Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Aug 3 2010: “The victim complex and Kim’s killer con”

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The Japan Times: Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010
JUST BE CAUSE
The victim complex and Kim’s killer con
By DEBITO ARUDOU

Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100803ad.html

It’s fascinating whenever someone cons people out of pots of money — doubly so when someone cons a whole government. Take, for example, Japan’s biggest news story two weeks ago: Kim Hyon Hui’s four-day visit to Japan.

You might recall that in 1987 this North Korean spy, traveling on a fake Japanese passport, blew up a South Korean commercial airliner, killing 115 passengers.

Last July 20, however, this agent of international terrorism was allowed into Japan for a reception worthy of a state guest. Bypassing standard immigration procedures, Kim had her entry visa personally approved by our justice minister, boarded a chartered flight that cost Japan’s taxpayers ¥10 million, and was whisked by helicopter to former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s private dacha to eat with political elites.

Then, flanked by a phalanx of 100 cops (who made sure nobody raised any uncomfortable questions), Kim got to meet the parents of Megumi Yokota, the cause celebre of North Korean kidnappings of innocent Japanese citizens decades ago. Next, at her request, Kim boarded another helicopter (at around ¥800,000 an hour) for an aerial tour of Mount Fuji. As a parting gift, she got an undisclosed amount of “additional remuneration.” Sweet.
http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201007230525.html

And what did Japan get? Kim said she had information for the Yokotas about their missing daughter and other Japanese abductees who trained her to be a multilingual spy — even though, way back when, she said she had never met Megumi. So suddenly Kim has a quarter-century-old brain fart and gets the red carpet?

The Megumi Yokota tragedy has for the past decade been a political football in Japanese politics, a means for Japan as a whole to claim victimhood status. That is to say, by portraying itself as a victim of North Korea, Japan gets brownie points at the geopolitical bargaining table and audiences with American presidents. It also creates a villain to mobilize and scare the Japanese public, justifying bunker-mentality policing powers. (Not to mention outright xenophobia. Remember some of the arguments against suffrage for non-Japanese permanent residents (JBC, Feb. 2)? “How dare we give the vote to potential North Korean agents!” We’ll get no national law protecting universal human rights in Japan while the current regime is in place in Pyongyang.)

Yet ironies abound. After decades of virtually ignoring the abductions issue, the government has now firmly entrenched it as one of those “international sympathy” chestnuts, along with “Japan is the only country ever bombed by nuclear weapons,” “Our nation as a whole was a victim of a rapacious military junta during World War II,” and just about any claim of “Japan-bashing” rolled out whenever somebody needs to win a domestic or international argument.

Never mind the hypocrisies, such as Japan’s own wartime atrocities and public complicity, the officially sponsored bashing of non-Japanese residents, and the kidnappings (both international and domestic) of children under Japan’s insane laws covering divorce, child custody and visitation. Portraying Japan as the perpetual “victim of circumstance or historical conspiracy” keeps our past unexamined, the status quo unchallenged, and our society blissfully inculpable.

But as I said earlier, the Kim visit showed how victimhood can be used — even against the pros — for fun and profit.

Think about it. Kim should be the poster child for all that’s bad about North Korea. Masquerading as a Japanese in her attempt to kill as many innocent people as possible, she was a fundamental part of the system that abducted innocent Japanese, and a beneficiary of their captive services. Yet she so effectively converted herself into a “victim of the North” that South Korea commuted her death sentence, and her memoir even became a best seller.

So last month, by joining hands with Japan against a putative common enemy, Kim played our government like a shamisen. She essentially got the trip to Disneyland that fellow North Korean elite Kim Jong Nam (son of the Dear Leader) tried to get when he smuggled himself into Japan on a false passport in 2001. He should have pretended to be a victim, not a Dominican.
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,108692,00.html

In sum, Kim Hyon Hui pulled off an awesome con. But consider the damage done.

What was had for this Kim visit? We taxpayers were. “Little information to help solve the long-standing abduction issue was obtained,” according to the Asahi Shimbun. Yet this rot has become even more bureaucratically entrenched: The fiscal 2010 budget allots ¥1.2 billion for “abduction-related activities,” double that of 2009. More money into the sinkhole while other programs are facing cuts?
http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201007230525.html

Worse still is the political precedent that has been set. Taking office last year from the corrupt Liberal Democratic Party on the promise of reform, the Democratic Party of Japan has now squandered political capital and goodwill.

This columnist has supported the DPJ mostly because we need a viable alternative to the LDP — an opposition party that can force Japanese politics out of its crapulence and decrepitude. Yet here the DPJ has shown itself unwilling to break the mold of Japan’s elite potentates. Not only are they just as susceptible to the same con that double-agents such as Kim specialize in; they are also just as willing to bend the rules to suit the will of a privileged few.

We saw this happen before spectacularly in the Alberto Fujimori case (JBC, May 5, 2009): An international criminal suspect wanted by Interpol could resign his Peruvian presidency, flee to Japan and get treated as a celebrity. He could even enjoy a safe haven from, yes, being “victimized” under Peru’s allegedly unfair judiciary. “Give us your huddled victims yearning to get rich …”

So I guess the moral is that the new boss is turning out the same as the old boss. Who cares about the rule of law, or cutting deals with international terrorists? We’re hosting a smashing party for our victims, and we don’t want you bounders and oiks to spoil it! Oh, and the bureaucrats want to justify their budgets too, so let’s make like we’re doing something about the abductions. Thus the con is not Kim’s alone.

But spare a final thought for the ultimate victims in this case: the abductees’ families, such as the Yokotas. Lured by false hopes of any news of their loved ones, they got entangled in this political stunt and lost enormous public sympathy for their cause. In the end, they were suckers for a self-proclaimed victim who is in fact a spy, a con artist and a mass murderer.

Debito Arudou coauthored the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants.” Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments on this issue to community@japantimes.co.jp

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REFERENTIAL ASAHI SHINBUN ARTICLE, for the archives:

Critics say ex-spy treated too well
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 2010/07/24

http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201007230525.html

Kim Hyon Hui arrived in Japan on a government-chartered jet, was given a full police escort to the vacation home of a former prime minister and enjoyed a helicopter tour over the capital. All her expenses were paid for by taxpayers in Japan, plus some additional remuneration.

The official treatment of this former North Korean spy once sentenced to death for blowing up a South Korean airliner and killing 115 people has been likened to that for a state guest.

Despite the huge tab and long list of exceptions made for this to happen, relatives of Japanese who were abducted by North Korea said they were encouraged by what she had to say and now have renewed hopes of seeing their kin again.

Kim’s four-day visit to Japan started Tuesday and ended Friday. In the end, however, most agree that little information to help solve the long-standing abduction issue was obtained.

The extent of the exceptional treatment stunned some foreign media. The British newspaper The Independent reported on the story Wednesday under the headline “Former North Korean spy who bombed jet welcomed by Japan.”

The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo said Kim, who was pardoned for the 1987 bombing of a South Korean passenger jet, received “state guest” treatment.

Critics including the president of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, Sadakazu Tanigaki, slammed the event as a public-relations feat by the government to impress the public.

However, Hiroshi Nakai, state minister in charge of the abduction issue, countered by saying that if it were merely a political performance, “we would have done it before the Upper House election.”

A source close to the government said, “I heard the government fixed the date (now), to attract public attention to the news after the soccer World Cup finished.”

Japan’s official stance is that 17 of its citizens were abducted by North Korea in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In 2002, Pyongyang admitted to having abducted 13 Japanese citizens and returned five, claiming the rest were dead. Some of the missing abductees are believed to be alive.

The Japanese government had thought that prospects were dim to obtain new information from the former spy that would help solve the abduction issue. Thus, Kim’s visit might have been aimed at showing the public that it was still working on the issue, a government official said.

Kim, 48, should have been barred from entering Japan because she was carrying a fake Japanese passport at the time of the 1987 Korean Air jet bombing. That problem was taken care of by Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, who granted Kim special permission under the immigration control law.

According to a source close to the government, the chartered jet alone cost 10 million yen ($114,810). Add to that several millions of yen more for Kim’s motorcade from Tokyo to Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, which mobilized 100 police officers. It was “comparable to that of U.S. ministerial or deputy ministerial level officials,” the source said.

The helicopter sightseeing tour was a request by Kim, who reportedly wanted to see Mount Fuji. A helicopter flight of that type would cost 800,000 yen an hour, according to an industry source.

For fiscal 2010, 1.2 billion yen was allotted for abduction-related activities, twice the amount in fiscal 2009.

Even amid all the criticism, family members of abductees viewed Kim’s visit in a positive light. Kim met families of the abductees during her visit.

Shigeo Iizuka, who heads the association of the Japanese abductees’ families, said: “She said she was looking forward to seeing (my sister Yaeko Taguchi). I am sure she will continue to help us.”

Sakie Yokota, the mother of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted in 1977 at the age of 13, said, “I was encouraged by (Kim’s) words, ‘I believe she is still alive.'”
ENDS

UPDATE: Additional thoughts on the DPRK Spy Kim Hyon Hui Japan Visit: The Big Con

mytest

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Hi Blog. As an addendum to this morning’s blog on the Kim Hyon Hui Japan Visit, more food for thought from a friend. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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THE BIG CON

TOKYO –Japan’s government took its “Yokoso Japan!” campaign to a new level Tuesday, throwing out the welcome mat for a foreigner who murdered 115 people, providing her with an entrance visa no questions asked, whisking her through customs, and offering her a ride to a former Prime Minister’s summer home.

Kim Hyon Hui, a wannabe actress-turned-terrorist who blew up a 747 filled with 115 people back in 1987 when she was a North Korean agent and who got the death penalty, only to see it revoked for reasons that are still unclear, arrived at Haneda airport Wednesday by special charter plane from her home in South Korea. Ms. Kim saw Japan’s fine hospitality at its best, and was even given her own motorcade to former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s summer home in Karuizawa. No delays at train stations or red lights for our Ms. Kim!

Ms. Kim had agreed to her Japanese vacation to discuss what she says she knows about Megumi Yokota, who was kidnapped to North Korea in 1977, and Yaeko Taguchi, another abductee who trained Ms. Kim in Japanese. Showing that Japan’s love for Korean actors continues, the stylish Kim is quite a celebrity among the families of the abductees and their political and bureaucratic supporters. Gushing like a schoolboy, Mr. Yokota admitted to reporters Wednesday that Ms. Kim was quite a looker, while Mrs. Yokota noted men always like a pretty face. Good looks, svelte figure, fashionable suit, an air of mystery and sophistication. . .who cares if she’s a cold-blooded killer (the bereaved relatives of those she killed?-Ed.)

For her part, Ms. Kim was nothing but diplomatic during her visit. Demonstrating the kind of social grace her hosts no doubt appreciated, one of her demands before coming to Japan was a room with a kitchen so should could make some Japanese meals for her Japanese friends—the same kind of meals Yaeko Taguchi taught her to make (presumably at gunpoint–Ed.). But a thorough search of all homes, restaurants, and hotels between Narita and Karuizawa failed to turn up a kitchen capable of whipping up a proper meal for Ms. Kim. So Hatoyama stepped in and graciously offered to have her over to his place for dinner.

While relaxing in luxury and surrounded by a phalanx of police security to guard against terrorist threats (such as panels advocating cuts in the police budget–Ed ), the woman who murdered 115 people to please her “Great Leader”’ was feted by not only the families of the abudctees but also Japanese government officials anxious to learn from Ms. Kim about the fate of a few Japanese like Megumi Yokota who were abducted to North Korea. Obviously, former spy Kim’s motives for her first-class trip to Japan cannot be questioned, as her memory of alleged sightings of Megumi Yokota nearly a quarter century ago are, of course, ironclad, crystal clear, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Yes, Ms. Kim did suffer a memory loss when she originally told Japanese officials she’d never met Megumi Yokota. But that was then and this is now. The Japanese government is quite happy to learn she has regained her memory, calling it a miracle and dismissing cynics who wonder whether Kim’s memory loss was restored with the aid of both hypnosis and secret bank accounts in Switzerland, Macau, or the Cayman Islands.

So busy were Japanese officials with their one-woman “Yokoso Japan!” on behalf of Ms. Kim and her testimony about children abducted from Japan by foreigners in violation of domestic and international law that readers will surely sympathize with our nation’s overworked and understaffed bureaucracy when they insist they have no time to meet with Americans, Canadians, British, Germans, French, Indians, or anyone else who would like–just a few minutes, if you please — to discuss the issue of children abducted to Japan by Japanese in violation of domestic and international law.

It makes perfect sense, of course. Not even the Prime Minister’s summer home could accommodate the number of people who would have to be invited to that backyard BBQ, so why risk damaging Japan’s reputation internationally by running short on yakuniku, ice, and Pokki sticks? We certainly don’t want that.

Tomorrow, Ms. Kim will conclude her excellent adventure with a helicopter tour of Mt. Fuji. Once she offers her final bows to her Japanese hosts in the departure lounge of Haneda airport, the rest of the world will be left wondering if the would-be thespian-turned-spy-turned-mass-murderer-turned-grand-tourist has just concluded a performance worthy of an Oscar. For Ms. Kim may be grounded in Stalinist-Marxist dogma and the philosophy of juche. But look over your shoulder. That’s the ghost of P.T. Barnum, winking at Ms. Kim in admiration and approval for her thorough understanding of his business philosophy.
ENDS

North Korean spy and terrorist skirts Immigration, gets to stay in Hatoyama summer home, due to Yokota Megumi Case

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  As a friend most poignantly pointed out to me yesterday evening, something’s very wrong with Japan’s current top news story:

“Have you been following the reaction to the treatment given that ex-North Korean spy who blew up a plane and murdered 115 people, yet came to Japan as a VIP and is now staying at Hatoyama’s Karuizawa retreat? David McNeil and Justin McCurry did pieces with a hint of outrage, especially David, who noted that, if Japanese authorities had bothered to follow the immigration law, she would have been arrested. To be fair, some Japanese journalists noted last night (on TBS, I think) that something isn’t quite right.

“You may be interested to know that the group “Bring Abducted Children Home” is pretty upset as well, noting that the Japanese government rolls out the red carpet for a mass murderer just because she might have some information on Japanese children who were kidnapped out of Japan but doesn’t want to deal with anybody seeking a meeting about Japanese children kidnapped back to Japan by a Japanese parent.”

Quite.  As far as I recall, not a peep about the terrorism on NHK 7PM last night.  Only the meeting with the Yokotas and all the smiles.  Elite politics indeed trumps all.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Former North Korean spy who bombed jet welcomed by Japan
By David McNeill in Tokyo
The Independent, Wednesday, 21 July 2010

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/former-north-korean-spy-who-bombed-jet-welcomed-by-japan-2031254.html

It has all the ingredients of the most far-fetched spy story: a beautiful North Korean woman destined to become an actress opts instead for a career in espionage. Brainwashed to despise the North’s southern neighbour, she bombs a Korean Air jet in 1987 reportedly on the direct orders of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, killing 115 people. When captured, she attempts to kill herself by biting into a cyanide pill but is stopped by a guard. Her accomplice dies from the same method.

Yesterday, this exotic product of the Cold War touched down in Tokyo under heavy police guard. Kept isolated from media scrutiny by government handlers, Kim Hyon-hui will spend the next few days briefing them on her extraordinary career and facing the families of Japanese people who were abducted by Pyongyang in a bizarre military programme to train spies. Among them is the son of Yaeko Taguchi, her Japanese teacher who was whisked away by North Korean spies in 1978 and never returned home.

Ms Kim’s story, her direct connection to the Japanese abductees and her unlikely redemption, enthrals Japan. Such is the interest in her here that the authorities have waived rules that should have prevented her from setting down in the country at all. She will spend much of her time here staying in the holiday home of the former Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama.

ENDS

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Ex-North Korea spy to help solve Japan’s abduction mystery
Kim Hyon-hui may have information on Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korean spies during the cold war
guardian.co.uk Tuesday 20 July 2010 16.26 BST
By Justin McCurry

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/20/north-korea-spy-japan-abductions

A former North Korean spy who carried out one of the deadliest plane bombings of the cold war has arrived in Tokyo to help solve the mystery surrounding Japanese nationals abducted by Pyongyang.

Kim Hyon-hui was sentenced to death after being convicted of bombing a South Korean airliner in 1987, killing all 115 people on board, but was later pardoned and went on to write a bestselling autobiography about her life as a secret agent.

She flew in to Tokyo after the Japanese authorities waived strict immigration controls to allow her to meet the relatives of two Japanese citizens snatched by North Korean agents in the late 1970s.

Hyon-hui says she was tutored by a woman who is among several Japanese abducted by North Korean spies at the height of the cold war. She may also have information about Megumi Yokota, who was taken from near her home, aged 13, in the late 1970s.

Kim’s visit comes at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, coinciding with reports that a North Korean cabinet official who led talks with the South, has been executed, and as Seoul and Washington announced a joint naval exercise designed to remind Pyongyang of the formidable military forces it would confront should a conflict break out.

Kwon Ho-ung, who headed the North’s negotiating team from 2004-07, was executed by firing squad, according to the Dong-a Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper. His death appears to be part of a purge of “impure” officials connected with policy failures. In March, the regime executed two officials responsible for a botched currency revaluation.

Next week’s naval exercise will send a “clear message” to the North following the sinking in March of a South Korean naval vessel, the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, told reporters in Seoul .

“These defensive, combined exercises are designed to send a clear message to North Korea that its aggressive behaviour must stop, and that we are committed to together enhancing our combined defensive capabilities,” he said.

Gates and the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, will tomorrow visit the demilitarised zone, the heavily fortified border separating the two Koreas, in a show of support for Washington’s ally.

Hyon-hui, who arrived in Japan before dawn under tight security, was due to meet the parents of Yokota, who was snatched as she walked home from badminton practice near her home on the Japan Sea coast in 1977. Her parents refuse to believe North Korean claims that she suffered from a mental illness and committed suicide in 1994.

Kim was also due to meet the relatives of Yaeko Taguchi, who was abducted in 1978, aged 22. Hyon-hui claims that Taguchi subsequently became her live-in Japanese teacher for more than a year-and-a-half in the early 1980s.

Critics denounced this week’s visit as a stunt designed to deflect attention from Japan’s failure to establish the fates of Yokota and other abductees. Hyon-hui has already spoken to some of the victims’ families and is not expected to offer any new information.

During a 2002 summit with Japan’s then prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, admitted that the regime had abducted 13 people and used them to teach spies how to pass themselves off as Japanese. It allowed five of them to return home later that year, but insisted the remaining eight had died.

Hyon-hui quickly gained notoriety for the attack on the Korean Air jet, which came as Seoul was preparing to host the 1988 summer Olympics. She and Kim Seung-il, a male spy, posed as a Japanese father and daughter and boarded KAL flight 858 from Baghdad to Seoul, planting a time bomb in a luggage rack before getting off at Abu Dhabi. The plane later exploded over the Andaman Sea near Burma.

They were arrested two days later in Bahrain, where they tried to kill themselves by swallowing cyanide capsules hidden in cigarettes. Kim Seung-il died, but Kim’s cigarette was snatched from her before she could ingest a lethal dose.

Kim was extradited to Seoul, where she was sentenced to death in March 1989. She was pardoned the following year after the then South Korean president, Roh Tae-woo, accepted she had been brainwashed into carrying out the bombing on the orders of communist North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung.

Kim, 48, married one of the South Korean intelligence officers who investigated her and donated the proceeds from her autobiography to the families of the bombing’s victims.

Last year, she told Taguchi’s relatives in a meeting in South Korea that the abducted woman may still be alive, contradicting Pyongyang’s claim that she died in a traffic accident in 1986.

The former spy, who is due to return to South Korea on Friday, is reportedly staying at the mountain retreat of the former prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned last month.
ENDS

Yet another story of child-custody misery thanks to Japan’s insane family laws and enforcement

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  Forwarding the below from a friend.  This is just another case of many where we have people (regardless of nationality, but thanks to the Koseki System NJ are in a particularly weak situation, particularly regarding international child abduction) doing awful things to their children after divorce simply because they can, and the authorities will do little or nothing to stop it.  I have of course written on the subject of divorce and post-divorce before (here and here, for example), but let me say at this juncture that for me it has gotten much, much worse over the past few years.  (I still myself have seen my kids maybe six times over the past six years, but now there is a development that someday I’ll tell you about, when I have drawn some conclusions and have some lessons from it.)

Meanwhile, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because it is a harsh reality:

As Japan’s Family Laws stand now, nobody — regardless of nationality — should get married to a Japanese and have kids.  Because if you divorce — or even separate — somebody will quite likely lose them completely.

Read on for yet another example of that.  Even more examples and case studies at the Japan Children’s Rights Network here.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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(日本語は英語の後)

(Please forward this message to everyone you know in Japan.)

On 25 March 2010, three children were abducted from their Tokyo home … by their own mother. All three were taken against their will.

Twenty days later, one child escaped, phoned for help, and was rescued. The abusive and mentally unstable mother immediately moved again and changed the remaining two children’s names … again.

The police consider this a family issue and will not help. The slow-moving family court has not made one ruling since this occurred, even though a petition for a return of physical custody was filed immediately after the children’s abduction.

More than 100 days has already passed, and your help is now being requested to find the abducted boys and return them to the home, neighborhood, school, friends, and family they have known their entire life –a  family that embraces all aspects of their mixed heritage.

Please look over the photos at the website below and keep an eye out for these two boys.

http://www.savetheboys.net

e-mail: Contact@savetheboys.net

If you are tired of these primitive grab-and-runs quietly sanctioned by Japan’s ineffective family court structure, help us stop this one by keeping an eye out for these boys so that they can be returned home.

You can help. We NEED your help.

Please.

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

COLLATED PERSONAL NOTES FROM THE AUTHOR, A PERSON I MET IN PERSON YEARS AGO AND CAN VOUCH FOR HIS CHARACTER:

July 7 and 8, 2010

Dear Debito, I would like to request your help finding my two sons, who will be 10 and 7 this year.

Here’s a brief summary of what happened. I have been in Japan for nearly 20 years (married for 17), and I filed for divorce in January when I could no longer accept my wife’s increasing abuse of my three children (I have a daughter who just turned 13). My wife has also been in an ongoing affair since 2007. My wife and I began mediation, and at the end of March, she suddenly abducted all three children and disappeared.

After 20 days, my daughter was able to escape and phone for help, and I was able to rescue her. Her mother then immediately moved again. She has taken a leave of absence from work and even changed the boys’ names, but we do know that the boys are enrolled in a public school (1st and 4th grade) and are probably in or around Tokyo.

The family court has been incredibly ineffective (they won’t even interview the boys, and haven’t made any rulings), so after over 100 days of trying to go through the system to return these boys to their home, it appears that the only hope for doing so is to make this happen on our own…

The savetheboys website has been created, and I would like to ask for your help and the help of everyone possible to find these boys so that they can be safely returned to their home. Feel free to blog what I sent you in the initial e-mail or the text below. My only request is that you try to keep my family name out of it for the moment.

I certainly do appreciate your assistance.

Last weekend, my daughter and I saw “The Cove,” and the producer began the movie by announcing that their team initially desired to obtain footage by going through all the proper channels, but eventually had to resort to more extreme measures after encountering such staunch resistance.

That is the way I feel about this website and my actions now. I did not want to put that website up, and I resisted for quite a while. After nearly 20 years in Japan, I wanted to let this play out and give the system the opportunity to carefully examine this case and fix an obvious wrong. Instead, so many within the system have exhibited behavior that is unprofessional, biased, and outright dishonest. In particular, I find the dishonesty of so many “adults” to be troubling, and it leaves me with a really bad taste in my mouth.

If I did not actually go out and rescue my own daughter–against the advice of many, by the way–she would still be captive, even though she phoned begging for help.

Thank you again, Debito. Thank you so much. ENDS

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(これを日本に住んでいる人、誰でも良いので転送してください。)

お願いします。私の弟達を助けてください。

2010年3月25日、私達3人兄弟は母によって東京都の自宅・・・から連れさられ、私 達3人とも自らの意思で連れていかれたわけではありませんでした。

20日後、私1人は自宅に電話をし、助けてもらいました。その事を知った母親はすぐ に残りの2人・・・を連れて引越しました。

警察はこれを親の問題だと考え、助ける事はしませんでした。のんびりと進む家庭 裁判所は母が子供を誘拐したというのに何も進歩を遂げません。

子供達が消えてから長い3ヶ月が過ぎました。そした今、私の弟達を探してください という事を皆さんにお願いしています。あの弟達を彼らの思い出の家、近所、学 校、友達、それと家族のもとへ戻してあげるのを手伝ってください。

下のリンクから弟達の写真などを見てください。もしかしたら彼らを町で見かける かもしれません。もし見つけたら連絡してください。お願いします。

http://www.savetheboys.net

e-mail: Contact@savetheboys.net

もしあなたが今、この日本の家庭裁判所や日本国にウンザリしているのなら私の弟 達が家に戻れるように探す事で私達に力を貸してください。お願いします。

あなたが私達を助けられます。私達はあなたの助けが必要です。

お願いします。どうか助けてください。

(これを日本に住んでいる人、誰でも良いので転送してください。)

ENDS

Japan Times’ Colin Jones on Japanese enforcement of vague laws: “No need to know the law, but you must obey it”

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. In one of the best articles I’ve ever read in the Japanese media, here we have legal scholar Colin Jones finally connecting the metadots, laying bare how things work in Japanese jurisprudence and law enforcement.  It’s an excellent explanation of just how powerful the police are in Japanese society.  God bless the Japan Times for being there as an available forum (I can’t imagine any other English-language paper in Japan publishing this) for this research. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

//////////////////////////////////////////////////

The Japan Times Tuesday, June 29, 2010
THE ZEIT GIST
No need to know the law, but you must obey it
Colin P.A. Jones tells us why it’s hard to get clear answers when dealing with Japan’s legal system (excerpt)
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100629zg.html
By COLIN P.A. JONES (excerpt) courtesy of the author and John in Yokohama

A few months ago I met with some Western diplomats who were looking for information about Japanese law — in particular, an answer to the question, “Is parental child abduction a crime?” As international child abduction has become an increasingly sore point between Japan and other countries, foreign envoys have been making concerted efforts to understand the issue from the Japanese side. Having been told repeatedly by their Japanese counterparts that it is not a crime, some diplomats may be confused by recent cases of non-Japanese parents being arrested, even convicted for “kidnapping” their own children. I don’t think I helped much, since my contribution was something along the lines of “Well, it probably depends on whether the authorities need it to be a crime.”

