnecessary.””

      He admitted the allegation that he took the kids forcibly.
      Do I need any further evidence?

      – Well we got the cops saying he admitted it (and the J media as usual parroting what the cops announce). Or we have the media saying it period. If that’s your evidence, then we’ll have to accept it. Savoie, however, still denies it (now that he’s out of jug and able to explain himself, of course), meaning it’s “he-said” vs “the authorities said”.

      But as you know, HO, there are plenty of cases in Japan where the arrested has said one thing and the J media and cops have said the opposite (and the latter has had to capitulate when they jail and release an innocent person). It’s a case where our judiciary and media machines presume guilt before innocence, and they have a habit of working backwards with evidence (if not forcing false confessions) to fill any holes.

      It’s a case of whom you trust more — the accused vs. the media. Given your blind trust of Japanese authorities and in the primacy of the rule of law here to actually govern official behavior, I know which side you fall.

      But that’s a larger discussion beyond Savoie. Your evidence is noted.

    6. Marc Says:

      On crnjapan.net

      •Send Ritchie Back – It is truly unfortunate that six months have passed and my ex-wife is not willing to agree to anything. I have been left with no choice but to post my dilemma and family on a website pleading for the publics help.

      •The MacKinnon Saga continues, Despite Ronald MacKinnon’s fears that his child would be abducted, the New Jersey Supreme Court in the U.S. recently gave permission for his divorced Japanese wife, Erika, to relocate with their daughter to Okinawa. On July 30, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay, so Erika is free to leave.

      •My five year old son Sean Hillman was abducted to Japan in violation of United States court orders (07-3-01188-2 SEA, King County Superior Court) by his mother, my ex wife, on July 5th 2008. Since that date I have not been able to see my son

      •Primary care giver for the children denied access after plans to relocate fall apart. Mother-in-law suffers a stroke just a week before the relocation was to take place. This sets into place the a series of events that caused mother to deny further visitation.

      •Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tokyo Metropolitan Police, and a court system gang up to discriminate against a foreign parent. A US lawyer tried unsuccessfully to serve court documents on the abducting Japanese parent. According to a note on the returned documents, it could not be delivered because “…the sender is considered to be a dangerous person, the Metropolitan Police Department has intervened and a temporary injunction and refusal of delivery have been issued by a Court….”

      •Murray Woods tried to be a responsible father by agreeing to let his ex-wife, Ayako Maniwa Wood, take their children to visit their sick grandfather in Japan. She never brought them back. The Saitama family court recognized the valid Canadian custody orders, but decided to “kidnapped jurisdiction” and give custody to the Japanese mother.

      •”Etsuko has ignored all orders of the Court since October 2001…and now the United States government and the state of Utah are pursing criminal charges against both Mr. and Mrs. Allred.” The Japanese police know where they are, but won’t arrest them. Read more about Michael Gulbraa’s fight to get his children returned from Japan.

      •”…the Osaka Family Court rendered a mandatory visitation schedule: since I was the custodial father, I am entitled to see my son once a year for 3 hours.” Samuel Lui’s custody of his son was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Japan, yet the Japanese legal system was not able to physically remove his son from his ex-wife. Read more here…

      •A Japanese father traveled to Cuba to abduct their 2 year old daughter to Japan where he can hide her from her Chilean-Cuban mother who had legal custody. After a divorce in Japan using allegedly forged signatures, the mother is still being denied all contact. The story is here… (Update: It turns out the Tsugunari Yamada, the father has remarried, so may now be a bigamist if he is convicted of forgery in the ongoing trial.)

      •A Japanese wife kidnapped their child Isabelle, and abandoned her in a children’s home. After, Frans Pau, her French-Danish father found her and got her into a school in Japan, the mother took her away again. The mother has now been sentenced to jail by a French court and is wanted by Interpol. A Japanese court allowed the mother to change Isabelle’s name to Maki despite the fact that Frans had legal custody, even in Japan. After that, a Japanese court inexplicably gave custody back to the mother. Read more …

      •”On November 15th 2003, two days before the death of their mother from breast cancer, my twin 5-year old children, Karsten Stouffer and Maple Stouffer were abducted by their Japanese Grandfather, Fumihiko Miyazaki and are now in Sapporo Japan.” Read more…

      •Ken Massey had lived in Japan for 17 years and been married to a Japanese women for 10 years. After their divorce, he was working at a steady job and making regular child support payments until immigration refused to issue him a visa and eventually deported him under suspicious circumstances. He wonders what happened to his children’s right to be near their father, which is guaranteed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

      •A Japanese mother with a history of attempted suicide and time in multiple psychiatric hospitals goes to Japanese Family Court mediation with the father. There “…the mediators supported her to the end, even above what my son wanted and what was best for him. They virtually acted as her lawyer…” Despite the wife also repeatedly denying visitation to the father, “the mediators became very pro-wife saying stuff like, “Your son visiting you makes her nervous, kawaiso!.” … There were no consequences for her withholding his Saturday visitation rights.” Read More…

      •After moving to Omuta-shi in Fukuoka-ken so that his wife could be get support from her parents when the baby was born, the relationship ended in divorce. The wife subsequently denied all contact between daughter Amy and her father.