Of course, the very question “Is x a crime?” reflects a fairly Western view of the law as a well-defined set of rules, the parameters of which people can know in advance in order to conduct themselves accordingly. However, there is a Confucian saying that is sometimes interpreted as “The people do not need to know the law, but they should be made to obey it.” This adage was a watchword of the Tokugawa Shogunate, whose philosophy of government was based in part on neo-Confucian principles.

It is also a saying that could provide some insights into why it sometimes seems difficult to get a clear answer about what exactly the law is in modern Japan. I am not suggesting that Japanese police and prosecutors have Confucian platitudes hanging framed over their desks, but knowing the law is a source of power. Being able to say what the law means is an even greater one, particularly if you can do so without being challenged. In a way, clearly defined criminal laws bind authority as much as they bind the people, by limiting the situations in which authorities can act. Since law enforcement in Japan often seems directed primarily at “keeping the peace,” laws that are flexible are more likely to serve this goal…

Rest at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100629zg.html
ENDS

Support and preview FROM THE SHADOWS documentary on Japan’s Child Abductions: Tokyo Shibuya Thurs Jun 24 7PM, admission free

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  Forwarding from Eric.  More on this issue on Debito.org here.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

//////////////////////////////////////////

June 16, 2010

I’m writing to you today to let you know about a very disturbing situation regarding the rights of divorced parents in Japan. No doubt you’ve heard bits and pieces of recent cases in the press.

Right now there exists the terrible reality that – as gaijin parents – we are at substantial risk of completely losing access to our children if our marriage dissolves, or even if our spouse just decides to make a break with us and abduct the kid(s). Japan is a country with no dual-custody laws, and a social practice of severely limiting, and often severing, the non-custodial parent’s access to their kids when the marriage ends.

I write today to seek your contribution for the completion of a documentary that is trying to directly help protect the interests of parents like us.

Take a look at this trailer for one particular group’s upcoming documentary film:

http://www.fromtheshadowsmovie.com/english/index.html

Political and social awareness is picking up, but we need to add fuel to this movement that is trying to help us.

In Jan 2010, six out of seven G7 governments pressed Japan to sign an international anti-parental child abduction treaty called the Hague Convention, which Japan has so far refused for nearly 30 years. There has also been a recent proposed House (US Congress) Resolution threatening sanctions on Japan for allowing the kidnapping of US citizens. More info is here: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=hr111-1326&tab=summary

This is all going in the right direction, but it is not enough. We need grass roots pressure as well.

I am trying to help a two gentlemen (see attached doc for more background info) who have worked their butts off the past couple of years to make a documentary film about child abduction in Japan. As you will see in the attachment, they’ve had a lot of success so far, but hope to enter their documentary into a major film festival so that its profile can be raised and reach a broad audience.

My personal request…?

I hope you can join a group of us at 7:00 pm on Thurs, June 24th in Shibuya

Cerego Japan Inc.

Ninomiya Bldg 4F
18-4 Sakuragaoka-cho
150-0031 Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

(location: http://blog.smart.fm/en/about/location/ ) to watch the latest cut of their documentary, engage with other concerned and/or affected parents, and help contribute to the completion and ongoing success of this film.

There is no entry fee to join us and watch. That said, contributions (assuming you like what you see) would be much appreciated. If you cannot attend, but still wish to contribute, you can make a donation at

http://www.documentary.org/community/IDA-resources/fiscal_sponsorship_donate?film_id=2977

For the record, I have already contributed $1,000 and will donate another $500 before month end.

If you donate on or before June 30, 2010 then your contribution is matched by a US-based foundation, up to an additional $15,000 in donations. With the film 80% complete this is a wonderful chance. So, if you would like to join the group of contributors, acting now doubles the amount for the film.

This is definitely in your interest to bring this cause to the proper light.

I hope you can support this very worthy cause, as well as spread the word to other friends who might be interested in or affected by this situation.

Once again, the issue is best summarized at this link: http://www.fromtheshadowsmovie.com/english/index.html

p.s. A few words from the film directors, David Hearn and Matt Antell.

We first became aware of this situation in a Metropolis article back in January 2006. It was absolutely shocking to hear how easy it was for children to be cut off from their parents in Japan. I had lived here in Japan for 13 years and knew nothing about it. It especially hit home for me because I was just about to get married and wanted to have kids. I have slowly learned just how vulnerable we can be.

As we started the film it seemed that many people had their own story and so many of them wanted to have their voice heard in some way. Our project has taken us to 4 different countries in search of the material we now have for the film. Along the way we have met all kinds of subjects and have settled on the 4 situations we believe will make the most compelling cases.

We want our film to emphasize how essential preserving a healthy bond between child and parent is by showing what it’s like when that bond is severed. Divorce between parents is difficult enough but it doesn’t make it right or just for children to be forced to divorce their parents as well.

We hope our film sets a new course for the debate on this matter, by putting the viewer in the shoes of the left behind parents and understand the pain and despair this situation can cause.

ENDS

Kyodo: MOFA conducts online survey on parental child abductions and signing Hague Convention (in Japanese only)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has just started asking for opinions from the public regarding Japan’s ascension to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (which provides guidelines for dealing with cases of children being taken across borders without the consent of both parents, as well as establishing custody and visitation; all past Debito.org articles on the issue here.).

Sounds good until you consider the contexts.  We’ve already had a lot of Japanese media portraying the Japanese side of an international marriage as victims, fleeing an abusive NJ.  Even the odd crackpot lawyer gets airtime saying that signing the Hague will only empower the wrong side of the divorce (i.e. the allegedly violent and-by-the-way foreign side), justifying Japan keeping its status as a safe haven.  Even the Kyodo article below shies away from calling this activity “abduction” by adding “so-called” inverted quotes (good thing the Convention says it plainly).

But now we have the MOFA officially asking for public opinions from the goldfish bowl.  Despite the issue being one of international marriage and abduction, the survey is in Japanese only.  Fine for those NJ who can read and comment in the language.  But it still gives an undeniable advantage to the GOJ basically hearing only the “Japanese side” of the divorce.  Let’s at least have it in English as well, shall we?

Kyodo article below, along with the text of the survey in Japanese and unofficial English translation.  Is it just me, or do the questions feel just a tad leading, asking you to give reasons why Japan shouldn’t sign?  In any case, I find it hard to imagine an aggrieved J parent holding all the aces (not to mention the kids) saying, “Sure, sign the Hague, eliminate our safe haven and take away my power of custody and revenge.”  That’s why we need both sides of the story, with I don’t believe this survey is earnestly trying to get.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Japan conducts online survey on parental child abductions
Kyodo News/Japan Today Wednesday 26th May, 06:29 AM JST

http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/japan-conducts-online-survey-on-parental-child-abductions

TOKYO — Japan began Tuesday soliciting views via the Internet on the possibility of the country ratifying an international convention to deal with problems that arise when failed international marriages result in children wrongfully being taken to Japan by one parent.

The online survey by the Foreign Ministry asks people who have been involved in the so-called parental ‘‘abductions’’ to Japan of children of failed marriages what they think about Japan’s accession to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Complaints are growing over cases in which a Japanese parent, often a mother, brings a child to Japan without the consent of the foreign parent, or regardless of custody determination in other countries, and denies the other parent access to the child.

The convention provides a procedure for the prompt return of such ‘‘abducted’’ children to their habitual country of residence and protects parental access rights.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has suggested that he is considering positively Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention and ratifying it during the next year’s ordinary Diet session.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said at a regular news conference Tuesday that the government will examine opinions collected through the online survey in studying the possibility of joining the convention. The questionnaire will be posted on the website of the Foreign Ministry and its 121 diplomatic missions abroad, he said.

At present, 82 countries are parties to the Hague Convention. Of the Group of Eight major powers, Japan and Russia have yet to ratify the treaty.
ENDS

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

TEXT OF THE MOFA SURVEY

Courtesy http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/press/event/files/ko_haag.doc

「国際的な子の奪取の民事面に関する条約(ハーグ条約)」に関するアンケート

【問1】 国境を越えた子供の移動に関する問題の当事者となり、以下のような経験をしたことはありますか。なお、回答に当たり、個人名などは挙げていただく必要はありません。

●国境を越える形で子供を連れ去られたり、やむなく子供と一緒に移動せざるを得なかったこと (その事情も含めて教えてください。) (回答)

●外国で裁判をして、裁判所の命令等により国境を越える移動に制限が加えられたこと (回答)

●差し支えなければ、以下の事項についても教えてください。 -子供の年齢: -父母の別: -子供に対する親権の有無: -関係ある国の名前:

【問2】 ハーグ条約の存在やその内容をご存知でしたか。 (回答)

【問3】 これまで我が国がハーグ条約を締結していないことについてどのようなご意見をお持ちですか。 (回答)

【問4】 日本がハーグ条約を締結することになれば、ご自身又は類似の境遇に置かれている方々にどのような利益・不利益があると思いますか。 (回答)

【問5】 その他ハーグ条約や国際的な子の連れ去り問題についてご意見があれば、お書きください。 (回答)

お名前(       )

ご連絡先(      )

場合によって当方からさらに詳細についてお伺いするために連絡をとらせていただくことは,

(1)差し支えない (2)希望しない

ご協力に感謝申し上げます。

//////////////////////////////////////////

UNOFFICIAL ENGLISH TRANSLATION

SURVEY REGARDING THE HAGUE CONVENTION ON THE CIVIL ASPECTS OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION

Question 1:  Have you ever had an experience like the ones below regarding the problem of children being moved across borders? You do not have to reveal anyone’s names in your answers:

— There was a child abducted across an international border / you had no choice but to move with your children (please give details):
— You had a court trial in a foreign country and your border movements were restricted by a court order. (Response space)

— If convenient, please tell us about the following conditions:  Age of the child: — Whether you are the mother or the father — Whether you had custody of the children / The name of the relevant country (Response space)

Question 2: Did you know the existence and the content of the Hague Convention? (Response space)
Question 3: Do you have an opinion about Japan not becoming a party to the Hague Convention so far? (Response space)
Question 4: If Japan were to sign the Hague Convention, you think there would be any advantages or disadvantages given to people in similar circumstances, or yourself? (Response space)
Question 5: If you have any comments about the issues – child abduction and the Hague Convention and other international issues, please state them below: (Response space)

Name

Contact details

There may be cases where we need to contact you to receive more details on your case.  Would contacting you be possible? (Yes/No)

Thank you for your cooperation.

ENDS

Savoie Child Abduction Case: Father sues judge and lawyer that enabled ex-wife to abduct

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. Taste the difference in jurisprudence between Japan and the US here. We have Christopher Savoie suing his former lawyer — and the judge in his case — for enabling his ex-wife to get her passport back and take their kids for a visit to Japan, whereupon she abducted the kids despite her court promises. Imagine being able to sue a judge in Japan for negligence! We’ll see where this goes. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

/////////////////////////////////////////////
WSMV.com Nashville Tennessee USA
Franklin Dad Sues Judge After Japanese Arrest
Lawsuit Filed Against Williamson County Circuit Court Judge James G. Martin

http://www.wsmv.com/news/23277866/detail.html
Associated Press
POSTED: 10:43 am CDT April 27, 2010
UPDATED: 4:37 pm CDT April 27, 2010

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — A Tennessee man who was arrested in Japan when he tried to take his children back from his ex-wife is suing the local judge and an attorney who handled the divorce.

Japanese prosecutors eventually dropped the case against Christopher Savoie of Franklin after he tried in September to enter the U.S. Consulate with his 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. Ex-wife Noriko Savoie had violated a U.S. court custody decision by taking the children to her native Japan a month earlier.

The lawsuit says the children are still living in Japan with their mother.

Savoie filed a federal lawsuit this month against Williamson County Circuit Court Judge James G. Martin, who served as both the mediator during the divorce and then later as the judge that lifted a restraining order barring the ex-wife from taking the children to Japan.

Savoie claims that Tennessee Supreme Court law states that mediators should refrain from acting in a judicial capacity in cases in which they mediated. He also claims negligence because the judge was aware of the risk of child abduction in this case.

He also filed a state lawsuit in Williamson County against his former divorce attorney, Virginia Lee Story, arguing she failed to object to having Martin hear the case as a judge. He claims she was negligent and asks for compensatory and punitive damages.

Messages left for Martin and Story on Tuesday were not immediately returned.
Sharon Curtis-Flair, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, said her office typically represents state officials in lawsuits relating to their official duties, but they had not yet been served with this lawsuit.

Timothy Tull, Savoie’s attorney, said that judges should be aware of child custody issues that have resulted from Japan’s refusal to join an international agreement three decades ago on the matter.

An arrest warrant issued in Tennessee for Savoie’s ex-wife has no effect in Japan because the country hasn’t signed the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which seeks to ensure that custody decisions are made by the appropriate courts and that the rights of access of both parents are protected. Japanese law also allows only one parent to be a custodian — almost always the mother.

“Our goal is to educate and help the judiciary understand they need to heed the State Department’s warning that every measure should be taken to preclude this from happening,” Tull said.

Court records show that Savoie filed for divorce in June 2008 and Martin served as the mediator in multiple sessions before the couple agreed to a marital dissolution agreement and parenting plan. The plan allowed for Noriko Savoie to take the children to Japan on vacation, but required that she continue to live with them in Tennessee.

Savoie said in the federal lawsuit that he grew increasingly concerned that his ex-wife would take the children to Japan permanently and turned over an e-mail as evidence and asked for the court to intervene.

In March 2009 soon after their divorce was final, another Williamson County Judge Circuit Court judge issued an emergency restraining order barring her from traveling with the children. The case was initially assigned to another judge, but then was transferred to Martin, who lifted the travel restriction and returned the children’s passports.

The lawsuit said Christopher Savoie spent 18 days in custody after he went to Japan to get the children back and said he has “little hope of future reunification.”
ENDS

US House of Reps Resolution submission regarding Japan’s Child Abductions Issue

mytest

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US House of Representatives to Introduce House Resolution condemning Japan for International Child Abduction.
Courtesy of Paul Toland, of Help Bring Erika Toland Home Facebook Page
May 2, 2010

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=98937667971

On Wednesday, May 5th 2010, the Japanese National Holiday of Children’s Day, A United States House of Representatives House Resolution will be introduced condemning Japan for International Child Abduction and calling on Japan to facilitate the immediate return of all children abducted to Japan. This historic resolution comes after 58 years of zero cooperation by the Government of Japan on this issue. Of the 231 children abducted to Japan in the last decade, and the countless hundreds more abducted in the preceding decades, none have ever been returned, making Japan quite literally a black hole from which no child ever returns.

A Capitol Hill press conference introducing the resolution will be held from 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM outdoors at the House Triangle, located near the Capitol building, opposite Longworth building (and over Independence Ave. road, away from Longworth building). Closest metro is Capitol South.

Speaking at the Press Conference will be Congressman James Moran (D-VA), Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), and many victim parents to include Christopher Savoie, Commander Paul Toland, Doug Berg and others.

Immediately following the press conference, the Bring Abducted Children
(BAC) Home foundation (www.bachome.org), consisting of victim parents of child abduction, will head to the Japanese Embassy for a 4:00 PM rally where the parents will take turns reading excerpts from the resolution in front of the embassy.

That evening, at 7:30 PM, BAC Home Foundation will hold a candlelight vigil in front of the Japanese Ambassador’s residence to remember and pray for the return of the 200+ abducted children.

May 5, 2010 Schedule:

1:30 – 2:30 PM: Capitol Hill Press Conference to introduce House Resolution condemning Japan for International Child Abduction. House Triangle.

4:00 PM: Bring Abducted Children (BAC) Home rally and House Resolution
Reading, Japanese Embassy. 2520 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC

7:30 PM – BAC Home Candlelight vigil, Japanese Ambassador’s residence, 4000 Nebraska Ave NW, Washington, DC

ENDS

Japan Times update on current J child abductions after divorce & Hague Treaty nego: USG still pressuring GOJ

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. The following Japan Times article wouldn’t normally be put up on Debito.org yet because the negotiation is ongoing (covering much the same argumentative ground as already reported here), and nothing necessarily decisive has been decided. However, a new development in the USG’s constant-looking pressure on the GOJ to sign the Hague, and do something about its citizens using Japan as a haven for child abductions after divorce, is the fact that somebody official is bothering to answer the GOJ claim that obeying the Hague would mean sending back J children to be endangered by an abusive NJ parent (I’ll take that as a slur, thank you very much). Excerpts from the JT article below. Arudou Debito in Morioka.

//////////////////////////////////

DPJ rule raises Hague treaty-signing hope
‘Left-behind parent’ urges Japan to side with child-abduction pact
By MASAMI ITO
The Japan Times: Thursday, March 18, 2010 (excerpt)

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100318f1.html

… Article 1 of the Hague Convention states that its objective is “to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in any Contracting State.” At present, there are 82 signatory states, including Canada, the United States and Great Britain. Of the Group of Eight countries, only Japan and Russia have not signed the treaty.

“There is a part of this convention that is alienated from the Japanese legal system,” the Foreign Ministry said in a written reply to The Japan Times. “In concluding this convention, there are several issues that need to be thoroughly discussed, including the consistency with our country’s judicial system on families.”

Under Japanese law, only one parent gets custody over children after a divorce, whereas rulings on joint custody are often seen in Europe and the United States. But with the number of international marriages on the increase and a rise in divorces as well, Japan faces increasing international pressure to change the current system and sign the convention.

Last month, Kurt Campbell, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, brought up the issue during his meetings with Japanese officials in Tokyo and even held a special news conference on the topic at the U.S. Embassy.

“The U.S. government places the highest possible priority on the welfare of children who have been victims of international parental child abduction and strongly believes that children should grow up with access to both parents,” Campbell told reporters. […]

One key concern often cited in the Japanese media is cases of domestic violence in which mostly Japanese women are fleeing their abusive husbands and bringing their children to Japan to protect them.

But Article 13 of the convention stipulates that children do not need to be returned if there is a risk that the return “would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.”

[Raymond Baca, the consul general of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, who has a rather unfortunate name,] said: “There is this perception out there, and I believe it’s widely held, that if Japan joined or acceded to the Hague Convention, that Japanese parents here would be required to send their children back to an abusive environment.

“It’s important to point out that there are explicit safeguards against this within the Hague Convention,” he said.

Full article at
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100318f1.html

ENDS

Colin Jones and Daily Yomiuri on J judiciary’s usurpingly paternal attitudes re families post-divorce

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  One more piece in the puzzle about why divorces with children in tow in Japan are so problematic.  As we’ve discussed here before umpteen times, Japan does not allow joint custody (thanks to the Koseki Family Registry system etc.), nor does it guarantee visitation rights.  Following below is another excellent article by Colin Jones on why that is — because Japan’s paternalistic courts and bureaucrats believe they know more than the parents about what’s best for the child — and another full article from the Yomiuri illustrating how this dynamic works in practice.  It’s one more reason why I believe that without substantial reforms, nobody should marry (Japanese or NJ) and have children under the Japanese system as it stands right now.  Arudou Debito in Calgary

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

The Japan Times Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010
THE ZEIT GIST
Children’s rights, judicial wrongs
By COLIN P. A. JONES Last in a two-part series (excerpt)

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100202zg.html

Parents, lawyers and activists alike understandably frame the problems of parental child abduction and parental alienation in Japan in terms of children’s rights. While it would be easy to conclude from what I wrote in last week’s column that Japanese courts simply do not care about them, this would probably be a mistake.

On the contrary, family courts and their specially trained investigative personnel are held out as the “experts” on children, their welfare and rights…

Thus, in my view, the fact that courts might be inclined to ignore Civil Code provisions that describe parental authority as including parental rights is understandable for the same reason that they might not be keen on referring to the Children’s Rights Convention: It is probably personally and professionally more satisfying to tell other people what they should be doing than the other way around.

With rights being the principle way in which parents and other citizens could tell the courts and other government institutions what to do, their conversion into duties is also understandable. While in other countries courts provide a mechanism by which people assert their rights against bureaucracies, in Japan the courts tend to be more like bureaucracies themselves. The same logic may also explain why the Japanese government is able to advance plans to make it easier to terminate the rights of abusive parents at a time when growing calls for the adoption of joint custody, enforceable visitation and joining the Hague Convention on international child abduction remain unaddressed.

Consequently, parents and activists trying to address the problems of child abduction and parental alienation in Japan using arguments framed in terms of children’s rights may not get very far with family courts or other bureaucracies. After all, they are the experts in the subject, and if you are in court they may presume you are a bad parent anyways. That being the case, they will tell you what is best for your child, not the other way around.

Full article at: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100202zg.html

////////////////////////////////////////////

WHEN FAMILIES BREAK UP / Divorced parents fighting for right to see own children
The Yomiuri Shimbun Feb 3, 2010, courtesy of TC

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20100203TDY01303.htm

We live in a time when divorce has become commonplace. In Japan, a couple gets divorced every two minutes. Consequently, the number of divorced parents filing requests with the courts for visitation rights is increasing.

There is also a growing number of conflicts resulting from breakups of couples from different countries. Due to differences in interpretation regarding child custody, parents have been accused of abducting their own children and taking them to another country.

As families and people’s values diversify, certain problems have become difficult to resolve under the existing system.

Starting today, we will look at some of the problems divorced parents face as they struggle to win the right to see their children.

After separating from her husband five years ago, a 51-year-old woman in Tokyo began a long struggle to see her 15-year-old son.

The woman, a temporary worker, has only been able to see her son twice in the five years that have passed. The meetings, held in a court and in the presence of a court personnel, totaled just 95 minutes.

On both occasions when the woman saw her son, she was unable to stop tears welling up.

“My son, who is taking piano lessons, put his hand on mine to compare the size,” she said. “As I saw him staring at me while talking, I felt we were deeply bound inside.”

Desperately wishing to see her son more often, in July 2007 she applied to the family court for mediation on the issue of visitation rights.

However, the woman’s former husband initially resisted all requests to allow her to visit her son, citing the boy’s need to focus on his schooling, including preparing to move up to the next grade.

As part of the mediation process, in which a voluntary settlement is sought with the help of commissioners, the court initially set up two short meetings between the woman and her son as a way of determining the format future meetings should take.

The two met for 50 minutes in March 2008 and 45 minutes in April 2009.

“My son remembered the meeting we had a year earlier,” the woman said.

While the court advised that the woman be allowed to visit her son every two months, the couple failed to reach an agreement. As a result, the mediation process moved to the next stage, which will see a final decision issued by a judge.

“I’m so worried that I might never be allowed to see my son again,” she said.

===

Children caught up in disputes

The number of divorces nationwide reached 250,000 in 2008, according to a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry survey. Of those divorced couples, 140,000 had children aged under 20, which numbered more than 240,000.

The rising number of divorced couples is accompanied by an increasing number of conflicts involving children.

According to an annual survey compiled by the Supreme Court, family courts across the country mediated in 6,261 cases concerning disputes over meetings between divorced parents and their children and judges were forced to deliver a final decision in 1,020 of those cases. Both figures were triple the numbers a decade ago.

Even through such court-mediated procedures, only half of the parents involved in the cases won permission to see their children.

In addition, regardless of an agreement or court order reached on visitation, if the parent who lives with the child strongly resists allowing meetings, it remains difficult for the other parent to see the child.

===

Maintaining contact important

Several years ago, a 40-year-old man from Kanagawa Prefecture seeking the right to see his then 1-year-old son applied for court mediation.

He had helped his wife take care of the baby, feeding him milk and changing his diapers at night. On his days off, he took the boy to a park to play. “I had no inkling I’d be prevented from meeting my son after the divorce,” he said. “But I was completely wrong.”

He said that even after the official mediation procedure started, his former wife maintained she would never allow him to see their son. She even pushed back the scheduled date for the mediation. Time passed and no decisions were made.

Desperate to see his son, the man even visited the neighborhood where the boy lived with his mother.

The former couple failed to reach a compromise through the court-led mediation process and began proceedings that would lead to a decision by a judge. Two years later, the court concluded that the man should be allowed to see his son once a month, for half a day. Nevertheless, the former wife broke the appointment set for the first meeting, leaving the man unable to see the boy.

After repeated negotiations with the woman through lawyers, he finally managed to ensure he could regularly see his son. “I believe it’s important for children’s growth to maintain a relationship with both parents,” the father said. “I think adults shouldn’t deprive their children of this right due to selfishness.”

Waseda University Prof. Masayuki Tanamura argues the existing system no longer meets society’s changing needs. “It was previously believed that divorced parents had to accept they couldn’t see children they’d been separated from,” Tanamura said. “In recent years, however, men have become more involved in child rearing and the number of children born to couples has declined. Because of this, many divorced parents have an increased desire to maintain their relationship with their children even after a divorce.”

What needs to be done to ensure that parents can see their children after a divorce? There is a growing need for this nation to find an answer to this question.

===

Sole custody causing headaches

A key factor behind disputes involving divorced couples over their children’s custody is a Civil Code stipulation that parental prerogatives are granted to either the mother or father–not both.

The parent who obtains custody assumes rights and duties for his or her child, such as the duty to educate the child and the right to control any assets they might have. However, the parent without parental authority can claim almost no rights concerning their children.

In fact, mothers win in 90 percent of court decisions concerning the custody of a child–known as mediation and determination proceedings.

There is no provision in the Civil Code referring to the visitation rights of a parent living separately from his or her child, so whether the absent parent can meet the child depends on the wishes of the former partner who has been granted custody.

If the parent who has custody refuses to let his or her child meet with the former spouse in a court mediation, it is difficult to arrange visits.

Even if the parent living separately from his or her child or children is allowed to visit, the chances are limited–for example, to once a month. Moreover, if the parents who have custody ignore the court’s decision to grant their spouses visiting rights, there is almost no legal recourse to implement such visits.

Waseda University Prof. Masayuki Tanamura said: “The current system strongly reflects the Japanese family system established in the Meiji era [1868-1912]. Since that time, parental authority has been regarded as the right of the parents to control their children, so couples fight over it.”

Meanwhile, as the number of divorces increased from the 1970s to the ’90s in Europe and the United States, such countries began allowing joint custody, in which former couples cooperate in bringing up their children even after breaking up.

Lawyer Takao Tanase, who also serves as a professor at Chuo University, said: “[In such countries,] the rights of parents who live separately from their children after divorce to visit and communicate with their children are recognized, and such visits occur regularly. For example, there are cases in which such parents meet with their children once a fortnight and spend the weekend together.”

The number of international marriages is increasing yearly–reaching a record high of 18,774 cases in 2008–and the difference in the custody system between Japan and foreign countries causes serious problems when a Japanese splits from his or her foreign spouse.

Cases in which Japanese living in foreign countries take their children back to Japan after divorcing a foreign spouse have become an international problem. The Foreign Ministry confirmed 73 such incidents in the United States, 36 in Canada, 35 in France and 33 in Britain.