      •”Leave me alone. Alexander will see you when he is 18. ” -Misako Ueshima who is now wanted by the Royal Canadian Police for international child abduction. Read more…

      •A Japanese mother living in Germany with her daughter decides that joint custody means she can take her child back to Japan without telling the father, Stefan. A German court disagrees. Read more…

      •Father is summoned by a Japanese court for divorce by Japanese wife and custody of their child. He was granted a visa to Japan by the embassy, but refused entry by Japanese Immigration. Twice. Is Immigration complicit in another legalized parental abduction in Japan?

      •Japanese judge keeps American father in jail for 20 days waiting for a medical report the Prosecuting Attorney had on the second day…. Read more including details about inner workings of the Japanese court system.

      •Japanese wife, Sachi Nagai, denies visitation and then runs away with son to Egypt with Mike Kidd. Read more….

      •”When I arrived home Keiko had moved, taking with her our daughters….” The story of Alisa and Ikumi Yamada who have been kept from their father for 13 years is ongoing. Look back here soon….

      •”I begged the family court repeatedly to involve psychological experts to deal with my borderline wife but they refused to do so.” Read more…

      •”After 4 years together in Japan, Yomiko only lasted 2 months before she went home. I really think it is cowardly. Especially as my wife or family aren’t prepared even to speak to me. I want to be able to face my son in 20 years time and say ‘I didn’t abandon you’.” Read More…

      •”Having agreed upon visitation rights last year at the Chiba Family Court (I was to visit once every two weeks) – my wife strangely would not be home on the scheduled days. I complained to the Family Court about this, but they were unconcerned with me, and suggested it might be my own fault that this is happening.” He is subsequently ignored by the Japanese Family Court. Read the ongoing story…

      •Travis Lear’s daughter Layla, the beautiful princess, was his life. The princess was taken away by her Japanese mother, a like a fairy tale gone horribly wrong, being kept from all contact with her ex-Navy father.

      Reported In The Press

      The following names and stories have appeared in the indicated press article. If you know how to contact anyone listed here, please tell them that we would like to post a more detailed story on this website.

      Patrick Braden

      •Missing: Melissa Braden; The Early Show on CBS; September 19, 2006. This is a transcript of a television interview with Patrick and FBI agent Herb Brown about his abducted daughter Melissa.

      Mike Hebb

      •Crime and Punishment; Metropolis Letter to the editor; early 2006. Mike writes in about his daughter being abducted from Manitoba by her Japanese mother.

      Alan Kaneda

      •Options few after mom abducts girl – Courts hold no clout for a Honolulu man whose daughter, 5, was taken to Japan; Honolulu Star Bulletin; December 6, 2004. Alan Kaneda’s story about his wife abducting their daughter Marina to Japan.

      Walter Benda.

      •Imperfect Alliance U.S., Japan at odds about child abductions; Newsday.com; July 17, 2003.

      •Statement by Walter Benda, co-founder of CRC Japan, on March 1, 2000, to the US Senate Judiciary Committee on the similarity of the Elian Gonzalez case and his daughters being illegally retained in Japan.

      •Parents in International Custody Battles Fear Impact; Washington Post; February 3, 2003. Information on various worldwide parental abduction cases in the light of the Elian Gonzalez incident in the US. Included is Walter Benda’s well known Japan case.

      •Lost In A Loophole: Foreigners Who Are on the Losing End of a Custody Battle in Japan Don’t Have Much Recourse; Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1996.

      David Brian Thomas (co-founder of CRC Japan) David has not seen his son since his Japanese wife and her parents locked him out of their house in 1992. The divorce was overturned by the court on grounds that his wife doctored papers and forged his seal, but Thomas has been unable to see his son, Graham Hajime, who is now 13.

      •Divorced From Their Children In Japan, Foreign Fathers Have Few Custody Options; Washington Post; July 17, 2003; Page A09.

      •Frozen out, frustrated father refuses to give up; Asashi Shinbun; January 27, 2002.

      •Parents driven to ‘kidnap’ children; The Japan Times; December 13, 2000. Discusses Engle Nieman’s case as well as David Brian Thomas.

      •The best parents are both parents; Japan Times; February 6, 2000. David Brian Thomas’ story in detail. (cached copy)

      •Lost In A Loophole: Foreigners Who Are on the Losing End of a Custody Battle in Japan Don’t Have Much Recourse; Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1996.

      •The Japanese said I no longer had a child; The Independent, July 10, 1996. Very detailed story about David Brian Thomas’s loss of his son to his Japanese spouse Mikako Takezawa and her father Hajime Takezawa.

      Sean Reedy. His Japanese wife took his sons into hiding that day, preempting custody of the boys by simple possession. Even as a tenured professor and taxpayer in Japan, Reedy found he could get no assistance from the Japanese courts in getting his children back — or even seeing them regularly.