There is an international law to deal with such disputes. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction stipulates that if a former husband or wife takes his or her child or children to another country without the consent of the former spouse, the spouse can apply to bring the child back to the country where they were living. Member countries assume an obligation to cooperate in bringing the child back to the home country.

Many European countries and the United States have joined the convention, but Japan has yet to ratify it. International pressure on Japan to adopt the convention is growing.

“We need to separate the problems of parent-child relationships from the problems between couples. We need to establish laws enabling children to meet with the parent who is living separately after divorce, with the exception of cases in which the child is exposed to potential physical danger by meeting the parent,” Tanase said.

“In Japan, divorce is becoming increasingly common, and it’s important to accept the idea that divorced couples will share child-rearing duties even after divorce,” he added.

(Feb. 3, 2010)

Int’l Child Abductions Issue: USG formally links support to GOJ re DPRK abductions with GOJ’s signing of Hague Treaty

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I think this is probably the good news of the month.  The US seems to have formally linked and exposed the cognitive dissonance found in the GOJ’s victimhood status regarding the abductions of Japanese by North Korea and the abductions of children into Japan by Japanese citizens after an international divorce.  (Note the GOJ even resorted to the ultimate excuse, “Japanese culture”, below.  Was that the last straw?)  Bravo.  Submitter PT puts it best, so I’ll include his commentary.  Arudou Debito in Calgary.

////////////////////////////////

PT writes (February 8, 2010):  Another breakthrough today. For years now, going back to the release of the Megumi Yokota movie back in late 2006/early 2007, we have been trying to point out the hypocrisy of the Japanese government in insisting that the United States support their efforts to get back their 17 citizens abducted to North Korea between 27 and 33 years ago, while continuing their ongoing state sponsored kidnapping of hundreds of American children to Japan. Well, it looks like we have finally reached the point where the United States Government has once and for all pointed this hypocrisy out to the Japanese Government.

An article in Kyodo news service was released [February 6] titled “U.S. warns Japan of effect of custody treaty on N. Korea abductions.” The article states that Assistant Secretary Campbell, in meetings with Japanese counterparts, warned that failure to sign the Hague “may have adverse effects on Washington’s assistance to Tokyo in trying to resolve the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals.” The article also states that Campbell “noted that there is something in common in the sorrows felt by Japanese people whose children were abducted by North Korea and by Americans whose children were taken away by their Japanese spouses.”

Although the article contains much of the common Japanese verbage that we don’t like, including putting the word abduction in quotations and that Noriko Savoie, “allegedly” took the children from the United States to Japan against a U.S. court decision.” There’s no “allegedly” involved in that situation. Anyway, the important point is that this represents a policy shift in United States foreign policy toward Japan that is likely to make waves throughout Japan. This is good news in moving forward.  PT

//////////////////////////////////

U.S. warns Japan of effect of custody treaty on N. Korea abductions
Kyodo News/Breitbart, Feb 6 2010, Courtesy of PT.

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9DMQV380&show_article=1

TOKYO, Feb. 7 (AP) – (Kyodo)—A senior U.S. government official has warned Japan that its failure to join an international treaty on child custody may have adverse effects on Washington’s assistance to Tokyo in trying to resolve the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals, diplomatic sources said Saturday.

Kurt Campbell, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, made the remarks to senior Japanese Foreign Ministry officials during his visit to Japan in early February and strongly urged the Japanese government to become a party to the treaty, the sources said.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is aimed at preventing one of the parents in a failed international marriage from taking their child across national borders against an existing child custody arrangement.

The U.S. government has urged Japan to join the treaty due to an increasing incidence of Japanese parents “abducting” their children to Japan even though their spouses of different nationality have custody over the children in the United States.

Other countries such as Britain and France are also stepping up their calls on Japan to join the international convention.

Japan has been largely reluctant to do so, with a senior Foreign Ministry official saying, “It does not suit Japanese culture to treat parents, who have brought back their children to the country, as criminals.”

But the government has begun considering the possibility of becoming a party to the treaty in response to the urgings from other countries.

According to the sources, Campbell explained to Japanese officials that taking children from those who have custody over them is called “abduction” in the United States and criticism against Japan over such cases is increasing in the country.

He noted that there is something in common in the sorrows felt by Japanese people whose children were abducted by North Korea and by Americans whose children were taken away by their Japanese spouses, the sources said.

While reaffirming that the U.S. administration and Congress have made clear their positions on seeking a resolution of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese, Campbell expressed hope that the Japanese government would give consideration to the child custody issue so as not to damage this willingness to support Japan.

Japanese officials responded that they need to think carefully about the question of whether to join the treaty while keeping in mind Japanese public opinion, but the U.S. side was not convinced, the sources said.

Late last month, Campbell met in Washington with about 30 people seeking to see their children who have apparently been “abducted” by their Japanese spouses and promised them that he will express his concerns over the situation to the Japanese government.

The issue drew attention last year when a man from the United States was arrested in Japan after trying to take his children back from his divorced Japanese wife, who allegedly took the children from the United States to Japan against a U.S. court decision.
ENDS

International community serves demarche to MOFA re Int’l Child Abductions Issue, Jan 30 2010

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Some pressure at the highest levels of government regarding the Child Abductions case.  Good news indeed.  Have a read of a number of press materials below.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

////////////////////////////////////////////////

Japan urged to resolve child custody disputes
(Mainichi Japan) January 30, 2010, Courtesy of AS

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20100130p2g00m0dm036000c.html

TOKYO (AP) — Ambassadors from the U.S. and seven other countries on Saturday urged Tokyo to resolve legal custody issues that keep foreign parents from visiting their children in Japan.

Under Japanese law, a single parent gains full custody of children in divorce cases, and it is usually the mother. This leaves many fathers cut off from their children until they are grown.

In addition, Japan has not signed on to a global treaty on child abduction. So when international marriages go sour, Japanese mothers can bring their children home and refuse any contact with foreign ex-husbands, regardless of custody rulings in other countries.

The long-standing issue gained increased attention last year, when American Christopher Savoie was arrested in Japan after his Japanese ex-wife accused him of taking their two children as they went to school. Amid accusations of kidnapping from both sides, Savoie was eventually released and allowed to leave the country, on condition he leave his children behind.

On Saturday, U.S. Ambassador John Roos, together with ambassadors and envoys from Australia, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada and Spain met with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada to discuss the issue.

They emphasized the welfare of children involved in such disputes, saying they should have access to both parents, said a joint statement issued after the meeting. The ambassadors urged Japan to sign the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which all eight countries have done.

“We also urged Japan to identify and implement interim measures to enable parents who are separated from their children to maintain contact with them and ensure visitation rights, and to establish a framework for resolution of current child abduction cases,” the statement said.

Japan’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying Okada explained that Tokyo recognized the importance of the issue and was working toward a resolution.

Tokyo has argued in the past that signing the convention could endanger Japanese women and their children who have fled from abusive foreign husbands.
ENDS

/////////////////////////////////////////////////

From PW:

Hi Debito, I hope you’re doing well. Not sure if you heard. 8 embassies served a demarche on the MOFA this past Saturday regarding Child Abductions.

Note the last sentence in this report about award the child to the Japanese grandparents.

Eight countries press Japan on parental abductions
(AFP) – Saturday January 30, 2010

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h9hKCzas2eQXSES98OCG-gOWVPoQ?index=0

TOKYO — Envoys of eight countries met the Japanese foreign minister Saturday to press the government to sign a treaty to prevent international parental child abductions.

Activists say that thousands of foreign parents have lost access to children in Japan, where the courts virtually never award child custody to a divorced foreign parent.

Japan is the only nation among the Group of Seven industrialised nations that has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention that requires countries to return a child wrongfully kept there to their country of habitual residence.

In the latest move to urge Tokyo to sign the convention, envoys from Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain and the United States expressed their concerns to Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada.

The ambassadors visited the foreign ministry to “submit our concerns over the increase of international parental abduction cases involving Japan and affecting our nationals,” they said in a joint statement.

“Currently the left-behind parents of children abducted to or from Japan have little hope of having their children returned,” said the statement.

Such parents “encounter great difficulties in obtaining access to their children and exercising their parental rights and responsibilities,” it said.

“This is a very serious issue, to which we have to find a solution,” said Okada as he received the delegation including French ambassador Philippe Faure and US envoy John Roos.

“This comes from the different legal systems between Japan and the countries of North America and Europe,” Okada said.

The envoys’ visit to Okada followed their meeting with Justice Minister Keiko Chiba in October, as they hope Japan’s new centre-left government, which ended a half-century of conservative rule in September, will review the issue.

Activist groups estimate that over the years up to 10,000 dual-citizenship children in Japan have been prevented from seeing a foreign parent.

The United States has said it has listed cases of more than 100 children abducted by a parent from the United States and taken to Japan.

Japanese courts usually award child custody in divorce cases to just one parent, usually the mother, rather than reaching joint custody agreements with parental visitation rights.

Japanese courts also habitually side with the Japanese parent in an international custody dispute — sometimes even awarding a child’s Japanese grandparents custody rights over a foreign parent.

//////////////////////////////////////////

TBS broadcast:
http://news.tbs.co.jp/20100130/newseye/tbs_newseye4344136.html

子供連れ去り対処、8大使が要望

国際離婚に伴う子供の連れ去りに対処するハーグ条約をめぐり、アメリカ、フランスなど8か国の大使らが、そろって岡田外務大臣のもとを訪れ、日本も条約に加盟するよう要望しました。

ハーグ条約は、国際結婚したカップルが離婚した際に、片方の親が子供を自分の母国に一方的に連れ帰るなどの事例に対処するもので、政府を通じて子供の返還や面会の請求が出来る仕組みになっています。

この条約には現在、欧米などおよそ80か国が加盟していますが、親権に対する考え方の違いなどから日本は加盟していません。このため、日本人が当事者となるトラブルが相次いでいるとして、アメリカやイギリス、フランスなど8か国の大使らが岡田外務大臣に面会し、条約に加盟するよう要望しました。

岡田大臣は、「非常に深刻な問題だ」とする一方、「欧米と日本での法制度の違いにも起因している問題だ」と述べ、慎重な姿勢を示しました。(30日17:39)

////////////////////////////////////////

Kyodo News about Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell to raise the issue of child abductions with his counterparts today.

国際親権問題で日本に懸念伝達へ 米国務次官補
2010/01/30 09:11 【共同通信】
http://www.47news.jp/CN/201001/CN2010013001000089.html
【ワシントン共同】キャンベル米国務次官補は29日、国際結婚が破綻するなどして子どもを日本人の元配偶者に「拉致」され、親権を侵害されたと訴える米国人の男女約30人とワシントンで面会した。次官補は面会後「彼らの精神的苦痛をどう軽減できるか日本側と話し合う」と述べ、2月1日からの訪日で外務省などに懸念を伝える考えを示した。

面会は非公開で、国務省からジェイコブズ次官補(領事担当)も参加。出席者によると、国務省側は今月、日本に担当者を派遣し、日米間で意見交換を続けていると説明したという。

面会を終えたキャンベル氏は、居どころ不明や別れた相手に拒否されてわが子に会えない事態を「悲劇だ」とし、子どもの連れ去りに対処する「ハーグ条約」への日本の加盟や個別のケースの解決を親たちは望んでいると説明。

福岡県で昨年9月、日本人の元妻が米国から連れ帰った子ども2人を取り戻そうとして未成年者略取容疑で逮捕され、その後起訴猶予となった日米二重国籍の男性(39)も参加した。

/////////////////////////////////////////

Press release from the US embassy about an earlier meeting with MOFA renewing request to sign the Hague and resolve existing cases.

PRESS RELEASE
U.S. Renews Call for Japan to Accede to Hague Convention Concerning International Child Abduction
January 22, 2010

http://tokyo.usembassy.gov/e/p/tp-20100122-72.html

Officials from the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. State Department met today in Tokyo with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and once again called for Japan to accede to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The meeting was held in the context of a working group established to address issues related to cross-border child custody issues, including the removal of American children from the United States to Japan without the prior consent or knowledge of American parents and the inability of American parents to have any meaningful access to their abducted children in Japan. More than 75 American parents and their children are victims of these situations in Japan. Many citizens of other countries are also affected.

The U.S. government places the highest priority on the welfare of children who are victims of international parental child abduction and strongly believes that children should grow up with access to both parents even after the collapse of a marriage.

The U.S. government hopes that that the working group will provide a means to improve American parents’ access to and visitation with their children; facilitate visits with children by U.S. consular officers; and explore ways to resolve current child abduction cases. While renewing its call for Japan to accede to the Hague Convention, the U.S. government looks forward to working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the working group on these important matters. The U.S. government will also continue working with other like-minded countries that have been affected by this problem in Japan.

For reference:
Link to the latest US Embassy online magazine that is devoted entirely to the child abduction issue:

Winter 2010 “American View”
Joint Press Statement Following the Symposium on International Parental Child Abduction (Canada, France, UK, United States) – Tokyo, May 21, 2009

/////////////////////////////////////

FYI the embassy’s press release:

PRESS RELEASE
Joint Press Statement (International Child Abduction – Eight Nations)
By the Ambassadors of Australia, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States
Tokyo, Japan, January 30, 2010

http://tokyo.usembassy.gov/e/p/tp-20100130-74.html

We, the Ambassadors to Japan of Australia, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, the Charges d’Affaires a.i. of Canada and Spain and the Deputy Head of Mission of Italy, called on Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs today to submit our concerns over the increase of international parental abduction cases involving Japan and affecting our nationals, and to urge Japan to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“the Convention”).

The Convention seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention across international borders, which can be a tragedy for all concerned. The Convention further establishes procedures to ensure the prompt return of children to the State of their habitual residence when wrongfully removed or retained. It also secures protection for rights of access to both parents to their children. To date, over 80 countries have acceded to the Convention, including the eight countries which jointly carried out today’s demarche.

Japan is the only G-7 nation that has not signed the Convention. Currently the left-behind parents of children abducted to or from Japan have little hope of having their children returned and encounter great difficulties in obtaining access to their children and exercising their parental rights and responsibilities.

In our meeting with Japan’s Foreign Minister Okada, we reiterated that we place the highest priority on the welfare of children who have been the victims of international parental child abduction, and stressed that the children should grow up with access to both parents. We signalled our encouragement at recent positive initiatives by the Government of Japan, such as the establishment of the Division for Issues Related to Child Custody within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the same time repeating calls for Japan to accede to the Convention, which would also benefit left-behind parents of Japanese origin. We also urged Japan to identify and implement interim measures to enable parents who are separated from their children to maintain contact with them and ensure visitation rights, and to establish a framework for resolution of current child abduction cases.

Japan is an important friend and partner for each of our countries, and we share many values. We believe this can and should serve as the basis for developing solutions now to all cases of parental child abduction in Japan. In common with our demarche to Justice Minister Chiba on October 16, 2009, we extended an offer to Foreign Minister Okada to continue to work closely and in a positive manner with the Japanese government on this critical issue.

ENDS

Japan Times Colin Jones on anachronistic Koseki System, how lack of family laws affect J divorces

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  In a breathtakingly excellent article that only the Japan Times can give us (where else are you going to find these avenues for academic research in journalistic format; not from the vanity sanitized English press of the Yomiuri, or the skeleton-staff of the IHT/Asahi offering scant domestic news), we have Colin P.A. Jones once again offering eye-opening historical research and commentary on how family law in Japan (or lack thereof) has been created so much on the fly that few accommodations are made for modern circumstances.  In fact, Colin claims below, many circumstances (such as birth registries in complicated circumstances, or joint custody after divorces) are so inconceivable to this anachronistic system that people’s lives are forced to conform to it for its convenience, not the other way around.  It’s so bad that even the Koreans wised up and abolished theirs recently.  So should Japan.  Read excerpt below.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

///////////////////////////////////////////

The Japan Times Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010

THE ZEIT GIST

Judges fill the gaps in Japan’s family law

By COLIN P. A. JONES
First in a two-part series (excerpt)

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100126zg.html

Last year was an important one for child custody issues in Japan, with growing international pressure on Japan to sign the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, and the dramatic arrest of Christopher Savoie in September for supposedly “kidnapping” his own kids in Fukuoka.

I was actually interviewed for a segment on MSNBC’s “Today Show” in connection with the Savoie case. Since the program quite rightly focused on an interview with Mr. Savoie, the footage used of me was quite brief: mostly a clip of me saying it was shocking how easily parental rights are terminated in Japan. But watching my (literally) 14 seconds of fame afterwards, I realized immediately that I had mis-spoken. What is shocking is not how easily parental rights are terminated, but how few parental rights there are to begin with.

While it is common to refer to divorce, custody and visitation as matters of “family law,” strictly speaking Japan does not have such a thing. The principal body of what is generally considered family law is contained in Part IV of the Japanese Civil Code, which is actually titled “Relatives.” In substance, it is concerned mainly with how family relationships are created, modified and terminated, and includes not just the rules by which marriages are formed and terminated, but also those governing the widespread practice of adoption (adult adoption remaining a common practice for households that wish to continue the family name, traditions or business but have no male children to do so).

The code also explains some of the duties of individuals within these relationships, but contains almost no provisions laying down rights, particularly after a relationship has been terminated. Thus, the code is silent on post-divorce child support, visitation and alimony (as distinct from division of marital property). Such relief as is awarded in these areas has effectively been manufactured by the courts according to their own unofficial rules and standards…

Rest of the article at:
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100126zg.html

Asahi Shinbun Jan 8 “Japan edges closer to signing Hague Convention” on Child Abductions issue, still mentions NJ “DV concerns”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  New article in the Asahi re the GOJ and the Child Abductions Issue re signing the Hague Convention.  As submitter PT comments:

“Note the Red Herring of Domestic Violence thrown out by Justice Minister Chiba in the last sentence.  Interesting how the Japanese Government refuses to involve their justice ministry in talks with the US, yet they are quick to put forward a quote from the Justice Minister when pushing back on reasons against signing the Hague.”

Article follows.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

Japan edges closer to signing Hague Convention
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
2010/1/8, Courtesy of PT

http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY201001080120.html

Criticism of Japan over its handling of international child abduction disputes has prompted the Foreign Ministry to look closely at signing a convention designed to protect children caught in the middle.

The Hague Convention on international child abduction stipulates that if a parent from a broken international marriage takes a child out of his or her country of residence without the other’s consent, the child must be returned to that country.

The ministry established a task force on child custody last month and will shortly hold talks about the issue with the United States–the country with which Japan has the most disputes on this issue.

Critics in some countries say Japan has become a haven for “child abductors,” usually Japanese women who bring their children to this country and deny their spouses further custodial access.

In a high-profile case, an American father was arrested in Fukuoka Prefecture last September for trying to snatch back his two children, whom his Japanese ex-wife had brought to Japan without his consent. His arrest drew criticism from within the United States, a signatory to the Hague Convention.

As international marriages and divorces have increased, so, too, has the number of child abduction disputes.

Eighty-one countries are signatories to the 1980 convention. Japan is the only Group of Seven member that is not.

Signatory nations have urged Japan to join to resolve those disputes, and the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended in 2004 that Japan ratify it.

Soon after he assumed the office in September, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada made clear his intention to study Japan’s participation “in a positive manner.”

The Division for Issues Related to Child Custody, the task force of nine officials who specialize in treaty and regional matters, addresses specific disputes while studying whether Japan should sign it.

Also in December, the ministry held the first meeting of the Japan-France consultative committee in Tokyo. The French delegation presented a list of 35 disputes, including eight “serious” cases.

In one case, a Japanese woman who brought her offspring to Japan refuses contact with her French ex-husband. Japanese officials have promised to extend liaison and other help, officials said.

According to the division, the United States had informed Japan of 73 “child abduction” cases, Canada 36 and Britain 33 as of last October.

There are hurdles to clear, however, before Japan can sign the convention. Specifically, officials want to ensure there will be protection for mothers and children who flee abusive ex-husbands.

“Victims of domestic violence have concerns,” said Justice Minister Keiko Chiba.

ENDS

US Congress Lantos HR Commission on J Child Abductions issue: Letters to Obama & Clinton, my submission for Congressional Record

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Hi Blog.  Last week I reported on the US Congress’s investigation of Japan as a haven for international child abductions, and a December 4, 2009 hearing that many of the Left-Behind Parents attended and issued statements to.  The Congressman Lantos Human Rights Commission has since issued letters, signed by several Congresspeople, to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, requesting they personally meet with select representatives of the LBP and consider their issue.  Scans of those letters enclosed below.

I was also invited to write a statement, as a LBP myself, for inclusion in the Congressional Record.  The text of that follows the Obama and Clinton letters.  FYI.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(click on any image to expand in your browser)

//////////////////////////////////////////////

lantoscommission1208091lantoscommission1208092lantoscommission1208093lantoscommission1208094

SUBMISSION FOR THE UNITED STATES CONGRESSIONAL RECORD
REGARDING POST-DIVORCE PARENTAL ACCESS TO CHILDREN IN JAPAN
December 10, 2009

By ARUDOU Debito, Sapporo, Japan
Associate Professor, Hokkaido Information University, and Columnist, The Japan Times newspaper (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, cell +81[…])

I am a former American citizen (named David Christopher Aldwinckle) who became a Japanese citizen in October 2000. I have been living in Japan permanently since 1993, for a total of nearly 23 years. I wish to offer my testimony to Congress, as a divorced and left-behind father in Japan (who hasn’t seen his children for years), and from the perspective an immigrant. I hope to demonstrate how Japan needs drastic reforms to its child-custody and visitation system, not only for the benefit of its international marriages, but also for its own citizens.

Japan has not changed its divorce laws significantly since 1898 (Source: Harald Fuess, Divorce in Japan), particularly in regards to child custody and visitation. Its family registration system treats children like property, since after divorce children’s names are annotated on only one parent’s Family Register (koseki). This means joint custody is legally impossible in Japan (particularly for non-citizens, who by definition do not have a Japanese Family Register). The Registry System is used as grounds to sever one parent legally from a child’s life, a violation of children’s rights to be legally tied to and have access to both parents.

Additionally, child visitation, although technically permissible through negotiated Family Court settlement, is unenforceable in Japan. There are no criminal penalties if the custodial parent unilaterally decides to deny visitation with the non-custodial parent, and no effective enforcement mechanism exists in Japan’s administrative bodies to ensure that both sides keep their promises. Moreover, Japan’s flawed alimony child-support system (custodial mothers are legally entitled to receive benefits from the father, but custodial fathers are not; moreover enforcement in any case is often weak and needs time-consuming court orders) means that in a post-divorce dispute, “Fortress Moms” (who isolate the children) and “Deadbeat Dads” (who disappear financially, sometimes even change jobs to become untraceable) are not unusual in Japan.

None of this is beneficial to Japanese society, and if there is a (strong) chance that one parent will lose all access to his or her children after divorce, this is not encouraging for Japan’s future. Things are already unsustainable — with a rapidly-aging society and record-low birthrates below replacement levels.

In sum, it is my belief that, with Family Laws in Japan as they stand, nobody (Japanese citizen or non-Japanese) should get married and have children in Japan. The risk is just too great. Too many children are getting hurt by a system that encourages Parental Alienation Syndrome, and creates single-parent households that can be acrimonious to the point of deterring the children from becoming parents themselves.

I urge Congress to encourage Japan not only to sign the Hague Convention on Child Abductions, but also reform its long-outdated Family Law structure. Allow for joint custody and enforced child visitation backed up by criminal law penalties — for the sake of not only American citizens, but also us Japanese citizens.

ENDS

ADDENDUM: Paul Toland on US Congressional side of Japan Child Abductions Issue

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I originally had this as a comment added to the previous post, but it is too good to languish there.  USAF officer and Left-Behind Parent Paul Toland reports on US Congressional hearings on the Japan Child Abductions issue.  Read up and get a feel for just how negligent the US has been towards its own citizens.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

Received December 4, 2009 from the HELP BRING ERIKA TOLAND HOME Facebook entry:

Paul Toland:  Yesterday, The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held the first Congressional Hearings on International Child Abduction in over 10 years. The hearings were widely covered and I hope some success can come out of it.

Here is some of the press coverage from yesterday’s hearing (as of now).

Congressman Chris Smith press release:
http://chrissmith.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=157907

Asbury Park Press story:
http://www.app.com/article/20091202/OPINION05/312020004

AFP Newswire story:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i3G1zO_vlTNuN_2QTCuH4iKWwzqQ

Stars and Stripes:
http://blogs.stripes.com/blogs/stripes-central/new-law-could-help-servicemembers-whose-children-have-been-abducted

Washington Times (scroll down to bottom of page):
http://washingtontimes.com/news/2009/dec/03/washington-in-5-minutes-29960583//print/

Yahoo News:
http://real-us.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20091202/pl_afp/usjapanbrazilrightschildrendiplomacy_20091202230923

A CNN story on the Hearings primarily focusing on David Goldman’s case, but also mentioning the other parents, including Erika’s case.
http://us.cnn.com/video/?/video/us/2009/12/02/ferre.brazilian.hearing.cnn.

Congressman Smith’s press release has links to most testimonies, including my testimony. I HIGHLY recommend you read former Assistant Secretary of State Bernard Aronson’s testimony. Congressman Wolf said it was one of the best testimonies he has ever heard, and he received loud applause from the people in the audience, and I agree it is extremely powerful, especially the preposterous way in which the State Department acts (and he’s a former Assistant Secretary of State). Read the part about why Brazil is ranked as having “patterns of non-compliance” with the Hague vs. being “non-compliant” and about why Brazilian citizens cannot have their visa privileges lifted in the United States.

Also, Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, gave his suggestions for how to improve this issue. He referred to Japan directly in his testimony, but also went off script to discuss his belief that establishing a bilateral mechanism with Japan was MORE important than simply having Japan sign the Hague.

Attorney Patricia Apy went into considerable detail on the legal
difficulties faced by military parents overseas, as she is the Liaison to
the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for
Military Personnel.

As far as the Parents’ remarks, I believe all four parents strongly presented our cases. Although I don’t have the complete transcript of the Question and Answer part of our session, I will address here my remarks during the Q&A. I spoke second during testimony (after David Goldman) and spoke last during the Q&A, so my Q&A remarks concluded the parent panel.

Congressman Wolf asked what countries worldwide are the largest violators in terms of Parental Abductions. I answered that Japan accounts for nearly one-quarter of all abductions to non-Hague countries, so Japan stands head and shoulders above any non-Hague countries. In Ernie Allen’s later testimony, he stated that Japan was second among all nations, after Mexico.

Congressman Wolf said that parents should ask and demand to meet with the Secretary of State AND the President. I replied that we HAVE asked again and again for meetings. I did discuss our experience with Assistant Secretary Campbell. I told the commission about Secretary Campbell’s confirmation hearing and his response to Senator Webb that he would meet with any parents who wanted to meet with him. Then I told them about our actual experience with Secretary Campbell, and how left-behind American parents living in Japan with American citizen abducted children were turned away when Secretary Campbell visited Japan, and were told that he was “too busy” and “did not have the time”.

Then I proceeded to hold up 8X10 photos from the associated press of Secretary Campbell hosting Shigeru and Sakie Yokota and Akihiro and Kayoko Arimoto at the Ambassador’s residence…Japanese parents who had children abducted to North Korea over 30 years ago, on the same day that he turned away American parents with children abducted to Japan. It was interesting to watch CBS, NBC, CNN and others scrambling and crowding around our hearing table to get close up shots the photos of Secretary Campbell with the Yokotas.

Congressman Smith had mentioned earlier about the French meeting bilaterally with the Japanese to begin discussions toward resolving the 35 outstanding abduction cases of French children. I expanded upon this by giving some background of how the Hague is not retroactive and will not help any of the parents with children currently abducted to Japan, and that we (parents) have again and again approached State about forming a bilateral working group with Japan to address existing cases, but have been met with a tepid response by State, and that our response from State has generally been that they want Japan to sign the Hague and this will then force Japan to change their laws and provide us with “improved access” to our children. In other words, the terrible tragedies of our cases are being used by State to try to get Japan to sign the Hague, but we won’t derive any benefit from it while our children are still young. I discussed how the French have approached the issue by putting existing cases first and foremost, while treating Japan signing the Hague as a secondary long-term strategic goal that will help in cases that do not yet exist, and it’s the French government that is getting results, not necessarily by having any children returned yet, but by at least having established a bilateral forum with Japan to discuss resolution of existing cases.

Finally, I concluded by reading the following quote from Secretary Clinton on her first trip to Japan “I cannot imagine what it must feel like to have lost family members, and for so many years, never have heard anything about them or from them. I don’t know if I’ll be meeting as a secretary of state anymore than I will be meeting with them as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister. It’s important that their plight is not forgotten. I attach great importance to the abduction issue.” I then dropped the bomb that she was not talking about our issue, but rather she was talking about the abduction of Japanese citizens to North Korea over 30 years ago, and concluded bybsaying that Secretary Clinton has never once addressed our issue in any public forum OR met with a single left behind parent.

I told the Congressman AND the press that it was up to them to spur the State Department into action. As parents, we have tried and tried, but now it is up to Congress and the Press to move the State Department forward in making this issue a central issue of US Foreign Policy.

This was enough to get the Congressmen stirred up, so THE COMMITTEE will be preparing a letter for both the President and Secretary Clinton asking them to meet with Left-Behind parents. Congressman McGovern’s office will be providing parents with a copy of that letter once available. Additionally, Congressman Wolf said I needed to also meet with Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen on this issue. However, I am unsure of the chances of this actually happening.

I want to thank everyone who made this hearing possible yesterday. Congressman Smith and other members of the Commission, the other left behind parents, David, Patrick and Tom, the attorneys and experts on the second panel, the many left-behind parents from Japan, Brazil and other areas who were present, as well as my family. Let’s hope this is a beginning. Sincerely, Paul

Int’l Child Abduction issue update: Chinese found guilty in J court of abducting daughters, MOFA sets up panel on issue

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Three articles (two with original Japanese) below charting a couple of interesting developments regarding Japan as an international haven for child abductions.

The first article is what happens when the shoe’s on the other foot, and the NJ parent goes on trial for allegedly abducting his or her child from Japan — the Japanese authorities eventually convict the NJ.  Asahi reports a Chinese father was found guilty (sentence suspended) in Japanese court of successfully, shall we say, “committing a Savoie” — actually getting his Japanese-Chinese daughters out of Japan (moreover after a J court awarded his ex-wife custody).  The story follows below, but one of the daughters came back to Japan from China and stayed on, and the father came over to get her — whereupon he was arrested and put on trial.  Now the mother wants Japan to sign the Hague Convention to protect Japanese from abductions (well, fine, but neither China nor Japan is a party, so there you go; oddly enough, accusations of spousal abuse — as in this case — are being leveled conversely as reasons for Japan NOT to sign the Convention).  Just sign the damn thing, already.

The second article is from the Mainichi highly critical of the Japanese consulate in Shanghai for renewing the daughters’ J passports without consent of the J mother overseas.  Even though this is standard operating procedure when a Japanese spouse wants to bring the children back to Japan from overseas.  It only seems to make the news when the valve is used against the Japanese spouse.

Final irony:  Quoth the judge who ruled in this case, “It is impossible to imagine the mental anguish of being separated for such a long time from the children she loved.”  Well, that works both ways, doesn’t it?  Why has there never been a child returned by a Japanese court to a NJ parent overseas?  Why didn’t this matter in, for example, the Murray Wood Case, when overseas courts granted custody to the NJ father yet the Saitama Family Court ruled against him?  And how about the plenty of other cases slowly being racked up to paint a picture that NJ get a raw deal in Japanese courts?

The third article (following the original Japanese versions of the first two) is how Minister Okada of the Foreign Ministry is setting up a special task force on this issue. Good.  But let’s see if it can break precedent by acknowledging that NJ have as much right to access and custody of their children as Japanese do.  Dubious at this juncture.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

================================
Former Chinese husband found guilty of abducting daughters
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 2009/12/4
, Courtesy GB, FG, and HH
http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200912040352.html

In another case highlighting legal complexities if international marriages fall apart, a court found a Chinese man guilty of “abducting and taking overseas” his two daughters from their Japanese mother 10 years ago.

The Tachikawa branch of the Tokyo District Court sentenced Qin Weijie, 55, to two years in prison, suspended for three years, on Thursday.

According to the ruling, Qin and his Japanese wife were undergoing divorce procedures in June 1999, when he talked to their daughters, then 7 and 8, on a street in Akishima in western Tokyo. He took them on a flight to Hong Kong from Kansai Airport. The girls had been living with their mother at the time.

When the divorce was finalized, a Japanese court gave the mother sole custody of the children.

But Qin refused to hand over the daughters.

“(The defendant) disrespected the law, and his behavior was malicious. The circumstances after his criminal act were not good, either,” Presiding Judge Manabu Kato said.

According to Qin’s 44-year-old former wife, she was staying at a shelter with the two girls in 1999 to escape Qin’s physical abuse. She said she spent the next 10 years searching for her children, fearing that they may be abused.

But the presiding judge said the daughters “grew up with a proper amount of love.” He also noted that the younger daughter chose to live with her father in China, even after returning to Japan temporarily earlier this year.

After the ruling, Qin said: “In Shanghai, not only my second daughter but also my 1-year-old son from my remarriage are waiting. I’d like to go home soon and fulfill my duty as their father.”

He had told the court that he took the girls to China for their own sake because “their life was unstable” in Japan at the time.

Prosecutors had demanded a three-year prison term for Qin.

When the daughters returned to Japan in January to renew their passports, the second daughter returned to China on her own will, but the elder daughter decided to stay with her mother.

Qin was arrested in September when he entered Japan for the purpose of getting the older daughter back.

According to the mother, the older daughter broke down in tears when she passed by the site where she was taken away 10 years ago. The girl is also being treated for an eating disorder, the mother said.

“My daughter is afraid of my ex-husband, and she is emotionally hurt. How can we get back the lost 10 years?” the mother said.

Disappointed with the suspended sentence, the mother urged the Japanese government to sign the Hague Convention on international child abduction and adopt measures to protect mothers and children who have escaped from abuse.

Under the convention, when a child has been taken from his or her country of residence, the child must be returned to that country.

Neither Japan nor China is party to the Hague Convention.

In recent months, cases of legal problems have surfaced concerning divorced Japanese women bringing their children to Japan without the consent of their former husbands overseas.

When the mother reported the abduction to police, she was told there was nothing they could do.

After she obtained legal custody, she asked the Foreign Ministry, the Chinese government, Diet members and lawyers for support. She even traveled to China several times but could not get her daughters back, she said.

In 2004, Tokyo police finally accepted her criminal complaint against Qin.

According to the welfare ministry, there were 37,000 international marriages in Japan last year, as well as 19,000 divorces among international couples. (IHT/Asahi: December 4,2009)
ENDS
=============================

Japanese consulate renewed passports of children taken overseas without consent
Mainichi Shinbun Dec 4, 2009
, courtesy of TC
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20091204p2a00m0na015000c.html

The Japanese consulate general in Shanghai renewed the passports of two girls without permission from their Japanese mother in violation of the Passport Law, after their Chinese father took them to China in the wake of a marriage breakup, it has been learned.

The consulate general renewed the passports of the girls, now aged 18 and 17, in 2004, despite their mother’s repeated requests to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to renew the passports.

As a result of the consulate general’s actions, the girls remained in China for five more years, and the situation was not resolved until the father came to Japan in September this year and was arrested on suspicion of child abduction.

“As a result of the government’s mistake, I had to wait five years for the return of my daughters,” the children’s mother, who is in her 40s, said. “I want the government to move actively to protect the rights of children.”

Passports for minors are valid for five years. Passport Law regulations state that permission must be obtained from a person who has custody of the children for the passports to be issued.

Representatives of the woman said that she and the Chinese man, 55-year-old Qin Weijie, married in 1988 and lived in Tokyo, but she left due to domestic violence by Qin. In June 1999, Qin met his daughters as they were traveling to school near the home to which his wife had moved, and he took them to China.

Qin and his wife divorced in 2000, and she was granted custody of the children. However, as she didn’t know where they were, she repeatedly asked the Foreign Ministry not to renew their passports. She also filed a criminal complaint against Qin accusing him of abducting the children and taking them overseas. However, the consulate general renewed the passports in January 2004.

About five years later, when the deadline for renewing the passports of the children was again approaching, Qin contacted his former wife asking her to sign a consent form for renewal, but she said she wanted to meet them directly and confirm what they wanted to do, so the two came to Japan in January.

Qin was arrested after entering Japan in September this year at Narita Airport, trying to take his elder daughter, who wanted to remain in Japan, back with him. His former wife said the eldest daughter was suffering from an eating disorder and panic attacks, due in part to violent behavior from Qin.

On Thursday, Qin was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for three years, after going on trial facing international abduction and other charges. In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Manabu Kato criticized Qin’s actions, saying, “His act of taking the children away without notice deserves criticism,” but noted, “At the time Qin also held custody of the children.” Commenting on the wife’s position, the judge stated: “It is impossible to imagine the mental anguish of being separated for such a long time from the children she loved.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Japanese Nationals Overseas Safety Division admitted the mistake in renewing the passports without consent, but said it could not provide detailed background information on individual cases.

(Mainichi Japan) December 4, 2009

国際結婚破綻:母に無断で子の旅券更新…上海日本総領事館
毎日新聞 2009年12月4日
http://mainichi.jp/select/wadai/news/20091204k0000m040117000c.html
国際結婚した日本人妻との生活が破綻(はたん)した後、2人の娘(18歳と17歳)を母国に連れ去ったとして、国外移送誘拐などの罪に問われた中国出身の会社員の事件に絡み、在上海日本総領事館が04年、2人の旅券を、旅券法の規則に反し、親権者である元妻(40代)の同意を取らないまま更新していたことが分かった。元妻は外務省に対し更新しないよう繰り返し要請していた。

更新で2人はその後5年間中国にとどまることになり、元夫が今年9月に来日し逮捕されるまで解決が遅れる結果となった。元妻は「国のミスで5年間も娘の帰りを待たされた。国は子の人権を守るため積極的に動いてほしい」と訴えている。

未成年者の旅券の有効期限は5年間で、旅券法施行規則は発給を受ける際には親権者の同意書が必要と定めている。

元妻の弁護士らによると、夫婦は88年に結婚し東京都内で暮らしていたが、元妻は98年、夫だった中国出身の会社員、秦惟傑被告(55)による家庭内暴力に耐えかねて別居。秦被告は99年6月、元妻の別居先近くの路上で、小学校に登校途中だった娘2人(当時8歳と7歳)に声を掛けて連れ出し、中国に連れ去った。

離婚は00年に成立、元妻は親権も認められた。居場所も分からない娘との再会を希望し、外務省に旅券を更新しないよう何度も要請。国外移送誘拐容疑で刑事告訴もした。しかし、上海日本総領事館は更新期限の04年1月、元妻の同意なしに2人の旅券を更新した。

秦被告は5年が経過し旅券の再更新時期が迫ったため、元妻に「親権者の同意書にサインしてほしい」と連絡してきた。しかし、元妻は「直接会って意思を確認したい」と一時帰国を求め、2人は1月に来日した。結局、秦被告が今年9月、日本に残ることを希望した長女を連れ戻そうと成田空港から入国、逮捕されたことで、元妻は10年ぶりに長女との暮らしを取り戻すことができた。元妻によると、長女は秦被告の家庭内暴力などの影響で摂食障害やパニックを起こしているという。

外務省海外邦人安全課は毎日新聞の取材に「同意書がないまま旅券を発行したのは確か」とミスを認めたが、原因については「個々の案件について詳しい経緯は話せない」としている。【青木純】

◇国外移送誘拐罪 父親に有罪判決
この件で国外移送誘拐などの罪に問われた秦惟傑被告(55)に対し、東京地裁立川支部は3日、懲役2年、執行猶予3年(求刑・懲役3年)の判決を言い渡した。加藤学裁判長は「黙って連れ去った行為は非難に値する」としたが、「当時は被告も娘の親権を有していた」などと述べた。

判決によると、秦被告は99年6月8日、別居していた妻の自宅から登校途中だった娘2人に声を掛け、同日中に国外に連れ去った。

加藤裁判長は判決で「長い間愛するわが子と離れることを余儀なくされた(元妻の)精神的苦痛は察するに余りある」と述べた。【青木純】

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

Foreign Ministry sets up division on child custody issue
Japan Today/Kyodo News Wednesday December 2 2009
, courtesy lots of people
http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/foreign-ministry-sets-up-division-on-child-custody-issue

TOKYO — The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday set up a division to handle such issues as whether Japan should sign the 1980 Hague Convention, seeking to protect children from the harmful effects of failed international marriages.

Japan is the only country among the Group of Seven industrialized nations that is not a party to the convention, which provides a procedure for the prompt return of children to their habitual country of residence.

‘‘I have heard opinions from European countries and America…and I would like to consider how to deal with the matter swiftly. But it is also a fact that there are difficult problems,’’ Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said.

The Division for Issues Related to Child Custody will consist of nine officials who are already serving the Foreign Ministry.

In a related move, the ministry held the first Japan-France liaison meeting aimed at promoting information exchanges and information sharing regarding specific cases that involve the two countries.

France is the first country with which Japan has set up such a bilateral mechanism in relation to the issue, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.

During the meeting, French officials handed a list of 35 cases in which Japanese women had returned to the country with their children after their marriages with French men failed.

The French officials also called for Japan to facilitate the process of identifying the children’s locations or their health condition.

ENDS

Dec 3 2PM Diet Lower House Symposium on GOJ signing Hague Convention on Child Abductions, do attend

mytest

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FYI. Debito

December 3 2009: Symposium on family law in other countries and amendment to domestic laws relating to the ratification of the Hague Convention

In Japan, abductions of children by parents are a growing problem as the number of failed marriages — domestic and international — is increasing rapidly. Numerous media outlets around the world have been reporting on this growing child abduction problem for Japan. Nearly one-quarter of the U.S. Senate had asked U.S. President Barack Obama to press Japan to ratify the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction during his visit to Japan this early November.

This symposium will focus on the family law of other countries and amendment to domestic laws relating to the ratification of the Hague Convention.

We look forward to your attendance.

Date: December 3, 2009
Time: 2 pm ~ 4 pm
Place: Second Members Office Building of the Lower House
First Meeting Room

Contents:

  • 1. Treatment of children after divorce – Comparison between German Law and Japanese Law
  • Lecturer: Law Professor Hirohito Suzuki of Chuo University
  • 2. Hague Convention and Domestic Law ( Civil law, Habeas Corpus Act and Domestic Cause Inquiries Act, etc)
  • Lecturer: Professor Masayuki Tanamura of Waseda Law School
  • 3. Speakers: Professor, Diet Members, Embassy officials, Left Behind Parents

Honorary Speaker: Attorney Mamoru Isobe, former Supreme Court Probation Officer, former President of Nagoya District and Family Courts, and former President of Nagano District and Family Courts

Organizers:Rikongono Kodomoo Mamoru Kai (Separated Children’s Support)
Kyodo Shinkenno Kai (Joint Custody Group)
Left Behind Parents Japan

Contact: Hiroaki Morita Tel: 080-3482-7919;
email: saasfee88@yahoo.co.jp
Kentaro Mashito Tel: 090-6139-8609;
email: ichita555@yahoo.co.jp

From Masako
http://www.meetup.com/Left-Behind-Parents-Japan/

ENDS
UPDATE DEC 3:  A synopsis from an attendee is available below as Comment #3.

Brief bit on tonight’s Hatoyama-Obama press conference; discussion of Obama’s Japan visit

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
Hi Blog.  Just a quick word, having watched the the 8:30-9:05 joint press conference tonight between PM Hatoyama and Pres Obama.

For those who did not see it, they focussed on issues that were of a larger geopolitical nature, including Afghanistan, nuclear weapons, North Korea, global warming, moving Guantanamo trials to the US, and, foremost, the need for maintaining the strength of the Japan-US Alliance and its positive effects on the wealth, security, and stability of East Asia as a region.

They took only one question each from the press corps (so each of them asked lots of questions).  The child abductions, the point most germane to Debito.org at this time, did not come up.

I open this blog entry so that others can discuss what they thought about the press conference, as well as Obama’s Japan visit this time around in general.  Go for it.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Watch Obama in Japan tonight (speech schedule enclosed)

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Courtesy of Paul Toland.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

By the way,  For those of you who are following President Obama’s trip to Japan, here
are the two most important times to be watching:

1.  13 November, 7 PM (Japan Time), 5 AM (Eastern Standard Time) – President
Obama’s meeting with Prime Minister Hatoyama, to be followed by a Joint
Press Conference.  I don’t know the exact time of the press conference, but
I’m assuming it will be about an hour or so after their meeting.  I’ll be
watching for that tomorrow morning.

2.  14 November, 10 AM (Japan Time), 13 Nov 8 PM (Eastern Standard Time) –
President Obama will be making a speech at Suntory Hall in Tokyo, in which
he will discuss his view of U.S. engagement in Asia and reaffirm the
strength of Washington’s alliance with Japan.

While I doubt he will address the child abduction issue at the Speech at
Suntory Hall, I am hoping he does mention the issue at the Joint Press
Conference, or if he does not mention it, I am hoping the press will ask
about it during the Q&A.  Unfortunately, the Q&A is usually only about 3
questions from each country’s press (3 Questions from Japanese press, 3
questions from American Press).  There’s almost no chance that the Japanese
press will raise it, so let’s hope the US press will raise it within the
context of their 3 allowed questions.

The latest on the schedule (all times are Japan times):

6:50PM THE PRESIDENT and Prime Minister Hatoyama of Japan hold bilateral
meeting

7:10PM THE PRESIDENT and Prime Minister Hatoyama hold expanded bilateral
meeting

8:20PM THE PRESIDENT and Prime Minister Hatoyama hold joint press conference

8:45PM THE PRESIDENT and Prime Minister Hatoyama have dinner

That means the Press Conference will be held at 6:20 AM Eastern Standard
Time in the United States.  Paul

ENDS

TODAY show (USA) on Savoie Child Abduction Case: father Chris’s treatment by J police, return to US, aftermath

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  The Today Show (USA) has an update on the Savoie Child Abduction Case from the perspective of left-behind father Christopher, notably his treatment in Japanese police custody and how he is, in his words, “dead to my kids”.  FYI.  Debito

///////////////////////////////////////////////
Dad in Japan custody case: I’m dead to my kids
Christopher Savoie describes prison ordeal after he tried to recover children

By Michael Inbar
TODAYShow.com contributor
updated 10:00 a.m. ET Nov. 9, 2009, Courtesy of Paul Wong

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/33788543/ns/today-parenting_and_family/?ns=today-parenting_and_family

American Christopher Savoie is back on U.S. soil after spending a harrowing 18 days in a Japanese jail for trying to wrest his children away from his ex-wife. But the joy of being reunited with his current wife, Amy, is muted by the heartbreak of having to leave his son and daughter behind.

Savoie, 38, was locked in a bitter custody battle with his former wife, Noriko, when she fled to her native Japan with the couple’s 8-year-old son, Isaac, and 6-year-old daughter, Rebecca, on Aug. 13. On Sept. 28, Savoie flew to Japan to reclaim his children — but as he headed up the steps of the U.S. Embassy in Fukuoka with Isaac and Rebecca in tow, he was promptly arrested by Japanese police.

Appearing live in his first interview since being released on Oct. 15, Savoie, accompanied by Amy, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira that being a free man is a hollow victory without his children beside him.

“It’s absolutely horrible; there are no words for it,” he told Vieira. “Basically, I’m dead to my children.”

Troubled relations

At issue is the sticky state of U.S.-Japan relations regarding custody of young children whose parents have gone their separate ways. According to the International Association for Parent-Child Reunion, there have been some 125 cases of American children who have been abducted by a parent to Japan. To date, not one child has ever been returned to the U.S.

Part of it is legal: Japan is the sole G7 nation not adhering to the 1980 Hague Convention calling for the return of children abducted across international borders. And part of it is cultural: According to Japanese tradition, children of divorce are given to one parent, almost always the mother, and the other parent is basically written out of their lives.

While U.S. officials try to pressure Japan to acquiesce to Hague Convention standards, Savoie is seen as a maverick who tried to take the law into his own hands in getting his kids back. But Savoie told Vieira he believes he had solid legal standing, even by Japanese law, in traveling to Japan to reclaim Isaac and Rebecca.

Savoie and Noriko were married in Japan in 1995, and he still carries a Japanese passport from his time as a student and working for a pharmaceutical company there. The couple split in 2007, and when Savoie moved back to the U.S. in 2008 for a job with a biotech company, Noriko followed a year later so the pair could both spend time with their children.

But the arrangement never worked well, Savoie told Vieira. He claims Noriko was antagonistic toward his new wife, Amy, and often threatened to take the children back to Japan with her. Savoie sought a restraining order in his adopted hometown of Franklin, Tenn., to keep Noriko from fleeing with the children, but it wasn’t granted.

‘Big shock’
On Aug. 13, Savoie was notified that Isaac and Rebecca were not present at what was supposed to be their first day of school. Savoie told Vieira that initially, he imagined even worse scenarios than the notion that Noriko had taken off with them.

“Horrible thoughts went through my mind,” he said. “The first thought wasn’t that they might have been abducted; I was worried that something might have happened to them, something horrible.”

Savoie finally reached his former father-in-law in Japan, who told him the children were safe and sound and with their mother. Savoie began plotting a course of action that led to his Sept. 28 trip to Japan and subsequent imprisonment — but he insisted to Vieira it wasn’t unlawful.

“I actually still have, and had at that time, legal custody in Japan — fifty-fifty custody,” Savoie said.

Savoie met up with Noriko as she walked the children to school, wrested them away from her, put them in a car and made a mad dash for the embassy. Noriko told police she was bruised from the scuffle between the pair as Savoie spirited the children away.

But Savoie told Vieira: “Picking my kids up, hugging them and putting them in the car — I hardly thought that would be considered criminal. So it was a big shock to me that police actually took it in that manner.”

Savoie insists he was not planning to put Isaac and Rebecca on the next plane home. “My intention was to go to the consulate and then have a discussion if the police wanted to ask about it,” he told Vieira. “I had all the custody documents with me. If they had said, ‘Please stay in Japan, and have a family court decide the custody first,’ I would have done that.”

‘Horrible’ conditions
Instead, Savoie found himself behind bars for 18 days, under conditions he said were “pretty horrible”.

“I think it is well known by the United Nations that Japan’s pre-indictment jail conditions are horrendous,” he said. “They’re quite infamous. Almost 18 days of 12 hours a day of interrogation without a lawyer; lights on all the time at night, so sleep deprivation. Really terrible sanitary conditions — it’s just too horrible to recall.”

Still, Japanese authorities released Savoie without indicting him. They say charges are still pending, but Savoie believes he is unlikely to face any charges. “I assume if they had enough evidence to indict with the crime, they would have done so.”

He also says his ex-wife’s claims that he injured her were unfounded. “There wasn’t much of a struggle,” he said. “All of these reports that there was bruising, that never was proven. And that was part of the reason I was released.”

Still, there is no short-term prospect of the dad’s being reunited with Isaac and Rebecca. Savoie’s best hope is that Japan changes its policies — and on that front, there may be a little progress. In a statement to CNN, Japan Foreign Ministry spokesman Yasuhisa Kawamura said the government is considering becoming part of the Hague treaty.

“Japanese government is … considering seriously to conclude this treaty on the grounds that this treaty would provide one of the most effective measures to protect the children after their parents divorce,” Kawamura said.

ENDS

Mutantfrog’s Joe Jones’s excellent discussion of rights and wrongs of divorce in Japan; causes stark conclusions for me

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  I often stop by an excellent website run by some young-Turk commentators on Japan called Mutantfrog.  Full of insight and well-thought-out essays, one caught my eye a few weeks ago regarding what the Savoie Child Abduction Case has brought to the fore about divorce in Japan.  I won’t quote it in full (let’s give the hits to Mutantfrog), but here’s the link and an excerpt:

http://www.mutantfrog.com/2009/10/08/all-thats-wrong-with-international-divorce-in-japan/

Here’s Joe’s conclusion:

I don’t have a wife or kids yet. Debito, who has written extensively about his own divorce and loss of children (a dreadfully sad story, but an excellent overview of how the system works here), chided me in a Facebook comment thread for daring to state my opinions while I lack skin in the game. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I respect Debito, who gave me, Roy and Curzon the privilege of hearing his story in person a good year before he made it public. But where I come from, having no skin in the game is called “objectivity,” and does not by any means disqualify an opinion.

For what it’s worth, I do have some skin in the game, as I am engaged to get married early next year. While I have given up on my farcical plans to transfer my kids to an offshore investment vehicle, I am still very cognizant that the law (even as I think its mechanics should work) may bite me in the rear someday if my marriage ever breaks down.

Sadly, a lot of the discussion surrounding these issues, whether regarding particular cases or the system in general, devolves into parental narcissism, envy and finger-pointing. The whole framework of marriage, divorce and custody is ultimately not about what Mom or Dad wants: it’s about protecting children and giving them a chance to inherit the world as capable individuals. So, as I see it, we have to approach it from that perspective regardless of which side we occupy on the wedding cake.