      •Divorced From Their Children In Japan, Foreign Fathers Have Few Custody Options; Washington Post; July 17, 2003; Page A09.

      Das Pradip. gets to meet his two children once a month, for 30 minutes, at a Roy Rogers restaurant — when his ex-wife bothers to bring them. She left her husband three years ago with the children, then 5 and 8, for a Japanese man.

      •Divorced From Their Children In Japan, Foreign Fathers Have Few Custody Options; Washington Post; July 17, 2003; Page A09.

      Engle Nieman. “My wife is now hiding somewhere with my daughter. She doesn’t show up for court. My lawyer doesn’t know what to do,” he said. “On schooldays, I go around to the various kindergartens in Tokyo to see if I can find them. It’s terrible.”

      •Supreme Court Of Japan legal decision convicting Engle Nieman of kidnappin; March 18, 2003.

      •Divorced From Their Children In Japan, Foreign Fathers Have Few Custody Options; Washington Post; July 17, 2003; Page A09.

      •Parents driven to ‘kidnap’ children; The Japan Times; December 13, 2000. Discusses Engle Nieman’s case as well as David Brian Thomas.

      Dale Martin. His wife, Tamie Kakuta kidnapped their 4-year-old daughter in 1992, but despite hard-won visitation agreement signed in family courts in December 1994, he has recently (according to the articles) been unable to see his six-year-old daughter because his Japanese wife refuses to allow it. He continues to make telephone calls and write letters.

      •Foreign Spouses In Japan Seek Easier Child Custody Laws; http://www.oneworld.net web site; March 22, 1998. (cached copy)

      •Lost In A Loophole: Foreigners Who Are on the Losing End of a Custody Battle in Japan Don’t Have Much Recourse; Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1996. Stories of Walter Benda, David Brian Thomas, Dale Martin and Charles Talley.

      Charles Talley. Wife Yumi, and daughter, Lea Talley, disappeared from their Palmdale (Los Angeles) apartment in 1993.

      •Lost In A Loophole: Foreigners Who Are on the Losing End of a Custody Battle in Japan Don’t Have Much Recourse; Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1996. Stories of Walter Benda, David Brian Thomas, Dale Martin and Charles Talley.

      Margaret Leyman. This American journalist living in Tokyo, says that her Japanese former husband prohibits her son from meeting with her. “My son, who is 12 now [in 1998], lives with my mother-in-law after the family court decided I was, as a working woman and foreigner, not a responsible mother,”

      •Tales from Japan’s Abandoned Foreign Parents; The Japan Observer; November 2003. Mostly the story of Frans Pau, a French-Danish national whose wife is kidnapped their child Isabelle, abandoned her in a children’s home, took her again after Frans got her into a school in Japan. The mother has been sentenced to jail by a French court and is wanted by Interpol. A Japanese court allowed the mother to change Isabelle’s name to Maki despite the fact that Frans had legal custody, even in Japan. After that, a Japanese court inexplicably gave custody back to the mother. (cached copy)

      Mr Debito ,
      Let see answers Mr Ho have about this cases..

    7. D in Aichi Says:

      Comment 6: This makes my blood boil. It looks like someone with a big pair of balls in the US senate is going to have to go on record with strong language to Japan saying: “you are a country of hypocrites, racists and criminals, you bleat that North Korea has kidnapped your citizens and yet here you are actively sheltering and harbouring internationally wanted child kidnappers yourself protected by your very own ill-logical, corrupt courts and out-of-date racist judicial system.”

      This needs to be live on TV, not some published letter which will be ignored or not “understood”. Pathetic.

    8. HO Says:

      Marc, what answer are you expecting from me?
      I am not interested in “defending” whatever Japan does. My point here is very clear. “Colin Jones is clueless.” I think I have completed the job.

      Thank you for showing me an interesting list of one-sided stories. We have all learned the danger of making judgments based on one-sided stories. When you give me stories from both sides, I might comment on them.

      – Such as the stories you frequently comment upon after reading the “one side” that is the NPA’s press release, with no public answer permitted from those being interrogated?

      And when we do get you the other side (famously so in the Roppongi urine tests), you go into denial.

      No, HO, I think we can safely say we have heard your side out, and can conclude that you generally defend whatever the Japanese authorities do.

    9. Justin Says:

      So, what is the definition of “kidnap” as used in Article 224? Without a definition of the elements of the crime, you can’t say that Chris Savoie is guilty of it, regardless of whether he “used force” to get his own kids to come with him. Parents are generally allowed to do that, you know.

    10. iago Says:

      Mr. Savoie repents the fact he violated the law and vows he would not commit the same crime again. He vows that he will settle the child custody dispute by negotiation through attorney. Further detention was unnecessary.”

      Of course. We’ve all heard the stories that you either “admit your wrongdoing and repent” and stand the chance of getting out of jail, or maintain your innocence and get worked over some more.

      I imagine the guy got good advice and followed it.

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