Of course.  So from a more neutral perspective, I conclude this:

NOBODY SHOULD GET MARRIED AND HAVE CHILDREN UNDER THE CURRENT MARRIAGE LAWS AND FAMILY REGISTRATION SYSTEM IN JAPAN.

NOT JAPANESE. NOT NON-JAPANESE. NOT ANYONE.

Because if people marry and have kids, one parent will lose them, meaning all legal ties, custody rights, and visitation rights, in the event of a divorce.  This is not good for the children.

Japan has had marriage laws essentially unamended since 1898!  (See Fuess, Divorce in Japan)  Clearly this does not reflect a modern situation, and until this changes people should go Common-Law (also not an option in Japan), and make it clear to their representatives that Japan’s current legal situation is not family-friendly enough for them to tie the knot.

Some reforms necessary:

  1. Abolition of the Koseki Family Registration system (because that is what makes children property of one parent or the other, and puts NJ at a huge disadvantage).
  2. Recognize Visitation Rights (menkai ken) for both parents during separation and after divorce.
  3. Recognize Joint Custody (kyoudou kango ken) after divorce.
  4. Enforce the Hague Convention on Child Abductions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  5. Enforce overseas custody court decisions in Japanese courts.
  6. Recognize “Irreconcilable Differences” (seikaku no fuitchi) as grounds for divorce.  See why here.
  7. Shorten legal separation (bekkyo) times from the current benchmark of around five years to one or two.
  8. Stock the Mediation Councils (choutei) with real professionals and trained marriage counselors (not yuushikisha (“people with awareness”), who are essentially folks off the street with no standardized credentials).
  9. Strengthen Family Court powers to enforce contempt of court for perjury (lying is frequent in divorce proceedings and currently essentially unpunishable), and force police to enforce court orders involving restraining orders and domestic violence (Japanese police are disinclined to get involved in family disputes).

There are plenty more suggestions I’m sure readers could make, but chew on that for awhile, readers.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Sauce for the gander: Czech national abducts his child of J-NJ marriage; MOFA “powerless w/o Hague”

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Finally we have the turnabout that I bet will precipitate Japan signing the Hague. A Czech father has reportedly abducted his child out of Japan, and the MOFA says it is powerless since Japan is not a party to the Hague Treaty on Child Abductions.  Well, sauce for the gander, isn’t it?

Two things I find interesting about this case is 1) the MOFA is reportedly working to try and get the child back (contrast with the USG, which recently wouldn’t even open the front gates of one of its consulates to three of its citizens), and 2) once again, the same reporting agency (Kyodo) omits data depending on language, see articles below. It claims in Japanese that (as usual) the NJ husband was violent towards the J wife (in other words, it takes the claim of the wife at face value; how unprofessional), and neglects to mention that in English. Heh. Gotta make us Japanese into victims again.

Anyway, if this will get Japan to sign the Hague, great. Problem is, as usual, I see it being enforced at this point to get J kids back but never return them overseas (since the J authorities aren’t going to give more rights to foreigners than they give their own citizens, who lose their kids after divorce due to the koseki system, anyway). But I guess I’m being just a little too cynical. I hope. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

//////////////////////////////////////////
Czech man takes son out of Japan in suspected child abduction
Japan Today/Kyodo Sunday 08th November, 06:05 AM JST, Courtesy of JL

http://www.japantoday.com/category/crime/view/czech-man-takes-son-out-of-japan-in-suspected-child-abduction

TOKYO —

A Czech man has taken his 5-year-old son apparently to a place overseas from his home in Gifu Prefecture, prompting the boy’s Japanese mother to seek help from the Foreign Ministry in searching for the boy’s whereabouts, sources close to the matter said Saturday.

The ministry, however, has few means in dealing with the case as Japan is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention that standardizes laws that prevent international parental child abduction, they said.

Japan remaining a non-signatory has drawn international criticism recently after an American father who tried to take back his two children from his Japanese wife was arrested on suspicion of child abduction in Fukuoka Prefecture in September.

The children might have been handed over to the father’s side if Japan were the member of the convention, which stipulates that children should be returned to the original residing place when they are taken forcibly. The mother was reported by some American media to have unlawfully taken the children first from the United States.

While such cases of Japanese women taking their children to Japan after divorcing or separating from their non-Japanese husbands or partners are often reported and cause problems, cases in which children are taken out of Japan have been relatively rare.

In the latest case, Kayoko Yamada, a 40-year-old resident of the city of Yamagata, Gifu, sought help from the Foreign Ministry after her husband, a 31-year-old Czech Republic national, left home with their son on Aug 23, according to the sources.

Yamada received a phone call the following day from the husband, saying he and the son were in Frankfurt, Germany. She has received no contact since then, and assumes they are probably in the Czech Republic, the sources said.

Yamada and her husband have been living in Japan but recently were talking about divorce.

Experts say Japan could seek help from Czech authorities in search of the whereabouts of Yamada’s son if Japan were a member of the convention.

With the annual number of international marriages rising by almost six times over the last 30 years to some 37,000 in Japan last year as a government report indicates, divorce and such related problems have been on the rise as well.

The number of children taken by Japanese parents from the United States, Britain, France and Canada to Japan totaled over 160 as of this May, and some cases involve those wanted on abduction charges.

ENDS

////////////////////////////////////////////////

チェコ人夫が5歳児海外連れ去り 岐阜の母、返還要求できず

共同通信 2009/11/07, Courtesy of CJ

http://www.47news.jp/CN/200911/CN2009110701000443.html

岐阜県に住む女性看護師の夫のチェコ人(31)が8月、長男(5)を海外に連れ出したまま所在不明となっていることが7日、分かった。外務省は調査に着手したが、父母の一方による子供連れ去りを防ぐ「ハーグ条約」に日本が未加盟のため、女性は返還を求めるすべがない。日本女性が子連れ帰国し問題化する例は増えているが、日本からの連れ去り表面化はまれ。加盟の是非をめぐる議論に一石を投じそうだ。

女性は岐阜県山県市の山田佳代子さん(40)。 山田さんによると留学先のオーストラリアで夫と出会い、日本で結婚したが、夫の暴言や暴力で不仲になり、離婚の話が出ていた。8月23日、長男を連れて家を出た夫はそのまま戻らず、翌日「ドイツのフランクフルトにいる」と国際電話があった。その後はほぼ音信不通状態が続いている。

山田さんは、夫はチェコに帰国したとみて外務省に相談。外務省はチェコの国内法を適用し対処できないか検討しているが、今のところ有効な手段はないという。

ハーグ条約は国際結婚した父母の一方が子供を無断で連れ去った場合、それまで住んでいた国に戻す手続きを定めている。チェコを含む欧米諸国は大多数が加盟しており、専門家によると日本が加盟していればチェコへ子どもの捜索や返還を求めることが可能だ。

(共同)

ENDS

22 US Senators signed letter for Obama to address Child Abductions Issue during Japan visit

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
Hi Blog. We reported on this on October 30, but back then only two US Senators had signed. Now as of November 5, 22 US Senators have signed a letter for Obama to address Child Abductions Issue during his Japan visit.  Three scanned pages follow.  Courtesy of both CRN and CRC. Arudou Debito

ussenateobama110509

ussenateobama1105092

ussenateobama1105093

ENDS

AOL on Child Abductions and child retriever Gus Zamora, letter to Debito.org from Gus

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  More on how far people are willing to go to get their abducted kids back after divorce.  They don’t send in the SWAT team.  They hire Gus.  Gus himself comments to Debito.org below.  Arudou Debito

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

Gustavo Zamora helps parents find their abducted kids.

http://www.parentdish.com/2009/11/03/vigilante-travels-world-to-save-kids/

A globe-trotting vigilante to retrieves children from foreign countries? Why would you need one?

Say you marry someone and you have children. You get divorced. There’s a custody battle. You win. Your ex-spouse refuses to accept the decision. He or she takes the children and flees overseas to a country that doesn’t recognize your custody rights.

What do you do?

This is not a hypothetical question for thousands of parents who go through this exact scenario every year. Their options are limited.

One option, however, is Gus Zamora.

He goes to other countries and gets kids back — one way or another. “There are lots of ways to recover a child,” he said in an interview with ParentDish. “There’s no one way.”


The Tampa Bay, Fla., resident and former Army Ranger prefers to do things nice and legal. If he can work through a foreign court system, fine. Failing that, he might try to bully foreign officials with threats — or at least bluffs — of crushing media attention.


As a last resort, Zamora said, he will grab the child and run. “That’s when you’ve run out of other options,” he said.


Rest of the article at http://crnjapan.net/The_Japan_Childrens_Rights_Network/itn-gzonptds.html

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

LETTER TO DEBITO.ORG FROM GUS:

In response to a recent post on the Internet regarding “Snatchback” in The Atlantic Monthly I felt it was important for people to know what I do and what my real success rate is. The world of International Parental Abduction is a place I have spent the last Eighteen years. I have assisted parents in over 200 cases. Fifty-five children have been returned to their custodial parent with my guidance. Three of which were successful recoveries from Japan.

In addition to the fifty-five recoveries, I have also worked on twenty to twenty five cases that were resolved through mediation, Hague convention applications, media involvement, international law enforcement involvement and negotiations directly with the abductors. Zamora and Associates is presently involved in several cases in Japan, both in and out of Japanese courts.

Over the years I have spoken at numerous International Parental Abduction conferences. Through the years I have gotten to know the victims of parental abduction both children and their left behind parent. I have met with high-powered world leaders, activists who protest against hypocrisy and that Virginia woman who attempts to manage her local 501 c3 non-profit. I will never really understand what it’s like to lose a child. I am one of the few people who fight in this arena that doesn’t belong to the left behind parents club.

Parents come to me year after year with the same story. They are spent from their losing fight in unjust courts trying to regain their flesh and blood. They have met with politicians some of whom are empathetic and some who will shut their door in your face. These parents are tired and vulnerable, and near wits end.

Organizations like the Children’s Rights Council do good work in most circumstances. Some of their offshoots however do just the opposite. Making statements such as “I know of another case Gus worked on in Japan a few years ago, which also was unsuccessful. I don’t think he’s ever gotten a child out of Japan” are counterproductive and in fact limiting to a parent who should be able to care for their child. Why would a national organization bound by the laws of the United States choose to stymie what could be the last hope a parent has.

There are a number of parents out there who are adversely affected by the way these groups operate. Over the years some parents have come to me in confidence after being told that if they did not continue to support these organizations by following their instructions, attending their conferences and assisting as a volunteer they would be shut out of the group and would be on their own.

I have supported many non-profit organizations and groups from the early evolution of my child recovery career, but very quickly withdrew my support and speaking engagements at their conferences. In the end I decided it was best to withdraw any association with them altogether because of their unproductive nature and dictatorial style. I chose however to associate myself The Children’s Rights Network due to the fact that CRN does nothing other than assists parents.

The Children’s Rights Network doesn’t ask for donations. The Japan Chapter of the Children’s Rights Network website www.crnjapan.net states “We are currently funded by a private organization and do not require donations. Thank you for your support and wish to help…” The information The Children’s Rights Network supplies to parents, attorneys, politicians, and the general public is free of charge. The Children’s Rights Network is there for the families being affected by International Parental Abduction to Japan.

CRN receives up to 20 inquiries per day through crnjapan.net requesting assistance, or just a general push in the right direction. The Children’s Rights Network supplies answers and assistance to those in need. CRN doesn’t ask for donations from a needy parent. Even when a parent makes it as high as the Supreme Court and needs assistance writing a writ. The Children’s Rights network is an organization that has been called “The closest thing I have found to a support group.” I appreciate being associated with a support group as opposed to an organization that on their website sells “items” and requests you become a paid “member.”

No two cases are alike. No two parents are the same. There are never any guarantees made to anyone on any case, at any time. When a case reaches the point that Zamora And Associates needs to be involved we are upfront with the client as to what the risks and costs are. We do the best we can and rarely do parents expect more.

The Japanese case mentioned in the Atlantic Monthly was a successful recovery until it became obvious that the parent had misrepresented their relationship with their child. The parent that hired Zamora And Associates failed to disclose that the child and the parent did not have a close, loving relationship. The child was 100% against a further relationship with said parent.

We had been told over and over again by distraught parents that their child begged for reunification and return. After working hard on plans for a recovery however, on numerous occasions we only find out once the child is in our possession that this is not the case. We will never take an unwilling child from one parent and give that child to the other. Recovery is a last resort for children in dire situations and not something that should ever be based on ego or handled by a commando.

If there is information about any case where Zamora And Associates has misrepresented ourselves or failed to perform our job professionally for a client then please speak up rather than make false claims that we have never been successful in the land of the rising sun.

Zamora and Associates will not participate in any online character assassinations or unproductive bickering when we should all be fighting the evil of International Parental Abduction together. We challenge anyone to prove that they have a track record equal to ours in International child recovery. Do not believe in the self-promoting experts but rather investigate everyone, believe in no one and remember that time is not on your side when there is a child in the balance. No one is an “expert” at something that they cannot do themselves!

I have deep and sincere respect for all those left behind parents who have lost a child or children to another country where our laws and their legal systems refuse to intervene. Over the years I have learned to understand and feel the grief and pain that left behind parents feel everyday that their children are gone. You all have my full support.

Gus Zamora
Zamora & Associates – International Security Consultants
Children’s Rights Network board member

http://www.zamoraandassociates.com

http://www.crnjapan.net

1 – 877 – KID CATCHER

ends

Open Letter to Pres. Obama re Nov 12 Japan Visit and Child Abductions from Left-Behind Parent

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
(Released to Debito.org November 6, 2009, for Obama’s Japan visit November 12, 2009)

Dear President Obama,

Thank you for taking the time to read these thoughts I’ve put together in anticipation of your upcoming visit to Japan next week.   A few weeks ago while watching the evening news I saw you and your family taking a stroll outside the White house.  That picture reminded me of the countless times I took my sons out for a walk. The glow I saw on Sasha’s face and the confidence of Malia reminded me so much of what it means to be father. It has been four years since I last took a stroll with my boys; four years since I have been allowed to be a father.

When my wife and I divorced in Japan I was unaware that I would not be allowed to continue to be a part of my children’s lives.  Please let me explain.   In most of the civilized countries of the world we understand how important it is for children to have access to both of their parents.  Countless studies have shown that a child needs to gain insight and strength from both their mother and father.  In Japan however, children do not have the same rights.   Custody is never shared.  As stated on The Japan Children’s Rights Network website “The word most often used with the meaning of “child custody” in Japan is “shinken”.  The word consists of the characters (Japanese Kanji) for “Parent” and “Right” However, the real meaning of “shinken” in Japanese is not “Parent’s rights” but is legally more similar to “Parent’s duty”.  So shinken means a duty (or obligation) for the parent in order to bring up child in proper environment and protect him/her.  Married couples share shinken jointly.  But outside of marriage, Japanese law does not permit joint shinken.  Only one parent may hold shinken.  A common reason given to justify the prohibition of joint custody of a child is that the belief that that divorced parents are not able to cooperate in executing their duty in harmonious way.  Not all Japanese believe this, in particular the ones who each year try to obtain joint custody.  But this concept is enshrined in the law.”

For years now I’ve been writing on the Internet about Japan’s abuse of Child and Parental Rights.   At times I’ve been critical of my own government for lacking an understanding of the political, legal, and cultural issues surrounding Japan’s evil attitude.  I followed your campaign for the Presidency and prayed that you would become the first President of the United States to confront Japan on this issue.   I have been impressed with your cabinet’s proactive approach to the issue of International Parental Abduction and hope you will reach out to Prime Minister Hatoyama and help him understand how devastating the loss of a child is.  Interestingly Prime Minister Hatoyama stated that he supports ratification of The Hague Convention “for the sake of justice.”  Even the Prime Minister realizes there can never be justice when a child is deprived of either parent.

When you meet with Prime Minister Hatoyama, please remind him of his statements.  There is no need to wait another two years to implement the rights Japan agreed to uphold when they became signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Please walk right up to Mr. Hatoyama, look him squarely in the eye, and tell him non-custodial parents must have immediate access to their children. Let the Japanese Government know that there is no room for negotiation.  Please uphold both parental and children’s fundamental human rights.  The Lord knows I have done about all I can.  I have fought inside and outside of Japanese Courts with everything I’ve have left. I’ve been jailed, placed in solitary confinement, and stripped of all my assets for trying be a father.

Mr. President, like so many other left behind parents, I pray every night to see my children for years. Please use your office and your voice to make this happen. There are so many parents who have renewed hopes since you have taken office. When you come to Japan for talks with the Japanese Government please make this issue an important part of the discussion.  YES WE CAN!

Sincerely,
Just another left behind American Dad

ends

Letter from US Senators Boxer and Corker to Obama re Child Abductions, for his Nov 12 visit to Japan

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
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Hi Blog. Was just forwarded this from Steve Christie, from the offices of US Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who will be sending a letter dated November 5 with Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) to President Obama regarding Japan’s record of international child abductions, in time for Obama’s visit to Japan Nov 12-13.  Letter from Boxer’s office, then the letter addressed to Obama follows.  It could very well be one of the issues brought up during the visit. It will be if these senators’ efforts are any guide. Well done. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

//////////////////////////////////////////////
From: “Reks, Ariana (Boxer)”
Date: 2009年10月30日 03:03:54JST
To: Steve Christie
Subject: Senator Boxer sending letter to Obama on Japanese abductions

Dear Mr. Christie,

Thank you for your voicemail and I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. Senator Boxer is very engaged on this issue and I wanted to email you to update you on her efforts on behalf of left-behind parents.

Senator Boxer, along with Senator Corker, will be sending a letter to President Obama next week, before his visit to Japan on November 12-13, asking him to bring up the issue of child abductions to Japan in his conversations with the new Japanese Prime Minister. The letter is currently circulating in the Senate for signatures and we hope that a large number of Senators will sign on. I have pasted a draft of the letter below. Please feel free to send the letter to any other left-behind parents and urge them to ask their Senators to sign on.

Thank you for contacting me and please stay in touch. I look forward to working with you on this very important issue.

Best,
Ariana Reks
Legislative Aide
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-3553

_____________________________________________________

November 5, 2009
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As you prepare to visit Japan on November 12, we write to respectfully request that you address the issue of international parental child abduction in your discussions with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. This is a deeply important issue, as Japan currently does not recognize international parental child abduction as a crime.

There are currently 79 known cases involving over 100 American children who have been abducted by a parent to Japan. This is a heartbreaking loss for the left-behind parent and deprives the child of a relationship with two loving parents. Equally concerning is that left-behind parents typically have little recourse once their child arrives in Japan. According to the U.S. Department of State, no cases have been successfully resolved with Japan over the last few decades through the Japanese judicial system or through diplomatic or political efforts.

It is particularly troubling that Japan remains the only G-7 industrialized nation that has yet to accede to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Hague Convention has been adopted by more than 70 countries and is an important tool for those seeking access to and/or the return of a child abducted across international borders. We agree that Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention would result in important reforms to Japanese family law and we are grateful that the United States continues to prioritize this issue.

But while we acknowledge that Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention is an important goal, the United States must also work with Japan to establish a bilateral mechanism to assist with the resolution of current cases. This is critical because the Hague Convention does not pertain to already completed abductions, and therefore cannot be used as a tool to resolve existing cases. We urge your Administration to seriously consider initiatives, including mediation, to foster cooperative and coordinated engagement with the Japanese government on cases of international parental child abduction. Many parents have not seen or heard from their children in years. We cannot sit back and wait while these children grow up without one parent.

We feel strongly that the recent election of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), under the leadership of Prime Minister Hatoyama, is a unique opportunity for the United States to reinvigorate its dialogue with Japan on the issue of international parental child abduction. As such, we urge you to ensure that the United States continues to raise this issue at the highest possible levels in the context of our nations’ close bilateral relationship.

Thank you for your consideration of this important request. We stand ready to assist you in your efforts to reunite American children with their left-behind parents.

Sincerely,
_____________________________________________________
ENDS

Global Post’s Justin McCurry on Savoie Child Abduction Case. Issue isn’t passe yet.

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Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
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Savoie’s choice: abduct or fight?
An American father wants his children back. Japan says no.
By Justin McCurry – GlobalPost.com

Published: October 27, 2009
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/japan/091026/child-abductions-japan
Courtesy of the author

TOKYO, Japan — Under normal circumstances it would be impossible to summon any sympathy for a man who snatches two young children as they walk to school with their mother.
But what if the “abductor” is the children’s father, and the mother, his former wife, herself the subject of an arrest warrant?

When Christopher Savoie, an American, went to these extraordinary lengths to regain custody of his children from his Japanese ex-wife last month, he not only landed himself in a police cell for more than two weeks, he also placed the spotlight firmly on Japan’s complicity in international parental child abduction — turning it from a minor irritant into a potential source of genuine tension between Washington and Tokyo.

Savoie was arrested after attempting to take his children, aged 9 and 6, to the U.S. consulate general in Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, in September.

The 38-year-old from Tennessee, and his former wife, Noriko, lived in Japan for several years before moving to the U.S. in 2008. When they divorced in the U.S. in January this year, Noriko was granted primary custody of the children.

Despite giving assurances that she would remain with the children in the U.S., in August she took them to Japan, without Savoie’s knowledge and in defiance of a court order. The U.S. authorities awarded Savoie full custody in Noriko’s absence and issued a warrant for her arrest on suspicion of “custodial interference.”

Yet Savoie has no legal right to see his children for as long as they remain in Japan, which refuses to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.

The treaty, with 81 signatories including every other member of the G7, states that a “child whose parents reside in different countries shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis … personal relations and direct contacts with both parents.”

Savoie’s is one of about 80 cases of international parental child abduction involving U.S. citizens, while France and Britain are dealing with 35 each.

The unofficial number is much higher, particularly when failed marriages between Japanese and people from other Asian countries are included. The Assembly for French Overseas Nationals for Japan estimates that 10,000 children with dual citizenship in Japan are prevented from seeing their foreign parent after separation or divorce.

Japanese courts habitually award custody of children to the mother. In many cases, they say they are simply trying to protect the rights of women fleeing abusive former husbands, a claim vigorously disputed by campaigners.

The country’s courts will be tested again later this week when Shane Clarke appeals in a custody battle with Japanese ex-wife.

The 39-year-old Briton has not seen his two young daughters since May 2008 after his ex-wife took them to Japan to visit their “ill” grandmother and never returned.

Though Britain’s media has taken an interest in his plight, Clarke says he has received little support from the authorities, despite a court order naming the U.K. as his children’s country of habitual residence.

“I have been writing repeatedly to more than a dozen government ministers, and not a single one has had the common decency to reply,” he told GlobalPost.

Legal precedent indicates that Clarke, who was denied custody at a hearing in Japan last year, will again return home without his daughters.

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

Left-alone parents in the U.S. have fared better. Chris Smith, a New Jersey congressman, recently urged the Japanese prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, to use the Savoie arrest as a “catalyst” to end Japan’s tacit approval of international parental child abduction.

Smith has drawn up legislation that would enable the U.S. to “more aggressively” pursue the rights of American parents, including imposing sanctions against countries that habitually refuse to cooperate on international child abductions.

Pressure is also mounting in Japan, where the ambassadors of eight countries, including the U.S., have urged the justice minister, Keiko Chiba, to sign the Hague treaty.

The foreign minister, Katsuya Okada, indicated he would speed up a study into the agreement’s pros and cons, although ratifying it will require changes to domestic laws that could take years to implement.

Savoie, meanwhile, says he is struggling to come to terms with the possibility that he will not see his children again until they are adults.

“If loving my kids so much that I really want to be with them is a crime, then, well, I’m guilty,” he told CBS News after returning to the U.S. “I’m guilty of loving my kids.”

Source URL (retrieved on October 28, 2009 01:16 ): http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/japan/091026/child-abductions-japan
ENDS

Letter to Prime Minister Hatoyama regarding Child Abductions and legislative lag, from a Left-Behind Parent

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
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Forwarding, courtesy of EK. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

What Are We Bargaining For?

Dear Prime Minister Hatoyama,
It’s important that left-behind parents understand what the Japanese Government mean when they say they “will need at least two more years before it will sign an international treaty (Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction) designed to settle child custodial disputes” and that “relevant legislative measures are unlikely to be submitted to the Diet until 2011 at the earliest”. The Yomiuri Shimbun article “Govt. unlikely to Sign Child Custody Pact for 2 Years” dated October 19, 2009 goes on to state that it will take “some time until the country is able to facilitate such a move by addressing the necessary domestic laws”.

Left-Behind parents have been denied access to their children for one second too long, now you’re asking us to be patient for two years. Well, What are we bargaining for? Will the process take only two years? and How will the process be carried out?

I’ll get straight to the point. There are those in the Foreign Ministry and the Justice Ministry that know very well the article written by Dr. Hans van Loon “The implementation and Enforcement of the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in Comparative Perspective: It’s Japan’s Move!” and the related article by Professor Yuko Nishitani. (Tohoku University 21st Century COE Program, Gender Law and Policy Annual Review, Vol.2 2004) Dr. Hans van Loon suggested seven (7) measures were necessary for Japan to implement the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. I will only remind you of the second, which states:

a high level Central Authority should be designated, equipped with a small but highly competent staff with broad international experience, excellent knowledge of the convention and its operation in other States Parties and expertise in conciliation and mediation. However, conciliation and mediation should not hold up legal proceedings.

In another article, The Judges Newsletter, Enforcement and Return of Access Orders, National Report by Fourteen (14) States and The Conclusion of the Noordwijk Judicial Seminar Vol. VII Spring 2004 Professor Yuko Nishitani writes the following:

A working group of Japanese scholars have proposed a draft statute to implement this Convention in view of Japan’s possible accession in the future. In this draft, the Foreign Minister is appointed as “Central Authority,” acting through the Minister of Justice, who further delegates his duties to other institutions (e.g. police and the youth welfare office) which are to be appointed separately. The “judicial authority” is the Family Court, which has the necessary resources to carry out the required investigations and order the return of child. However, in order to comply with the obligations prescribed by the Convention, the Family Court must be provided with authority to ensure expeditious procedures and coercive enforcement, even if this represents a tough challenge for the Japanese legislature as well as for judges and practitioners. This is also crucial for other Contracting States so that they will be able to trust and rely on the Japanese judicial system for securing the return of a child abducted to Japan.

Apparently the draft statute is here, 119-2 Minshô–Hô Zasshi 302-311 (1998), but I haven’t been able to find it. It appears the administrative duties will be carried out by the Foreign Ministry, while the Family Court under the Justice Ministry will carry out the implementation and enforcement. Professor Nishitani, along with Professor Colin P.A. Jones in his research, In the Best Interest of the Court What American Lawyers Need to Know About Child Custody and Visitation in Japan, has pointed out quite clearly how joining the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction will favor Japan. As they say, the elephant in the room is how will Japan implement and enforce the treaty? The Justice Ministry, the Supreme Court Justices, the Judicial Review Council (JRC), and possibly the Japan Federation Bar Association (JFBA) will play a critical role in crafting any new legislation required to implement and enforce the treaty. What can we expect this time from the Judicial Review Council and the Supreme Court Justices?


In Japan’s first Judicial Reforms of the 21st century the Judicial Review Council and the Supreme Court Justices chose not to address parental rights issues directly, but instead chose to try and deal with the issue by expanding the jurisdiction of the Family Court and relying on the courts so called “expert knowledge” in dealing with human relationships. The Judicial Review Council’s Initial Report, The Points at Issue in the Judicial Reform was created December 21, 1999. The Personal Status Litigation Law was approved by the Diet on July 9, 2003 and went into effect April 01, 2004 nearly five years after the process began. The Family Court was granted authority to legislate contested divorces after they failed mediation. It was clear that Family Court Judges had the authority to award visitation based on their preference, but it was also widely known any award of visitation was unenforceable. Previously contested divorces were legislated in District Court by District Court Judges, but now they are being handled by Family Court judges. This means the Supreme Court swept parental rights issue under the rug and relied heavily on the Family Courts to deal with these issues. The Diet has to take some responsibility as well because they passed the Personal Status Litigation Law without any assurances that it would protect parental rights.


The Mediators, Investigators, and Councilors (Sanyoin) which the Supreme Court and the nation put so much trust in to uphold Japanese family values let down the Justices and embarrassed the country’s international reputation in dealing with parental rights. Professor Colin P.A. Jones’ research points out the ineptitude of Family Court Mediators and Family Court Investigators. The Family Courts have failed miserably in protecting parental rights and the Supreme Court Justices have been so wishy-washy on the issue they’ve left the non-custodial parent with no choice but to take self-help measures when the custodian of the child refuses any meaningful access. Professor Colin points out that up until the Abduction for the purpose of performing an obscene act, murder and abandonment of corpse, case number: 2000 (Kyo) No.5 of the year 2000 the lower courts’ interpretations of parental rights were widely held views that he narrowed down as the following:

(i) an inherent right arising naturally from the parent-child relationship; (ii) an aspect of physical custody; (iii) a right arising in connection with physical custody; (iv) a right of children to develop emotionally through contact with their parent; and (v) a right of both parent and child.

After the 2000 ruling parental rights came down to a right to demand versus a right to request, with the right to request becoming the de facto meaning of Parental Rights. It seems that up until the 2000 ruling some of the lower court judges were determining the meaning of rights as those similar to what is proscribed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. One significant point, the Supreme Court Judges that made the 2000 ruling, Justice FUJII Masao, Justice ENDO Mitsuo, Justice IJIMA Kazutomo, Justice OHDE Takao, and Justice MACHIDA Akira are no longer on the bench. If a similar case is brought before the Justices today we could get a different ruling. Of course, you remember the Judicial Reforms that began in December of 1999, in my opinion the Justices were aware of how their ruling would affect The Personal Status Litigation Law that was being drafted at the time.


By reviewing the work of Nishitani, Colin, Han van Loons, Bryant, the Judicial Review Council, and others I’ve been able to create a timeline that could give the left behind parents some idea as to when Japan will start to implement and enforce parental rights. I’ve compared the time it took Japan to implement and enforce the Jury System with the Personal Status Litigation Law because both legislations have a profound affect on the nation, as will the implementation and enforcement of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction along with the enforcement of Parental Rights of Access.

Jury System Personal Status Litigation Law
• December 21, 1999 Initial Report from the JRC 1. December 21, 1999 Initial Report from the JRC
• November 12, 2000 Sixty Five (65) Page Interim Report by JRC 2. November 12, 2000 Sixty Five (65) Page Interim Report by JRC
• June 12, 2001 Final Recommendations to the Cabinet by JRC 3. June 12, 2001 Final Recommendations to the Cabinet by JRC
• May 28, 2004 Approved by the Diet 4. July 09, 2003 Approved by the Diet
• June 01, 2009 Law went into effect 5. April 01, 2004 Law went into effect
• 9 Years 6 months to enact 6. 4 Years 5 months to enact

For simplicity, I’ve rounded the number of years and concluded it will take between 5 to 10 years before implementation and enforcement of the treaty or parental rights of access will be legally enforceable. From the article in the Yomiuri Shimbun one can assume the reform process will be carried out similar to the Judicial Reform process that started in December 1999 and took two (2) years before it actually reached the Diet.
While I believe you, Prime Minister Hatoyama, are sincere about resolving this issue, the facts lead me to distrust the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Justice and the Foreign Ministry. The Judicial Review Council and the Supreme Court knew about these problems in the first Judicial Reforms that began 10 years ago but chose not to face the tough issue of Parental Rights head on. Now, Mr. Hatoyama, are you relying on these same bureaucrats again? Why, is it that Professor Nishitani refers to a draft statute created by Japanese Scholars that would have paved the way for Japan to implement the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the bureaucrats are sounding as though we have to start from scratch? If the Judicial Reform Council is drafting this legislation then who are the current members? I hope it is not any of the retired Supreme Court Justices that made the 2000 ruling. Furthermore, the Democratic Party of Japan’s Manifesto states the cabinet will be the center of policy-making. What happens if the DPJ loses power in the next election, which will be in two years, do we start from scratch again? Let’s see what Professor Yuko Nishitani and the Japanese Scholars proposed; maybe the cabinet can start from there. If the government wants the international community and all left-behind parents to cooperate while reforms are being created we need to know, What Are We Bargaining For?

Sincerely,
IGOTCHU

Joint statement by eight governments re Japan’s untenable stance on international child abductions

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
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Hi Blog. Eight governments have officially called on the GOJ to mend their ways regarding international child abductions. Now if only the US Consulates would allow their citizens in need to access their facilities. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

PRESS RELEASE
Joint Statement on International Child Abduction
By the Ambassadors of Australia, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States
October 16, 2009
Tokyo, Japan

Courtesy Paul Toland, From US Embassy Japan’s website at
http://tokyo.usembassy.gov/e/p/tp-20091016-78.html

When one parent abducts a child with the intention of denying the other parent contact with his or her child, it is a tragedy for all concerned. Australia, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States are all parties to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“the Convention”), which was created to protect children from this tragedy.

The Convention seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention across international borders. The Convention further establishes procedures to ensure their prompt return to the State of their habitual residence where custody decisions can be made in the appropriate court of jurisdiction. It also secures protection for rights of access for both parents to their children. To date, over 80 countries have acceded to the Convention.

Japan is the only G-7 nation that has not signed the Convention. The left-behind parents of children abducted to or from Japan have little realistic hope of having their children returned and encounter great difficulties in obtaining access to their children and exercising their parental rights and responsibilities.

Because parental child abduction involving Japan affects so many of our citizens, we, the Ambassadors to Japan of Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, and the Deputy Head of Mission from the Embassy of Australia, called on Justice Minister Chiba today to address our concerns.

We place the highest priority on the welfare of children who have been the victims of international parental child abduction and believe that our children should grow up with access to both parents. Therefore, in our meeting with Minister Chiba we called upon Japan to accede to the Convention. We also urged that Japan meanwhile identify and implement measures to enable parents who are separated from their children to maintain contact with them and to visit them.

Japan is an important friend and partner for each of our countries, and we share many values in common. This makes it all the more important to develop tangible solutions to cases of parental child abduction in Japan. We are eager to work closely and in a positive manner with the new Japanese government on this issue.
ENDS

MSNBC.com/AP on left-behind dads in Japan regardless of nationality

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Slightly dated article recently published in the South China Morning Post, but still worth a read, for how the issues of Japanese family law and child abductions affect Japanese too.  Let’s have more of this info in editorials in places like the Asahi.  Arudou Debito

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

Divorced fathers in Japan fight to see children
Law almost always grant custody to mothers; dads want that to change

Junji Kurokawa / AP
Divorcee Masahiro Yoshida, a 58-year-old musician, is among a small but growing number of divorced or separated fathers who have turned to the courts to get custody back, or at least gain a right to see their children.

updated 12:04 p.m. ET Oct. 8, 2009 (South China Morning Post October 20, 2009)

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33225909/ns/today-parenting_and_family/

TOKYO – On Christmas Eve two years ago, Masahiro Yoshida returned to his home to find it empty. His wife had fled with their 2-year-old daughter, seeking a divorce.

Since then, he’s rarely seen his child because Japanese law grants custody to only one parent — almost always the mother. His wife has refused to allow him regular visits, accusing him of emotional swings and past verbal and sometimes physical abuse.

Yoshida, a 58-year-old musician, is among a small but growing number of divorced or separated fathers who have turned to the courts to get custody, or at least gain a right to see their children. More broadly, many are demanding a change in Japanese law to allow joint custody, as is the case in most developed countries.

“I think about my daughter all the time. I can’t believe the courts allow this,” said Yoshida, who admits hitting his wife twice but otherwise denies her claims. “This is a country that allows kidnapping.”

The law was thrown into the international spotlight last week when an American was arrested for allegedly snatching his children from his Japanese ex-wife as they walked to school in southern Japan. Christopher Savoie, a 38-year-old Tennessee man, remains in custody in the city of Fukuoka while prosecutors decide whether to press charges.

His case has received little attention in Japan, a reflection of how widely accepted it is that young children should remain with their mother in divorces or separations. The law doesn’t explicitly say mothers should get custody — only that one parent should, and by cultural default, that’s the mother.

A common issue
“In Japan, nobody thinks it’s a problem if a mother takes away her children without consent,” said Hideki Tani, a lawyer who has taken on cases of fathers seeking access to their children. “Here, it’s common for either parent to completely lose contact with children, but people outside Japan find it outrageous.”

Tani did acknowledge a need to address problems like domestic violence that can contribute to broken families.

Lately, the number of custody battles has risen as overall divorce cases have climbed and more men have become involved in child-rearing and homemaking. Divorced men also say that children should have a right to see their fathers — and that too often the kids’ interests are neglected.

“Nobody thinks about children’s well-being,” Yoshida said. “They are the victims.”

Last year, there were more than 20,000 child custody cases in Japanese family courts, up from less than 17,000 in 2000, Ministry of Justice statistics show. About 90 percent of those decisions favored the mothers — as in Yoshida’s case.

In December, a court ruled against his petition for custody of — or rights to visit — his daughter, now 4, who lives with his ex-wife and her parents.

“I’m outraged by a society that allows this,” Yoshida said.

His ex-wife, Akemi Kurahashi, 44, says she left Yoshida because she and her child needed legal protection from an abusive husband. She says most of it was verbal, but that once her eardrum burst when he hit her.

She twice left Yoshida, but returned when he begged and apologized, she said. Worn down, she eventually fled with their daughter that Christmas Eve when he was out performing with his jazz band.

Kurahashi says she is willing to consider letting him visit once a month on the condition he is emotionally stable and the visit takes place in public and in her presence. She is even open to the principle of joint custody in Japan, though she said the law must guarantee protection against domestic violence.

“I will swallow my own feelings if my daughter is happy seeing her dad,” she said. “But I still fear he may end up hurting me or her someday.”

Fathers retaliate
There have also been a few cases of fathers forcibly keeping children away from their ex-wives. In June, a 48-year-old man was arrested in Tochigi prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, after refusing to hand over his 3-year-old son to his wife, who had left them, despite a court decision that the son should be legally in the care of his former wife.

Yoshida has banded together with other divorced fathers to form a support group, one of several that have sprung up in recent years.

A few lawyers and lawmakers have showed support for their cause. A bar association group is studying parenting and visitation arrangements in other countries such as Australia.

Japan also faces a growing number of international custody disputes. The U.S., Britain, France and Canada have urged Japan to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which has been signed by 80 countries. It seeks to standardize laws among participating countries to ensure that custody decisions can be made by appropriate courts and protect the rights of access of both parents.

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

Divorced fathers say that joining the Hague convention would be a major step toward bringing the possibility of joint custody to Japan because it would require a major overhaul of the country’s family laws.

“For us it’s not a diplomatic issue. It’s a problem at home that Japan should correct,” said Mitsuru Munakata, a 34-year-old freelance writer who has seen his 3-year-old daughter only twice in the last two years.

Although he recently won court permission for a two-hour meeting with his daughter every other month, he is concerned because his ex-partner is now remarried — and if she dies the custody right would go to her new husband.

“Then I’m totally out of the picture,” Munakata said. “When I have an urge to see my daughter, I worry that I might get arrested someday.”
ENDS

Shibuya Street Rally Sat Oct 24 lunchtime on Rights of Children and the Hague Convention

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Forwarding. Flyer for rally also enclosed. Arudou Debito

Street Rally this Saturday (Oct. 24) on Rights of Children and the Hague Convention

Dear parents, friends, and friends of the media,

In connection with UN Week 2009, and to commemorate the founding on the UN on October 24, a street rally will be held this Saturday to support the Rights of Children, Joint Custody and Visitation, and the Hague Convention.

The rally will begin at 1:30 pm from Shibuya (meeting in front of muscle theatre at 12:30 pm) and will march to Children’s Castle in Aoyama. (Please see attached flyer below).

The rally is being collectively organized and supported by numerous organizations, including:
The Group on Joint Custody
Oyako-net
Left Behind Parents Japan
SOS Parents Japan
CRC Japan

Please invite your friends, families and everyone you know to join us for this important event in support of the Rights of Children and the Hague Convention and enjoy the beautiful fall day! Numerous members of media will also be in attendance.

Hope to see many of you this coming Saturday!

Flyer (click to expand in browser):

streetrallyflyer012409

ENDS

Asahi Shinbun EDITORIAL: Child abduction in Japan English Translation

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Hi Blog. Official English translation of the Asahi Editorial on the Child Abduction issue, with Japanese in previous entry today.  There are some tweaks within, to eliminate “culture” as a factor in some places, while other places add it (as in, the lack of a “culture” of joint custody?  Isn’t that a legal issue?).  And how about the literal translation of Japan signing the Hague Convention now could be “as ineffective as grafting a shoot onto a different kind of tree” (I’m glad the original Japanese didn’t use an expression involving breeding dogs or something).  Again, the need to “protect our own from NJ” is still too strong; the argument should be how everyone in Japan benefits regardless of nationality if you safeguard rights of custody and access a la international treaty.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

EDITORIAL: Child abduction in Japan

The Asahi Shinbun October 21, 2009, Courtesy of Matt D

http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200910210140.html

When the United States and European nations say that more than 100 children have been “abducted” to Japan, they are not lying.

Troubles involving children of international divorces being taken from their countries of residence by their Japanese parents and brought back “illegally” to Japan are creating an international stir.

More than 100 such cases have been filed in the United States, Britain, Canada and other countries so far. Some people even accuse Japan of “encouraging child abduction.”

Last month, a U.S. citizen was arrested in Japan for attempting to snatch back his two children from his Japanese ex-wife who had returned to Japan with them in August.

The trouble occurred because of differences in the rules for dealing with children of international divorces in Japan and the United States. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, to which 81 nations are signatories, states that, in principle, when a child has been taken from his or her country of residence, the child must be returned to that country. The convention requires the governments of signatory nations to comply.

Among the Group of Eight countries, Japan and Russia are the only non-signatories to the convention. Disputes occur frequently between citizens of signatory and non-signatory nations.

Japan is now coming under increased pressure from abroad to join the convention. John Roos, U.S. ambassador to Japan, last Friday joined his European counterparts in urging Justice Minister Keiko Chiba to act.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada told a news conference, “We are approaching the matter with an open mind, but we must also take public opinion into account.”

How should disputes related to child custody be resolved between divorced couples whose cultures differ and who are subject to different laws? The argument that everyone should abide by the rules of the Hague Convention carries conviction.

At present, divorced Japanese parents whose children have been taken abroad by their non-Japanese ex-spouses have no legal recourse. The ranks of Japanese citizens marrying non-Japanese are swelling steadily, and the number tops 40,000 a year. It is probably not realistic for Japan to continue avoiding the Hague Convention.

On the other hand, there are other issues that need working out.

The great majority of parental child abduction cases filed in North America and Europe today involve ex-wives who are Japanese. And a number of these women say they have returned to Japan with their children to escape physical abuse by their ex-husbands. How can such women and their children be saved from their predicament abroad? This question cannot be ignored.

There are cultural and legal differences between Japan and the West. In the United States, visitation rights of divorced parents are clearly defined, but they are not spelled out under the Japanese Civil Code. Joint custody is not a recognized custom in Japan, and the overwhelming tendency here is to award custody to the mother.

Furthermore, courts of law are rarely involved in forcing one parent to hand the child over to the other. If Japan were to sign the Hague Convention now, the result could prove as ineffective as grafting a shoot onto a different kind of tree.

We must never lose sight of one fundamental principle–that each child’s welfare must trump everything. How do we respect the right of children to have a relationship with both parents after they split? This is an issue that has not been properly addressed, but it pertains to all divorces, not only international break-ups.

The time has come for Japanese society to seriously debate the welfare of children of divorced parents, in Japan and overseas.

–The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 20 (IHT/Asahi: October 21,2009)

朝日社説:「国際離婚紛争—親権や面接権の議論を」

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Hi Blog.  The Asahi has this editorial from two days ago, in which it talks about the international attention being brought upon Japan for the child abductions issue.  It gives a surprisingly balanced view (official English translation here).  Although it threatens twice to devolve into issues of “differing customs and laws”, it does say that the Hague Convention should be signed, joint custody would still be an issue even if it was signed, and that abducted children should be returned.  But then it falls into parroting the claim (promoted by crank lawyers like Onuki Kensuke without any statistical evidence) that “not a small number” (sukunakunai) of Japanese wives abducting their children are victims of NJ domestic violence.  It also merely alludes to the fact that child abductions happen in Japan regardless of nationality, and that conditions under the Hague would help Japanese as well.  Again, there’s just a little too much “Japanese as victim” mentality that somehow always manages to sneak back into any domestic-press arguments.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

国際離婚紛争—親権や面接権の議論を

朝日社説2009年10月20日

http://www.asahi.com/paper/editorial20091020.html

100人を超す子どもたちが日本へ「拉致」された、と欧米諸国から声が上がっている——。

作り話ではない。国際結婚が破綻(はたん)した後、日本人の元配偶者が居住国から子どもを不法に連れ去ったとされるトラブルが、国際問題化している。米英加などで計百数十件に上っており、「日本は子の拉致を助長する国だ」との過激な批判すらある。

帰国した日本人の元妻から無理やり子どもを取り返そうとして、米国人の元夫が逮捕される事件も起きた。

背景にあるのは、国際離婚の際の子どもの扱いについて定めたルールの違いだ。81カ国が加盟する「国際的な子の奪取の民事面に関するハーグ条約」では、子が国外に連れ去られた場合、元の居住国へ戻すことを原則とし、加盟国政府は返還の協力義務を負う。

主要8カ国で締結していないのは日本とロシアのみで、加盟国と非加盟国の間で多数のトラブルが起きている。

16日にはルース駐日米国大使ら欧米の大使が法相に加盟を求めるなど、海外からの圧力は高まる一方だ。岡田克也外相は「前向きに検討したい。ただ、世論がどう受け止めるかということもある」と記者会見で語った。

文化も法も異なる国の間で、離婚後の子の親権や監護権に関する紛争をどう解決するか。ハーグ条約という共通ルールに従うべきだという主張には説得力がある。現状では日本から海外へ子を連れ去られた場合も、自力救済しか手段がない。日本人による国際結婚は着実に増加しており、年間4万件を超えている。条約加盟を避け続けるのは、現実的ではないだろう。

その一方で、解きほぐさなければならない課題も山積している。

今、欧米各国との間でトラブルとなっているのは、元妻が日本人というケースが大半だ。元夫による家庭内暴力の被害を訴えて、逃げるように帰国する場合も少なくない。海外で窮地に陥った母とその子をどう救済するのか、という問いかけは重い。

欧米と日本の法や慣習のギャップもある。米国などでは離婚後に親が子と面会する権利は厳格に定められているが、日本では民法に明記されていない。両親が親権を持つ「共同親権」も日本では認められず、親権決定で母親が優先される傾向がある。裁判所が子の強制的な引き渡しにかかわることも少ない。現状のまま条約に加盟すれば、木に竹を接ぐような事態になる。

忘れてはならないのは「子の利益」を最も重視するという大原則だ。離婚後も両親とかかわりを続ける権利をどう尊重するか。国際結婚に限らず、なおざりにされてきた問題である。

国の内外を問わず、両親の離婚に直面した子どもたちの幸せについて、真剣に議論する時が来ている。

ENDS

Colin Jones in Japan Times: How J media is portraying J divorcees and child abductors as victims, NJ as perps

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Hi Blog.  Lawyer Colin Jones has hit us with a one-two punch this week in the Japan Times — first by explaining what Christopher Savoie’s arrest and recent release for “kidnapping” his own kids has brought to light, and now about how the domestic media is reacting to it.  Predictably, portraying  Japanese as perpetual victim, NJ as perp and victimizer.  I’ve mentioned the biased NHK report on the subject before (so does Colin below in his article). Now, here’s a deeper roundup and some crystal-balling about how this might affect NJ particularly adversely, as wagons circle and the GOJ protects its own. Excerpt follows. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009
Foreign parents face travel curbs?
By COLIN P. A. JONES

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20091020a1.html
Excerpt:

…While Japan signing the Hague Convention is certainly a desirable goal, it is probably convenient for everyone on the Japanese government side of the issue for foreigners to be the bad guys. That way they appear to be dealing with a “new” problem, rather than one that they have already ignored for far too long. From there, the easiest way to prevent further abductions is to require foreign residents seeking to exit Japan with their children to show proof that the other parent consents to the travel. This requirement, I believe, will be the most immediate tangible result of Japan signing the Hague Convention (if in fact it ever does).

If such a requirement is imposed, will it apply to Japanese people? Probably not: Japanese citizens have a constitutional right to leave their country. And foreigners? They apparently lack this right — the re-entry permit foreigner residents are required to have is proof that they are not equally free to come and go as they please!

Full article at
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20091020a1.html
ENDS

CBS News interviews Chris Savoie after his return to US

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Hi Blog. Left-behind father in the Savoie Abduction Case, Christopher Savoie is interviewed on CBS’s Early Show earlier today (courtesy of Newscenter5 Tennessee) after his recent release about his treatment in Japanese jails and the US Consulate Fukuoka. According to him, they knew he was coming and a consulate official was present when he arrived there with the kids, but for some reason the Consulate front gate never opened. He also says he is not permitted any contact whatsoever with his children now and must pursue matters through Japanese courts. Well, that’s it then. He’s lost them. Courtesy of Paul Wong. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Video:
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=5400359n


Watch CBS News Videos Online

Text:
American Dad on Losing Kids, Japanese Jail
In an Exclusive Interview, Christopher Savoie Tells Story of Trying to Take Back His Kids with Police on His Heels
CBS News.com Oct. 20, 2009

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/10/20/earlyshow/main5400421.shtml

(CBS) The American father who tried to take his children back from his ex-wife in Japan said in an exclusive interview with Phil Williams, chief investigative reporter of CBS Nashville affiliate WTVF that he’s not only have trouble getting over what he endured in Japan — he’s also now having to come to grips with the real possibility that he won’t be able to watch his own children grow up.

Christopher Savoie said the ordeal of more than two weeks in a Japanese jail was bad enough. But coming home without his children — Isaac, now 9, and Rebeccab 6 — was excruciating.

“There are no words for it, you know. There just aren’t any words for it,” he said.

Savoie, who’s from Nashville, made international news when he picked up his kids as they walked to school with their mother.

He says his ex-wife, Noriko Savoie, had abducted the children to Japan in August — and Tennessee courts gave him full custody. But Japan doesn’t honor foreign custody agreements, so Chris took matters in his own hands.

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.

Finally reunited with them, Savoie raced to the nearby U.S. consulate. Savoie said the consulate knew they were coming, because he called ahead.

However, Savoie’s plans for returning his children were thwarted by his ex-wife, who had alerted local police. They were waiting outside the Consulate.

With Rebecca in his arms and Isaac trailing behind, Savoie said he tried to race past a police barricade, to get the children to U.S. soil. Savoie said he ran to the door with police in riot gear running after him with shields and batons.

“It felt like a movie, actually,” Savoie said. “It was very unreal for me.”

Japanese police arrested him and, for 17 days, held him in jail, repeatedly interrogating him, while they decided whether to indict him on kidnapping charges.

Savoie said, “Everything that you’re not supposed to do to a defendant, especially pre-indictment, they did — and a whole lot more.”

While imprisioned, Savoie said he argued that he had a right to his children.

“They didn’t disagree with me on that,” he said. “They just said I’m not allowed to see them.”

Then, last week prosecutors let Savoie go, with the stipulation that he leave the country and his kids.

“Basically, I’m not allowed to see them. I’m not allowed to call them,” Savoie told Williams. “I’m not even allowed to send them birthday presents.”

While Japanese authorities say he can pursue custody of his children through Japanese courts, Savoie knows the odds are against him. He said he just hopes the memory of the incident will let his children know he tried.

“They’re going to find out who their dad is, what he’s all about, and that he loves them,” he said. “And if loving my kids so much that I really want to be with them is a crime, then, well, I’m guilty. I’m guilty of loving my kids.”

Williams added on “The Early Show” that Savoie also said that, when he got to the onsulate gates, one official reached out to take his daughter. But for reasons he doesn’t understand, the gates never opened.
ENDS

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

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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

CSM’s Kambayashi ties up Savoie Case, alludes to gender discrim

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Hi Blog.  Just to complete the arc, here’s the CSM surveying the final chapter of Christopher Savoie’s foray into getting his kids back:  He gets released from jail and gets out of Dodge.  But now, as we’ve pointed out here before, there are new problems related to this issue coming to light.  In sum, Savoie’s stint in the clink was worth it, for all left-behind spouses in Japan.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

Released, American father still faces uphill child custody battle in Japan

American Christopher Savoie was arrested Sept. 28 in Japan after trying to get his children back from his ex-wife. The case has underscored widely different views in the US and Japan of parental rights and child-rearing.

Christian Science Monitor October 15, 2009 edition

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/1015/p06s11-woap.html

By Takehiko Kambayashi | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
TOKYO

Japanese police have released an American father who was imprisoned for allegedly kidnapping his own children despite his sole legal custody of them.

Prosecutors have not pressed charges against the American, Christopher Savoie, but they haven’t yet dropped the case. Officials said they decided to release him on grounds that he was not a flight risk.

The case, which is among a growing number of international custody disputes in Japan, highlights widely varying views of divorce and child-rearing.

After Christopher and Noriko Savoie divorced in the United States, Mrs. Savoie defied a court order and took their two children to Japan. Mr. Savoie then came to Japan to get the children back. On Sept. 28, he forcefully took them and tried to get them into the American Consulate in Fukuoka. He was arrested for kidnapping them, the police say.

Tadashi Yoshino, Mr. Savoie’s Japanese lawyer, said before his client’s release that the American should not be indicted. “All he did was to exercise his legitimate right,” Mr. Yoshino said, “though technically he may have committed a crime according to Japanese law.”

US CRITICAL OF JAPAN
US officials have long criticized Japan for its failure to sign a 1980 international agreement governing child abductions, known as the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

“Until now, this issue received scant media attention [in Japan]. However, with the Savoie case, Japan has earned a worldwide reputation as a safe haven for abductions,” writes Debito Arudou, a columnist for the Japan Times.

In Japan, women usually gain custody of the children after a divorce. The number of cases where mothers have parental authority increased from about 50 percent in 1970 to 80 percent in 2005, according to government reports.

“In Japan, divorce means that one side [usually the father] can lose all contact with the kids,” says Mr. Arudou, a naturalized Japanese citizen who himself is divorced and has no contact with his children. He says he has seen one of his daughters only once over the past five years.

“After divorce, dual custody of children is not allowed here,” says Reichi Miyahara, the leader of fathers’ rights group, who supports single-parent families in Fukuoka. He adds that the nation’s family registry system, known as koseki, does not allow placement of a child on two people’s registry.

In the Savoie case, the issue is further tangled by the fact that the couple, who had lived in Japan, never divorced in Japan, though they did in the US. Japanese officials also say that the children hold Japanese passports.

JAPAN MORE OPEN TO REVISING LAW?
Some lawmakers in the ruling Democratic Party lawmakers are now in favor of abolishing the controversial system. In a July interview with the Japan Times Herald, Yukio Hatoyama, then-opposition leader and now prime minister, said that “We support ratifying and enforcing the Hague Convention, and involved in this is a sweeping change to allow divorced fathers visitation of their children. That issue affects not just foreign national fathers, but Japanese fathers as well. I believe in this change.”

According to the major daily Yomiuri, the Fukuoka District Prosecutor’s Office says Savoie has pledged to resolve the issue of custody and rearing through dialogue between agents.

NO AID FOR MOTHERLESS FAMILIES
Still, many hurdles remain in terms of society’s view of child-rearing. Mr. Miyahara, who divorced his wife two years ago and now lives with his three children, says motherless families like his do not receive public assistance such as child-care allowances, even as there are government programs that support fatherless families.

“It is taken for granted that fathers have a certain amount of income,” he says. “The system dates back to the wartime period.”

Miyahara came to Tokyo last year to meet Health Ministry officials and DPJ lawmakers to ask for help. Since the DPJ won a landslide victory in the elections and is now in power, the change is expected to come, he says.

“Many single fathers also tend to hide [the fact that] they are motherless families. But I tell them to talk openly about it,” he says. “In fact, more people are becoming interested in our situations.”

ENDS

The Atlantic Monthly on mercenary child-retreivers, mentions Japan

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Here are the lengths people will go to if there is no legal framework to enforce international child abductions:  even hire a professional to retrieve your child. From The Atlantic Monthly November 2009, courtesy of Children’s Rights Network Japan.  This is it, the big leagues.

Congratulations, left-behind spouses. You’ve hit a home run with this issue. All these years talking and writing about the Otaru Onsens Case and “JAPANESE ONLY” signs proliferating across Japan, and pffft — few countries really press Japan nowadays to enforce the UN CERD.  Yet here practically overnight you’ve got US Congressional and State Department hearings, and Diet lobbying, and worldwide press.  You’ve put Japan into the international spotlight over a problem just as long-suffering as racial discrimination in Japan.  I guess Chris had to get arrested before it would happen, alas.

It will probably will get the GOJ to sign the Hague. Getting us to enforce it, however, is another matter. Keep on it. Arudou Debito in Kyoto

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

The Snatchback
by Nadya Labi
The Atlantic Monthly, November 2009

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200911/labi-snatchback

If your ex-spouse has run off and taken your children abroad, and the international legal system is failing to bring them back, what are you to do? One option is to call Gus Zamora, a former Army ranger who will, for a hefty fee, get your children back. Operating in a moral gray area beyond the reach of any clear-cut legal jurisdiction, Zamora claims to have returned 54 children to left-behind parents. Here’s the story of number 55…

(snip)

The left-behind parent faces tough odds. Many countries, especially in Asia and the Middle East, have not signed the convention. Those countries have a tendency to favor the rights of their nationals, even if they’re the taking parents. Japan has one of the worst records among non-Hague countries. The State Department is handling 73 outstanding cases involving 104 children who have been abducted to or retained in Japan by parents.

The predicament of Walter Benda is typical. In 1995, he was living with his wife of 13 years in her home country of Japan. According to Benda, he wanted to return to the U.S. and she did not. One day, she disappeared with their two daughters. “Please forgive me for leaving you this way,” she wrote in a note she left. The Japanese police, Benda says, would not investigate what they viewed as a family matter; it took him three and a half years to find the girls. He never won visitation rights. “It took a couple of years before the courts even interviewed my children,” he recalls. “By that time, they’d been brainwashed and didn’t want to see their father.”

Rest at
http://crnjapan.net/The_Japan_Childrens_Rights_Network/itn-snwzam.html

Joseph pieces together plausible timeline in Savoie Case, finds for Christopher

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. I received this comment early this morning from “Joseph” regarding the Savoie Case, piecing together with a minimum of speculation (shame on all you online rumormongers) a probable plausible timeline for what happened between Christopher and Noriko. It’s too good to be buried as a comment, so I create a separate blog entry for it. He finds for Christopher, concluding:

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. Period. 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 likelihood never see his children again.

Read on. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

===============================
LETTER FROM JOSEPH BEGINS

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)

[correction from Joseph: -1995 ~ ? Christopher begins work at Kyushu University]
– 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. Period. 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 likelihood never see his children again.
ENDS

The Toland Child Abduction Case: making waves in the wake of the Savoie Case

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  I’ve been following another case of child abduction to Japan, that of Paul Toland, US Navy Commander, who lost his daughter Erika to an international divorce with a Japanese and abduction seven years ago. Then when his ex-wife died two years ago, custody went not to the only surviving parent in existence, but to the Japanese mother-in-law!  Background follows, but Toland has been pushing on both sides of the Pacific for reforms, and he just might succeed.  Keep an eye on this one. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

More on the Toland Case case here:
http://www.crnjapan.net/The_Japan_Childrens_Rights_Network/res-crn-av.html
(page down to Radio Interviews)

CNN:

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

Background to the case, according to his Facebook entry (which has nearly 800 members, join if you like), courtesy:

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=98937667971&ref=ts

On July 13th 2003, Erika Toland was abducted from her home at Negishi Navy Family Housing in Yokohama, Japan. She was abducted by her mother, Etsuko Toland, who subsequently died on October 31st, 2007. Since the death of her mother, Erika has been held by her maternal Grandmother, Akiko Futagi. For six long years her father, Commander Paul Toland, US Navy, has been trying to see his daughter Erika, but to no avail. Erika is held in Japan, a haven for international child abduction. Japan is the only G7 country that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The United States Department of State is not aware of any case in which a child taken by one parent has been ordered returned to the United States by Japanese courts, even when the left-behind parent has a United States custody decree.


You can see Erika’s abduction discussed on the Floor of the United States House of Representatives at
http://www.c-spanarchives.org/congress/?q=node/77531&id=9005768and see Paul discussing Erika’s case on CNN at http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2009/09/29/cb.dad.behind.bars.cnn?


On March 11, 2009, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed House Resolution 125 by a vote of 418-0. This Resolution condemned Japan for its actions on International Child Abduction and called on Japan to sign the Hague Convention. This Congressional resolution described Japan as “a United States ally which does not recognize intra-familial child abduction as a crime, and though its family laws do not discriminate by nationality, Japanese courts give no recognition to the parental rights of the non-Japanese parent, fail to enforce United States court orders relating to child custody or visitation, and place no effective obligation on the Japanese parent to allow parental visits for their child.”


On May 21, 2009, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada released a joint press statement condemning Japan for it’s actions on International Child Abduction, and calling on Japan to sign the Hague Convention. These four nations together with one voice stated that “the left-behind parents of children abducted to or from Japan have little realistic hope of having their children returned and encounter great difficulties in obtaining access to their children and exercising their parental rights and responsibilities.” These countries urged Japan “to identify and implement measures to enable parents who are separated from their children to maintain contact with them and to visit them,” and described the “failure to develop tangible solutions to most cases of parental child abduction in Japan particularly troubling.”


Nothing in this world is more important than a parent’s love for their child. Equally important is a society’s responsibility to allow a child to love and know both of their parents. This is where Japan has failed.


Today, Erika remains separated from her father, with no means of return. Her father has spent his life savings trying to return her, but Japan does not even recognize parental or intrafamilial child abduction as a crime, so the situation remains grim. Please join us in continuing to press the US Government for the return of our children from Japan.

Most recent message to the members of Facebook HELP BRING ERIKA TOLAND HOME. (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=98937667971&ref=ts)

——————–
Subject: Update to Erika’s Case, October 14, 2009

Friends,

I want to thank you all again for your continued support.  Your support, comments, thoughts and prayers give me strength and keep me going over here thousands of miles away from home.

Yesterday was a productive day.  I attended a working group at the Japanese Diet (Parliament) on reforming family law in Japan.  The last time this group met was in July, before the Japanese elections which swept a new party into power, and before the case of Christopher Savoie.  The working group was covered by CNN, NBC and others.  I had been told that in the past, there were usually one or two diet members at this working group, but yesterday there were 23 diet members present, far more than at any of the past working groups.  Many left behind parents attended, mostly Japanese, although American parents Steve Christie and Paul Wong were also in attendance.  Steve and Paul deserve a lot of credit.  They live here in Japan and spend countless hours lobbying Japanese diet members on our cause, and when they find a sympathetic member, they then contact the Embassy to put US officials in contact with that diet member.  They are doing great work and deserve
much credit.

Anyway, back to the Diet session.  I did have the opportunity to get up in front of the diet members and discuss Erika’s case.  I stressed that the most important thing in reforming family law in Japan was enforcement.  Japan has no enforcement of their family law, and that is really at the root of the problem.  Any legal system without enforcement is powerless, and the laws of that system are therefore nothing more than worthless shreds of paper.  I explained to them that officials from the US Embassy asked to visit Erika and were told “no” by the Grandmother, and even officials from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked to visit Erika and were told “No” by the Grandmother, and all anyone could say to me is “sorry, we tried.”  This is the end result of a legal system without enforcement.  It amounts to nothing more than anarchy.

I also stressed urgency.  This working group has been meeting for two years now, and this was their 12th meeting, yet no legislation has been proposed in Japan to reform family law.  I explained that while they meet and have discussions, our children grow older every day, and we continue to miss out on their lives, and children like Erika miss out on the opportunity to be reunited with loving parents.  I also explained to them that I was going to Erika’s house this coming weekend to bring her birthday presents for her seventh birthday.

My presentation to the diet members was met with considerable interest, and they had numerous questions for me, so I hope this  effort at least bears some fruit.

I also had a three-hour interview yesterday with a reporter from the Yomiuri Shimbun, the largest newspaper in Japan.  This is my first time talking to the Japanese language press in depth.  The reporter seemed genuinely sympathetic, but I have seen how the Japanese press has reported on this issue in the past, and have been generally disappointed with the results.  The reporter told me that they try to “balance” the issue.  However, none of the abducting spouses ever grant press interviews, so I think that speaks for itself.

An article came out today in ABC news, and while the article was good, I read over the comments posted by readers, and realize that many Japanese are posting comments attacking this issue.  These readers are not very well informed about the nature of Japanese family law (or maybe they are well informed, but they are simply against any reform to Japanese law).  I ask that you all go to the article at http://www.facebook.com/l/f2bfe;abcnews.go.com/International/fighting-custody-abducted-children-japan/comments?type=story&id=8817579 and post your own informed comments.

I am prepared for attacks from those who do not want family law reform in Japan, and I even welcome these attacks.  When a cause is just, there is no need to fear. Ghandi said, “First they ingore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then…you win.”  This issue has been ignored and laughed at for years, but now those who are against this can no longer ignore us, so they are attacking us.  That is a good thing, because it only means that we are closer to real change.

Tomorrow, I plan to guest lecture two classes at Waseda University.  Congressman Smith will hopefully be here by the weekend.  I will write again soon.  Thank you all again.  Sincerely,  Paul
——————–

To reply to this message, follow the link below:
http://www.facebook.com/n/?inbox/readmessage.php&t=187044323708&mid=13f79f5G23e55442G2f9572dG0

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

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

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
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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

Wiegert Case of child custody awarded to NJ: In 1984! A precedent, anyway.

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
twitter: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  I received this yesterday, and am forwarding this with permission, from a person by the name of James Wiegert, who tells his story of how he received custody of his then 8-year-old son from a Japanese court a quarter century ago as a NJ.

He points out a number of mitigators — the clear and present unreasonableness of the mother (who first said he could have custody and then took it back), his gainful employment in a major company in Japan (and generous offer of a settlement to her), and the fact the son could only have US citizenship (i.e. could only have the citizenship of the father, which was the law at the time),

His wife did receive visitation rights, which Mr Wiegert allowed to be enforced.

Although this case is to me the exception that proves the rule (even he says he’s not sure why he was granted custody), there is indeed a legal precedent for allowing NJ to get custody in court.  I hope that NJ parents in proceedings can cite this in order to tip the overwhelming one-sided judicial scales a little more in their favor.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

Dear Debito san,

In your Japan Times article of 7 October ‘Savoie case shines spotlight on Japan’s “disappeared dads”‘ you said that you’d never heard of a non-Japanese man being granted custody of a child born to him and his Japanese wife by Japanese courts.

Well, now you have.

When my Japanese wife of nine years and I divorced in 1984, officials of the Tokyo Family Court gave me- a Caucasian of US citizenship who was then 41 years old, had lived in Japan for 14 years and spoke Japanese well enough to converse with court officials in Japanese- custody of our eight-year-old son, H.

I was given full legal custody and my former wife once monthly visiting rights.

She lived in Hitachi City in Ibaraki Prefecture where the three us had lived as a family before I moved to Tokyo. She filed suit against me in the Family Court in Mito City, the capital of Ibaraki Prefecture, I think it was. Officials of the Tokyo Family Court adjudicated because H was living with me in Tokyo at the time.

I prepared for the court proceedings as best I could and apparently said what I should’ve said because I was given custody of H, but I don’t know why I was, not really. (When I’d been notified that my wife had filed suit against me, I went to the Tokyo Family Court to ask about proceedings there and how to prepare for them, and I consulted a lawyer.)

Some facts mitigated in her favor, and some in mine.

My wife had Japanese citizenship, which was in her favor.

Our son was born at a time when Japanese law specified that children born of marriages where only one parent was of Japanese nationality had to take the nationality of the father, which meant that H had US citizenship, which, perhaps, was in my favor.

My wife had agreed to my taking custody of H and then disagreed with my doing so. Therefore, I took H to Tokyo against my wife’s wishes on a visit to Hitachi City when she was at a neighbor’s house. When I telephoned her from Tokyo to tell her what I’d done, she complained but never came after him, which, probably went against her.

Immediately after taking H to Tokyo, I enrolled him in the local elementary school. I took time off from work to attend PTA meetings and was even elected one of three parents from among those of the children in H’s class at the time to represent the others at school-wide PTA meetings, all of which was in my favor.

I was working as an editor of English language publications at the head office of the then Fuji Electric Company, Ltd.- now Fuji Electric Holdings Company, Ltd. Since that company, and companies related to it like Fujitsu Ltd., is well known, working there was probably in my favor. (My wife was working but I was making more money than she was.)

I agreed to pay my wife one million yen, even after I was given custody of H, and even though I had to cash a life insurance policy to do it, to clear the air, so to speak. That worked in my favor because I wasn’t required to do it. (During the year my wife and I were separated and before we divorced, I’d paid her expenses for once monthly visits to Tokyo to see H and had agreed to pay all his expenses for his visits to Hitachi City to see her after the divorce.)

The panel of three court officials who heard my and my wife’s versions of events was composed of two men and one woman. For her own reasons- which I can only guess at- the woman voiced very vocal support for me. When I said that I regularly attended PTA meetings and had even been elected to represent the parents of the children in H’s class at school-wide PTA meetings, she held me up as a model to the two men on the panel. They looked browbeaten, which I think helped me, though it was the judge who sat in on the final of the three meetings my wife and I had with court officials who decided I’d be given custody of H.

Also, during the year of monthly visits in Tokyo preceding our divorce, my wife never once spoke directly to me. When I spoke to her, she always said: ‘H, tell your father that …’ That put such pressure on H that I eventually refused further meetings, which is why my wife filed suit against me. The woman on the panel of court officials castigated my wife severely for speaking through H as she’d done, which worked very much in my favor.

The lawyer I consulted before Tokyo Family Court proceedings began told me that ‘Court officials will want to know that your son is well taken care of. Convince them that you can do better than she- your wife- can, and you’ll get custody. Fail to do so, and you won’t.’ So, I brought every question asked me and every answer given back to the same question: ‘What about my son?’ And, while I don’t know how much that helped, I think it did indeed help at least a little. At any rate I was given custody, after which my son and I continued to live in Tokyo where I raised him as a single parent while working at Fuji Electric Company, Ltd. (I say ‘I raised him,’ but no one raises a child alone. Friends I made among the parents at H’s school and other neighbors helped out when either H or I were sick, or I had to work late, and my mother came to visit during school summer holidays or H visited with her in the US.)

H and I left Japan together in the summer of 1998 when he was 24 years old. He lives in Maryland in the US now, and keeps in touch with me over the telephone, and with his mother too. She still lives in Hitachi City in Japan. I live in Malta. (My Japan interlude was from the summer of 1970 to the summer of 1998.)

I had permanent residence and, so, could’ve stayed but decided that since H wanted to leave, I’d leave too, even though I knew he wanted to go to the US and I didn’t.

(I lived in Japan for twenty-some-odd years before immigration officials decided I could finally be trusted, as it were, with permanent residence, and even then I needed a guarantor. Which is to say I could be trusted, but I couldn’t, not really. Which disappointed me- really- so I left. Not that there weren’t other reasons for leaving, but that was one of the major ones.

(I very much miss Japanese friends and foods. Of course, I can keep in touch with friends over the internet, but foods … I would love a meal of shimesaba no sashimi, akadashi and nukatsuke no oshinko right now, but I’d have to return to Japan for that. Perhaps for a visit someday …)

Sincerely,
James Wiegert

ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE on Savoie Child Abduction Case and Japan’s “Disappeared Dads”

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Here’s the JT version of my column with links to sources. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
justbecauseicon.jpg
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The Japan Times, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2009
JUST BE CAUSE
Savoie case shines spotlight on Japan’s ‘disappeared dads’
By DEBITO ARUDOU

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20091006ad.html

Making international (and to a lesser extent, national) news recently has been the Savoie child abduction case. Briefly: After a couple divorced in America, ex-wife Noriko Savoie absconded with their children to Japan. Then ex-husband Christopher, who had been awarded custody in the U.S., came to Japan to take the kids back. On Sept. 28 he tried to get the children into the American Consulate in Fukuoka, but was barred entry and arrested by the Japanese police for kidnapping.

The case is messy (few divorces aren’t), and I haven’t space here to deal with the minutia (e.g. Christopher’s quick remarriage, Noriko’s $800,000 divorce award and ban on international travel, both parents’ dual U.S.-Japan citizenship , etc.). Please read up online.

So let’s go beyond that and focus on how this case highlights why Japan must make fundamental promises and reforms.

In Japan, divorce means that one side (usually the father) can lose all contact with the kids. Thanks to the koseki family registry system, Japan has no joint custody (because you can’t put a child on two people’s koseki). Meanwhile, visitation rights, even if mandated by family court, are unenforceable. This happens in Japan regardless of nationality. (I speak from personal experience: I too am divorced, and have zero contact with my children. I’ve seen one of my daughters only once over the past five years.)

Standard operating procedure is the three Ds: Divorced Daddy Disappears. Add an international dimension to the marriage and it’s stunningly difficult for a non-Japanese parent of either gender to gain child custody (as foreigners, by definition, don’t have a koseki). Add a transnational dimension and the kids are gone: Many left-behind parents overseas receive no communication whatsoever until the children become adults.

There is no recourse. Although Japan has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), it has not signed the Hague Convention on Child Abductions (the only holdout among the G7 developed countries). If brought to trial in Japan, our judges do not honor overseas court orders granting custody to the non-Japanese parent. In fact, according to the documentary “From the Shadows,” an estimated 300 such children are abducted to or within Japan each year, and none has ever been returned by Japanese authorities to a foreign parent.

Until now this issue received scant media attention. However, with the Savoie case, Japan has earned a worldwide reputation as a safe haven for abductions. This is, given the inhuman North Korean kidnappings of Japanese, an ironic position to be in.

Before we get relativistic, be advised there is no comity here. Although few (I know of none) foreigners have ever won repatriation rights or even custody in Japanese courts, the converse is not true in, for example, American courts. The U.S. recognizes the Hague-mandated concept of “habitual residence,” even if that doesn’t mean America. The most famous abduction-then-repatriation case involved Elian Gonzalez from Cuba.

According to court transcripts, Noriko Savoie did have a fair hearing abroad. The judge heard her out, believed her sworn testimony that she would not abduct the kids, and lifted the restraining order against her. She and the kids could travel to Japan briefly to explore their Japanese heritage.

Then Noriko broke her oath. And Christopher boarded a plane.

The point: Regardless of any extenuating circumstances in this messy affair, the lack of a post-divorce legal framework to prevent abductions, secure joint custody and guarantee visitation rights forced Christopher to take the law into his own hands.

Needless to say it’s the children that get hurt the most in this tug of war. If Japan’s policymakers would secure the right of the child to know both their parents and heritages, this nonsense would cease.

But as with all social problems left to fester, things are only getting worse. U.S. Congressman Chris Smith announced Sept. 29 that reported child abductions have increased “60 percent in the last three years.” No doubt contributing to this rise is the grapevine effect among expat Japanese — a quick Web search shows that all a potential abductor needs do is board a plane to Japan and they’re scot-free.

Injustice breeds drastic actions. How long before a vigilante parent takes the law so far that somebody gets injured or killed?

Japan wants to avoid a demographic nightmare as its population drops. International marriage is one solution. But this threat of abduction is now a prime deterrent to marrying any Japanese. One domestic spat with a threat to kidnap the kids and conjugal trust is permanently destroyed.

But just signing the Hague convention won’t fix things. Japan has, after all, inked umpteen international treaties (like the above-mentioned UNCRC), and ignores them by not enacting enforceable domestic laws. I don’t anticipate any exception here: Japan giving more parental rights to non-Japanese through treaties than they would their own citizens? Inconceivable.

What’s necessary is more radical: Abolish the koseki system so that legal ties can extend to both parents regardless of nationality after divorce. In addition, our authorities must create more professional domestic-dispute enforcement and mediation mechanisms (consider the farcical chotei pre-divorce process).

Inevitable problems arise in that complicated institution called marriage. Anyone, including Japanese, must have recourse, remedy and redress. Without it people will take matters into their own hands.

There are plenty of times when adults just won’t act like adults. But their children should not have to suffer for it.

Reforms are necessary not just to prevent future cases like the Savoies’; Japan also needs more secure family laws for its own long-suffering, disappeared Japanese parents.

—————————–

Debito Arudou coauthored the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants.” Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month.

BONUS STATISTICS, Courtesy of RedJoe the Lawyer:

In [Japan] divorces finalized in 2007, fathers got custody 15% of the time, while women got custody 81% of the time. So the system is clearly biased, but men win in a significant (if not fair) number of cases. Interestingly, men used to get custody more often than women. The sexes reached parity in the late 60s and women reached their current ~80% success rate around 2000. Stats are here: http://www.e-stat.go.jp/SG1/estat/List.do?lid=000001032162

US Census figures from 2004 (http://www.census.gov/prod/2008pubs/p70-114.pdf):
58.3% of kids live with both married parents
29.5% live with their mother but not their father

4.7% live with their father but not their mother

Granted, a lot of single-mother families in the US are not formed by a divorce, but rather by the father being incarcerated. Still, that doesn’t account for a 25 percentage point difference across the whole population.

ENDS

Terrie’s Take offers the best piece yet on the Savoie Child Abduction Case

mytest

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UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Just received this.  It’s good enough to quote in full.  It’s the best, most thorough, most balanced opinion yet on the case, in my view.  Let’s see if I can do better tomorrow in my Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
(http://www.terrie.com)

General Edition Sunday, October 4, 2009 Issue No. 536

+++ WHAT’S NEW

On September 28th this last week, news starting emerging on CNN and several other media about an American dad who was arrested in Fukuoka for trying to abduct his kids back, after his Japanese ex-wife had first abducted them from him in the USA. The Dad, 38-year old Chris Savoie, is now in jail in Fukuoka for some indeterminate period, while the police try to extract a confession from him.

Well… at least we think this is what is going on, because as many readers will know, the police can keep a suspect in detention for months for questioning, with very limited access to a lawyer, until they think the case is ready to send to the courts. This process is partly the reason why Japan has a successful conviction rate (versus a relatively low prosecution rate) in the 99%+ range.

Chris Savoie is not a wet-behind-the-ears foreigner who knows nothing about Japan and its customs. Indeed, he has led a highly successful business career here, and amongst other things built a pharmaceutical business called GNI in Fukuoka that went on to do an IPO on the Mothers market in September 2007. He is a strong Japanese speaker, has a PhD, and according to press reports naturalized as a Japanese national several years ago. So his being in jail is both a surprise and then again it isn’t.

No one other than Savoie himself knows what was going through his mind when he had a friend drive a car along side his ex-wife and two children, aged 6 and 8, while they were walking to school. However, according to reports he jumped out of the vehicle, bundled the kids into the car and raced to the U.S. Consul’s compound in Fukuoka. This was a big mistake, because at the compound he was not allowed entry by the guards, and since his ex-wife had already alerted the police, they soon arrived on the scene and nabbed both him and the kids.

While we don’t know what Savoie was thinking, we do know the facts surrounding his decision to try to get his kids back:

1. His wife is on record in a U.S. divorce court as stating that she would not abduct the kids, despite Savoie’s fears that this might happen.

2. She did abduct the kids and she clearly didn’t expect to return them to the U.S. Indeed, she was taking them to school, meaning that they weren’t just on holiday.

3. As readers will know from our previous commentary on this subject (http://www.japaninc.com/child_abduction), there are NO recorded cases of U.S.-Japanese kids abducted from the U.S. being returned to the custodial parent in the U.S. by court action, and only 3 that were mutually resolved between the parties. This among 102 open cases of abduction known to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, and possibly several thousand unreported cases which have probably happened over the last ten years.

4. Previous cases we have heard of indicate that it is not a crime for a spouse to take the kids into hiding in Japan. The idea being that the abductor waits until the kids acclimate to them, before resurfacing. If the kids have been with that abducting spouse for more than a year, then typically judges will award that spouse custody on the basis that the kids should have a “stable home life” and better to have them not experience another major change. Until now that’s been the pattern of rulings, anyway.

5. While joint custody may be legally allowed in Japan, there has been no tradition nor legal enforcement of joint custody arrangements. So if a spouse, almost always the Japanese spouse, has possession of the kids and doesn’t want the other parent to see them, then the left-behind spouse can’t.

Given that Savoie has probably been aware of the legal situation, it is not so surprising that he attempted to get his kids back by taking preemptive action. He will have realized that the Family courts in Japan would pay no heed to his U.S. custodial rights (he has sole custody) and that Japan is well known globally as a destination for child abductors, not all of whom are Japanese. If he wanted to see his kids again, kidnapping them back again was about all he really could do. Otherwise he would have joined the ranks of hundreds of other left-behind parents who desperately miss their kids and can’t do anything about it. They are powerless in the face of a 19th century judicial values system.

But what is surprising is that he chose to get his kids back in a way that exposed him to many untested theories. One of these theories has been that it is OK to abduct your kids back. Indeed the police often do turn a blind eye to home disputes and will allow “mini-abductions” to happen. There was a case some years ago where Chinese American Samuel Lui tried, like Savoie, to abduct his child back on the streets of Osaka. Like Savoie, he also had sole custody rights awarded in the USA. Lui failed in his attempt, subsequently turning himself in to the Osaka police, who after questioning him for a day, rapped his knuckles and effectively said, “Don’t do it again.”

But in trying to regain possession of your kids, once trespass and violence or threat of violence are used, that is where a person steps over the line. Savoie must have known that the police here can pretty much arrest people whenever they want. If we’d been him, and were committed to such a drastic action, we would have used our local contacts to hide out for a while and figured out how to get the kids out of the country. As a Japanese, if he’d successfully kept off the police radar for more than 6 months, he might have even been able to apply to the courts for sole custody in Japan and have gotten away with it.

In the last couple of days, details surrounding Savoie’s divorce have emerged that paint him in a less than flattering light. In particular he seems to have been engaged in an affair with a person who has since become his new wife, and that this probably occurred around the same time he brought his ex-wife and kids to the USA. Comments of disgust about his possible manipulation of the ex-wife abound on U.S. comment boards of major news sites carrying stories about the case.

HOWEVER, again, we can only speculate about what really happened, and until the facts are made public, we can probably assume that Savoie was acting logically throughout — in that he was trying to get his soon-to-be ex-wife and kids into a jurisdiction (the U.S.) where the law protects BOTH parents rights and upholds the concept of joint custody. Whether his behavior is cruel or is manipulative is beside the point. Savoie would have known that if his divorce was contested in Japan, he would have been 100% guaranteed to have lost his kids, and would have been at the whim of his wife whether or not he would be able to see them ever again as children.

This situation is caused by the Japanese judiciary’s refusal to accept that divorced parents should have equal access to their children. The view of most judges (based on interviews with judges that we have done in the past) is that kids need to be insulated from the hurt between divorcing parents by giving them just one care-giver. But this is a traditional view and has no basis in fact. Child psychologists outside Japan generally agree that kids need the love and attention of both parents, even if they are divorced. Splitting the kids from one parent naturally causes them to side with the other (Parental Alienation Syndrome: PAS), which causes them to have complexes about the missing parent later in life.

PAS also works in reverse, because as the left-behind parent gets alienated, they simply stop paying child support, causing poverty and depression for the (typically) single-mother family. The fact is that if the Dads are not encouraged to feel a connection to their kids, and given that Japanese family law courts have little or no power to enforce child support judgments, then why would ex-Dads feel like paying for offspring who won’t even acknowledge them as a parent? Yes, the law says they should pay, but given the lack of legal enforcement, building a feeling of responsibility by the Dads is the only other way to get the money flowing again.

This situation is wrong and needs fixing.

Since there appears to be little will by the judiciary to change their ways or values, any change in the status quo needs to be a political one — using outside political pressure (“Gaiatsu”). This is a long-term project unfortunately, but it does give us a possible motive why an otherwise intelligent individual such as Savoie may have been driven to try kidnap his kids when such an undertaking would have such a high possibility for failure.

Finally, our take is that what he did is not right, but under the current legal system, it is understandable. We think similar incidents will happen again until things change.

ends

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CNN on the upcoming documentary FROM THE SHADOWS re Japan’s Child Abductions issue

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Just another quickie for today:

CNN did a feature on upcoming movie ‘From the shadows’ 2:05, September 30, 2009.
A new documentary follows children abducted by their parents. CNN’s Kareen Wynter reports.

http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/showbiz/2009/09/30/wynter.abductions.doc.cnn?iref=videosearch

Want to see more of this important movie (I’ve been a supporter of it for years)? Go to http://www.fromtheshadowsmovie.com/

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Brett Weed on US State Dept Human Rights Bureau’s willful ignorance of Japan’s child abduction

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. The following letter received from the author, blogging here with permission. Part of the problem of any international issue (especially one involving the protection of the rights of its own citizens) is allies turning a blind eye to it. Friends must help friends break bad habits. And Japan as safe haven for child abductions is certainly a bad habit. Shame on Japan for letting it happen. And shame on the US for ignoring the issue for so long. Still no mention of it in the 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (the most recent, covering the previous year, coming out more than a year from the date of the letter below). Read on. The letter, BTW, went unanswered. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

=============================
Brett Weed
P.O. Box 1466
Clackamas, OR 97015
E-mail: bweed6@hotmail.com
Cell: [removed, available to media upon request to debito@debito.org]

January 14, 2008

Julie Turner
Section Head, Asia Section
Office of Asian and Western Hemisphere Affairs
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW,
Washington D.C. 20520

Via: E-mail & Facsimile

Re: Official reason international child abduction language is not being included in the next report on Japan

Dear Ms. Turner:

On 10/31/07 you wrote:
The Department of State prepares the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in accordance with legislation passed by Congress. Specifically, Section 502(b) of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, which requires the Secretary of State to provide a report prepared by the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. The Country Reports cover internationally recognized individual, civil, political and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10, 1948. These rights include freedom from torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, from prolonged detention without charges, from disappearance or clandestine detention, and from other flagrant violations of the right to life, liberty and the security of the person.”

I believe we are in agreement with regards to the Department of State preparing the annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices. Nevertheless the Department of State annual County Report is not complete according to legislation passed by Congress contained within Section 116(d) & 502(b) of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10, 1948. Section 502(b) states: [Such report shall also include, for each country with respect to which the report indicates that extrajudicial killings, torture, or other serious violations of human rights have occurred in the country, the extent to which the United States has taken or will take action to encourage an end to such practices in the country.]

Other omissions of the report are not in accordance with Section 502(b). I noted a few key words you omitted from your October 31st, 2007 Email reply such as: “abduction”. In fact, from the perspective of an internationally abducted child, left-behind parent and specifically by definition contained within Section 502(b), any participating country which allows the abduction of children is in gross violation of internationally recognized human rights. [the term ‘‘gross violations of internationally recognized human rights’’ includes torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges and trial, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, and other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of person]. It also states: [Except under circumstances specified in this section, no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of inter-nationally recognized human rights.]

Please explain what the applicable circumstances are, contained within Section 502(b), that allow security assistance to be provided to Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Taiwan and other countries which participate in child abduction in gross violation of internationally recognized human rights.

Participating child abducting countries/states are in contempt of multiple violations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10, 1948, specifically:

Article 1 states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Internationally abducted children have their freedom, dignity, rights and God-given inalienable rights restricted to approximately half of their respective cultures, family heritage, social interaction and exposure to their blood relatives.

Article 2. states: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”

This speaks for itself in terms of “Everyone” including internationally abducted children and left-behind parents being entitled to rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration.

Article 3. states: “ Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

Abducted American children are in effect stripped of their constitutional and basic human rights by their abductors until such time as they come to the age of majority in the host country. They are denied liberty in terms of their right to choose without being constrained, freedom from mental and physical captivity and inherent basic rights given to all individuals. How can an abducted child be secure without access to both parents? They are not; in fact many suffer from parental alienation syndrome.

D.C. Rand, The Spectrum of the Parental Alienation Syndrome, 15 Amer. J. Forensics Psychology 3 (1997).

http://www.fact.on.ca/Info/pas/rand01.htm

An abducting parent views the child’s needs as secondary to the parental agenda which is to provoke, agitate, control, attack or psychologically torture the other parent.

—–

Symptoms of P.A.S.

http://www.parentalalienation.com/PASfound3.htm

Article 5. . states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Left-behind parents and internationally abducted children are subject to the most excruciating form of mental torture and cruel and inhuman treatment after having their flesh and blood taken from them. These children are forever scarred by their experience.

From “Child Abduction is Child Abuse” by Dr. Nancy Faulkner to United Nations Convention on Child Rights:

As an early leader in the relatively new field of parental child abduction issues, Dr. Dorothy Huntington wrote an article published in 1982, Parental Kidnapping: A New Form of Child Abuse. Huntington contends that from the point of view of the child, “child stealing is child abuse.” According to Huntington, “in child stealing the children are used as both objects and weapons in the struggle between the parents which leads to the brutalization of the children psychologically, specifically destroying their sense of trust in the world around them.” Because of the events surrounding parental child abduction, Huntington emphasizes that “we must reconceptualize child stealing as child abuse of the most flagrant sort” (Huntington, 1982, p. 7).

McKeon,”International Parental Kidnapping; A New Law, A New Solution,” 30 Fam. L.Q. 235, 244 (1996); see, Note, “Access Rights: A Necessary Corollary to Custody Rights Under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction,” 21 Fordham Int’l L.J. 308, 318 & n.64 (1997). The mere threat of child abduction is also a form of patent abuse. People v. Beach, 194 Cal. App. 3d 955, 240 Cal. Rptr. 50 (1987).

Article 6. states: “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.”

United States GAO Report, 1999 “Federal Response to International Parental Child Abductions”

There are a number of problems and issues related to the federal response to international parental child abduction. These problems have been identified by the key agencies involved—the State and Justice Departments and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children—as well as left-behind parents and others. Together, they present obstacles to left-behind parents in their attempts to locate, gain access to, and return their children. Four problems and issues have received substantial attention. These are:

1) Gaps in federal services to left-behind parents, which make it difficult for parents to recover their abducted children;

2) Weaknesses within the existing State Department case-tracking process, which impair case and program coordination;

3) Lack of systematic and aggressive diplomatic efforts to improve international responses to parental child abductions; and

4) Limited use of the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993 to pursue abducting parents and bring them to justice.

Article 7. states: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”

http://www.ncjrs.gov/html/ojjdp/ojjdp_report_ip_kidnapping/section2.html

FROM: National Criminal Justice Reference System

BY: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention program

“Section 2: Improving Federal Responses to International Parental Kidnapping”

There also is no central point of contact for information and guidance for parents, their advocates, other assisting organizations, or for State and local law enforcement, all of whom turn to the Federal Government for help in international abduction cases. Much more could be done to provide information to these interested parties about assistance that may be available and how to obtain it, and to facilitate coordination and communication among relevant agencies. In addition, there are significant gaps in services provided, for example, in the area of counseling and support to left-behind parents and to families and children even at the end of the ordeal.

Article 8. states: “Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.”

Parents enjoy a right to associate with their children. Mabra v Schmidt, 356 F. Supp. 620 (1973)

This right is guaranteed by the First Amendment as incorporated in the Fourteenth. Alternatively, this right is embodied in the concept of “liberty” as that word is used in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Whatever the constitutional provision or provisions by which it is protected, the right is fundamental.

Congress has also made attempts to recognize the protected right of parenting whether from the passages of court or in legislation. “The role of parents in the raising and rearing of their children is of inestimable value and is deserving of praise and protection by all levels of government.” Proposed Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act of 1995 H.R. 1946 104th Cong., 1st Sess §2(a)(2) (1995) (findings). “Congress finds that the Supreme Court has regarded the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children as a fundamental right implicit in the concept of ordered liberty within the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, as specified in Meyer v Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923) and Pierce v Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925). Note: Meyer and Pierce have become the foundation cases by the U.S. Supreme Court in the process of constitutionalizing a wide range of parental powers.

Article 15. states: “(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.”

Internationally Abducted Children are deprived of one half of their nationality.

It also states: “(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.”

Internationally abducted American children are greatly disadvantaged to choose the nationality of choice after exposure to one nationality is eliminated at an influential and vulnerable age.

Article 16. states: “(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.”

Left-behind parents of internationally abducted children have their dissolution rights violated if the dissolution of marriage includes a valid custody order that includes having any access to their children. According to Walter Benda (CRC Japan co-founder) “there is a clearly anti-foreigner bias in the Japanese system handling of foreign spouses’ rights in marriage matters.”

It also states: “(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

Both States involved in international cases of abduction are in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10, 1948, if uncompromising efforts are not made in recovery efforts of an abducted child.

Article 18. states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

If parents have differences in thought and belief, internationally abducted children are restricted in this right because they are not exposed to both parents at an influential and vulnerable age.

Article 19. states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

If parents have differences in thought and belief, internationally abducted children are restricted in this right because they are not exposed to both parents at an influential and vulnerable age.

Article 20. states: “(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

Abducted children are limited in their past, present and future association choices.

Article 22. states: “Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.”

If one’s government puts diplomatic and economic interest ahead of the security and well being of its most vulnerable citizens, its children, then the government is in violation of the article.

Article 25. states: “(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

In many cases internationally abducted children are deprived or restrictive of their standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of themselves because left-behind parents are allocating limited resources toward recovery efforts without meaningful assistance from their respective government entities. Additionally, abducted children can inherently be cut off from support by a left-behind parent in an abduction situation.

It also states: “(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.”

If the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10, 1948 were brought up to date, this would be worded as: “(2) Parenthood and childhood…” and parents and children in international abduction cases are entitled to special care and assistance.

Article 26. states: “ (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.”

If the governments of internationally abducted children are allowed to break international human rights declarations and ignore valid custody orders by habitual resident countries of internationally abducted children, how can this Article be upheld?

It also states: “(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

A left-behind parent does not have a say in choosing an internationally abducted child’s kind of education and an abducted child is limited in education options that would otherwise be available.

Article 27. states: “(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”

Internationally abducted children are deprived of approximately half of their respective cultural life of the community and arts.

Article 28. states: “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”

Internationally abducted children are deprived in this sense.

Article 29. state: “(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.”

Internationally abducted children are restricted in this sense.

It also states: “(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.”

The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause has a substantive component that “provides heightened protection against government interference with certain fundamental rights and liberty interests,” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 720, including parents‘ fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children, see, e.g., Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U. S. 645, 651.

It also states: “(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”

Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Taiwan and other abduction countries do not uphold their treaty obligations of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Article 30. states: “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.” “It is the duty of courts to be watchful for the constitutional rights of the citizen, and against any stealthy encroachments thereon”. Boyd v. U.S., 116 U.S. 616, 635, (1885).

This speaks for itself with respect to internationally abducted American children.

“It has been repeatedly decided that these amendments should receive a liberal construction, so as to prevent stealthy encroachment upon or ‘gradual depreciation’ of the right secured by them, by imperceptible practice of courts or by well-intentioned, but mistakenly over zealous, executive officers.” Gouled v. United States, 255 U. S. 298, 304, 41 S.Ct. 261, 263 (1921).

Section 502(b) of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act states: [The Secretary of State shall transmit to the Congress, as part of the presentation materials for security assistance programs pro-posed for each fiscal year, a full and complete report, prepared with the assistance of the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and with the assistance of the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, with respect to practices regarding the observance of and respect for inter-nationally recognized human rights in each country proposed as a recipient of security assistance.] In accordance with this legislation passed by Congress and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10, 1948 and the statements above; I am respectfully requesting that a full and complete, accurate and comprehensive, international parental child abduction language be included in the next annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices scheduled for release in February 2008 without further delay. This should be done for Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Taiwan and all applicable country reports with internationally abducted children.

Continuing to omit this information in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for all applicable country’s for diplomatic, economic or any other reasons are in violation of U.S. law, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this is completely and totally unacceptable. The inherent conflict of interest that exist between the Department of State OCI, CEOS, DRL, EAP and diplomatic interest intrinsic within the operation of the Department of State are apparently obvious to every left-behind parent. This conflict of diplomacy and lack of assistance to U.S. citizen children subject to human rights violation by way of parental abduction is no longer acceptable excuses for omission of this information. This policy is considered “Dangerous Diplomacy” as described by Joel Mowbray’s in his book on how the State Department Threatens America’s Security. I can’t imagine Congress would approve or take lightly their reports being “washed” in the name of diplomacy with respect to practices regarding the observance of and respect for internationally recognized human rights in each country proposed as a recipient of security assistance.

The United States shall stand as role model to promote the increased observance of internationally recognized human rights by all countries. These fundamental rights, reflected in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, constitute what President Bush calls the “non-negotiable demands of human dignity.”

Sincerely,

Brett Weed

(Father of Takoda and Tiana abducted, held in Japan)

(V.P. Children’s Rights Council, Oregon Chapter)

C.C. Mr. Walter Benda

Mr. Paul Toland

Mr. Patrick Braden

Mr. Stephen Eisenbraun

Mr. Michael Orona

Ms. Victoria Middleton

Mr. Marshall Derks

Ms. Ann McGahuey

ENDS

My final thoughts on Savoie Case in next Tues Oct 6 JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times column (plus more media: WSJ, NYT, CNN)

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. I said I would write my Apologia for the Savoie Child Abduction Case today. Well, I did. But not for public consumption yet, sorry. The Japan Times commissioned me to do it for my next JUST BE CAUSE column (out Tuesday Oct 6), so please wait a couple of days.

Thanks for reading Debito.org! I’ll do another blog post on something else in a few minutes. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(Read on to Comments Section for more media from WSJ* NYT and CNN)

Surprised if true, from CNN Oct 4, see below:

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

WSJ, full article below or at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125469778121862591.html:

U.S. officials say one parent too often absconds with a child or children to Japan, leaving the other parent no legal route to regain custody or visitation rights. U.S. authorities count 82 current cases, involving about 123 children, in which American parents have been denied access to children taken to Japan by the other parent.

More media on the Savoie Case (CNN, CBS, Stars&Stripes, AP, BBC, Japan Times, local TV). What a mess.

mytest

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UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  As more information comes to light about the Savoie Case, I will admit for the record, in all intellectual honesty, that there are a number of circumstances that, as commenters point out, detract from supporting husband Christopher as a “poster child” for the push to get Japan to sign the Hague Convention.  But unfortunately divorces are messy things.  I’ll probably write an apologia (not an apology, look up the word) tomorrow on the case.  However, I’ve got to write a different article for the Japan Times tonight on Tokyo’s Olympic Bid (depending on which way it goes), so I’ll be diverting my attention from this issue shortly.

Meanwhile, here is more media, courtesy of the Children’s Rights Network Japan (www.crnjapan.net) and lots and lots of friends.  Thank you all very much.  Feel free to add more in the Comments section.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

==========================
MEDIA BEGINS:
CNN’s Kyung Lah reports on her fifteen-minute interview with Christopher in jail (or, rather, the police incarceration center during investigation, of course).
http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2009/10/01/lah.japan.jailed.father.speaks.cnn?iref=videosearch

Other video links on CNN, all visible from

http://search.cnn.com/search?query=savoie&type=video&sortBy=date&intl=true

  1. Kidnapping your own kids? 11:45 CNN.com’s Blogger Bunch discusses the dad who was arrested in Japan for kidnapping his own kids.
  2. Savoie Custody Battle 2:09  An American dad is jailed in Japan for trying to reclaim his children. CNN’s Kyung Lah reports. 2:09
  3. Dad Jailed in Japan.  5:37  Amy Savoie, whose husband is jailed in Japan over a custody dispute, speaks to CNN’s Kiran Chetry.
  4. Dad wants custody, gets jail 1:48 American Christopher Savoie is in jail in Japan because he tried to get his children back. CNN’s Kyung Lah reports.

============================
CBS News weighs in, citing CNN:
October 1, 2009 11:33 AM
Christopher Savoie, Dad Jailed in Japan for Child Rescue, Speaks from Prison

http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/09/30/crimesider/entry5353939.shtml

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

It looks as though Christopher was ready to take a stand on this issue a priori, with a previous interview before he went to Japan and got arrested:

Nashville Tenn TV station NC5 Investigates:

Abducted to Japan, Oct 1, 2009

(excerpt) “If [Japan joins] the Hague Treaty, then it would also be good for Japanese people in this situation because we could come up with an amicable — or even unamicable — arrangement where legally both parents could be guaranteed some time with their kids,” Savoie said.

On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department renewed its calls for Japan to sign the agreement after Savoie found himself locked up in a Japanese jail, accused of snatching his own children and making a run to the nearest U.S. Consulate.

“On this particular issue, the issue of abduction, we have different points of view,” said Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley.

It’s a plight shared by non-Japanese fathers around the globe.

“There are a lot of Japanese fathers who need the same treatment,” Savoie said, adding that it highlights how — in Japan — men in general are cut out of the parenting process in the case of divorce.

“I happen to have been brought up in this country and I can speak English and I can live here, but that’s not an option for all the other Japanese Dads — and they are in the same shoes as me,” he added. “They have no rights in their own country.”

Ironically, Savoie also holds Japanese citizenship — so he spoke as fellow countryman when he asked Japan to join the world in protecting families and signing the Hague Convention.

Plus video interview at http://www.newschannel5.com/Global/story.asp?S=11236448

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

Hostile article to Christopher reports a friend saying that Noriko felt abused by courts (even though the court transcript indicates to me that the judge acted civilly towards her, and gave her the benefit of the doubt when dissolving the restraining order against her) and financially dependent on Christopher, even though it also reports that she received more than three-quarters of a million dollars from him for the divorce:

AP:  Friend: Japanese woman who took kids felt trapped
By TRAVIS LOLLER and ERIK SCHELZIG, Associated Press Writers
October 1, 2009

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091001/ap_on_re_us/as_japan_us_custody_battle
excerpt:
FRANKLIN, Tenn. – A friend says Noriko Savoie felt trapped — she was a Japanese citizen new to the U.S. whose American husband had just served her divorce papers (snip)

Noriko Savoie did not have court permission to bring the children to the country where they had spent most of their lives, and Christopher Savoie says he didn’t do anything wrong when he tried to get them back.

Court records and conversations with a friend, Miiko Crafton, make it clear that Noriko Savoie was hurt and angry from the divorce and chafing at the cultural differences.

She had no income when she moved to the U.S. in June 2008, divorce court filings show, and appears to have been totally dependent on Christopher Savoie, who was still legally her husband but was involved with another woman.

Crafton, a native of Japan who befriended Noriko Savoie during her short time in Tennessee, said her friend tried to get a divorce while the couple still lived in Japan, but her husband had refused and later persuaded her to move to the U.S. with the children.

“Everything was provided so she could begin a new lifestyle, but right after that he gave her divorce papers,” Crafton said. “So basically she was trapped.”

Although financially stable — she was awarded close to $800,000 in cash as well as other support in the divorce — Noriko Savoie was not free to return to Japan. She was given primary custody of the children, but her ex-husband was also awarded time with them.

She felt mistreated by the courts and emotionally abused by her ex-husband, Crafton said…

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

However: From the U.S State Department note on International Child Abduction-Japan:

… U.S. consular officers are prohibited by law from providing legal advice, taking custody of a child, forcing a child to be returned to the United States, providing assistance or refuge to parents attempting to violate local law…

Full document at:
http://travel.state.gov/family/abduction/country/country_501.html

Others:

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper have each separately done programs on the arrest and the Japan abduction issue. Their videos have apparently not been posted yet (links welcome).

Japan Times article Oct 1, 2009: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20091001a2.html

Stars & Stripes, the US military’s daily newspaper:
http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=65109
notable excerpt:

“[Savoie] took the step that none of us have taken, but one that we’ve all thought about,” Navy Cmdr. Paul Toland said Tuesday from his home in Bethesda, Md.

Toland’s wife absconded with his daughter, Erika, from their home in Yokohama, Japan, in 2003 while he was stationed at Yokosuka Naval Base. She was not charged with child abduction and was able to prevent Toland from even visiting his daughter.

The U.S. and the international community for years have lobbied the Japanese government to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of 1980. The treaty, which includes 81 countries as signatories, prevents parents from fleeing with their children to or within those countries to circumvent standing custody orders or before a court can determine custody.

“The problem has gotten so big that Japan is becoming known as a destination country for international parental kidnapping, even when no one in the family is of Japanese descent,” Smith wrote in a Sept. 24 letter to Hatoyama obtained by Stars and Stripes.

The Savoie case demonstrates not only the desperate measures parents can resort to, but also the hypocrisy of Japanese law, contend Toland and Paul Wong, an American attorney based in Tokyo who continues to fight for access to his daughter, Kaya.

“Japanese law says that parental [child] abduction is not a crime,” said Toland, whose daughter was taken by his in-laws after his Japanese wife died in 2005. “So it’s asinine that he’s being charged because he’s the biological father and his rights have not been terminated by a Japanese court.” (snip)

A spokesman for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday said it is aware of the Savoie case and had not been asked by the U.S. to release Savoie.

Embassy officials in Tokyo and Fukuoka would not comment on whether those discussions would take place.

As of August, the State Department had identified 118 Japanese-American children who are living in Japan and cut off from their American parents.

UK’s BBC about Shane Clarke’s abduction case,
which coincides with Christopher’s arrest arrest:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/8283948.stm

All for now. Updates in real time at
http://www.crnjapan.net/The_Japan_Childrens_Rights_Network/Welcome.html

And lots more stories on the Children’s Rights Network Japan website to show you why Savoie’s case is hardly unusual, although the actions leading to his arrest might be deemed to be:

http://www.crnjapan.net/The_Japan_Childrens_Rights_Network/res-perstor.html

ENDS