Kyodo: ‘Institutional racism’ lets Japan spouses abduct kids


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Hi Blog.  Here’s an article further keeping the hoop rolling on Japan’s child abduction issue after divorce.  Not a great one, though.  In its need to be cautious (actually, probably to save the reporter the need of doing complete research, even though there a few articles already out in English, including a much better one by The Guardian on this very same case; the sources below are mostly “Clarke said”), it says below, “The foreign father is rarely able to persuade the judge to grant joint custody or have the child returned to the home country.”  Wrong.  Joint custody does not exist in Japan.  And according to reports, no child has EVER been returned to a foreign country by a J court ruling.  Anyway, more coverage, more pressure.  That’s good enough.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Japan Times, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008

‘Institutional racism’ lets Japan spouses abduct kids

Kyodo News

LONDON — Japanese courts should give more support to foreigners seeking access to their children now living in Japan, according to a British father seeking the return of his two daughters to England.

News photo
Shane Clarke

Shane Clarke said Japanese courts need to do more for the hundreds of foreign parents whose estranged Japanese spouses have taken children away from their home countries to Japan.

Once back in Japan, family courts will generally award custody to the Japanese parent even when the spouse (normally the mother) has deliberately taken children away from their home country.

The foreign father is rarely able to persuade the judge to grant joint custody or have the child returned to the home country. The courts will generally side with the Japanese mother who already has custody in an effort to avoid any further disruption of the child’s life.

This is the current situation Shane Clarke finds himself in, and he would like the British government to press Japan to get its courts to acknowledge the access rights of foreign fathers.

Britain is calling on Japan to improve the rights of foreign fathers, and the Japanese government said it is looking at legal moves to improve the situation. But Tokyo disputes claims that the courts are instinctively biased toward Japanese mothers.

Clarke’s problems began in January when his wife took his daughters, aged 1 and 3, to Japan on a long holiday to visit her family in Ibaraki Prefecture. She claimed her mother was terminally ill.

As far as Clarke was aware there were no major problems in the four-year marriage — although his wife did not like him seeing his other child by a previous marriage. But when he went out to see his wife in May, he realized something was wrong.

She acted strangely and in the end told him she and the children would not be returning to Britain.

In hindsight, he realizes it was a “very well planned child abduction.” His wife had taken all the necessary papers and, like many others before her, had decided to go back home because she could expect the courts to side with her.

He claims his wife has refused mediation and access to his children. She has now started divorce proceedings.

Clarke, 38, who lives in central England, has since been given an order from the British courts that declares that the children are “habitually resident” in Britain, and he claims his wife would be prosecuted under English law if she returned.

However, the family judge in Ibaraki Prefecture has told Clarke informally that if his case went to court, he would not order that the children return home or give Clarke access.

The judge explained that it was “complicated” and he did not have the powers to enforce an order coming from a British court, Clarke said.

Critics claim this habitual refusal from family courts stems from the fact that Japan has not yet ratified the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

In effect, the convention requires signatory states to order the return of children to their home countries and to provide police and legal assistance. Many major developed countries have signed on.

Clarke argues that aspects of Japanese law should already support foreigners in his circumstances. Even if Japan did sign the convention, he wonders whether its courts would actually abide by their obligations, given what he feels is the “institutional racism” in the judicial system.

Parental abduction is not recognized as a crime in Japan and there have been no extraditions of Japanese to countries where the child originally lived.

According to Clarke, there are as many as 10,000 foreign fathers currently in his position, including at least 23 from Britain.

“The message to Japanese nationals is that they can commit crimes on foreign soil and if they get home in time they won’t face extradition,” he said.

He said he has had little help from the British Embassy or government in his fight.

“I would never have let her leave Britain if I knew what was going to happen,” he said. “I need the kids returned to Britain. I have not spoken to the children since June. I miss them so much, it’s killing me.”

Clarke wants to highlight the situation, which he brands “Japan’s dirty little secret,” to get some changes in the family courts.

A spokesman for the Japanese Embassy in London said: “Japan acknowledges that the treaty is one tool in dealing with this situation. We are currently exploring the possibilities of signing it.”




More cases at the Children’s Rights Network Japan.

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

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

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

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


9 comments on “Kyodo: ‘Institutional racism’ lets Japan spouses abduct kids

  • and Japanese won “temporary” UN seat. The reason according to BBC News was: Japan contribute a lot. Right…all is about money and this is called United Nations where decisions (human rights included) are made.

    Jim, GoJ will never cope with foreigners and their countries. Important is when Japanese is in trouble abroad than you have news everyday whole day. They(LDP iyajis) even once said that they won`t sign any Hague Convention, it won`t happen very soon maybe not at all.
    Besides, this country shout out loud when it comes to abduction of J “homogeneous” race to North Korea. I don`t care, and have enough. Let them stay there, and Japan should first return abducted foreign nationals too. This is heaven for child porn, abducties, criminals but only japanese.

  • “The message to Japanese nationals is that they can commit crimes on foreign soil and if they get home in time they won’t face extradition…”

    That’s just not true at all. (What a sensationalist comment to make)

    The message is that Japan will do anything to protect its bloodline, even create distress through denial of international court jurisdictions. Comparing this to a violent crime, though, is ridiculous. This is a domestic dispute in which the father has been shorthanded, and that’s something that happens at even national levels in almost every country. Of course the British courts will side with the Briton, just as the Japanese courts have sided with the Japanese person. Just because the British court hands out a verdict, does that override the Japanese court verdict? What a one-sided message this is leaving us with.

    Food for thought:

  • While this kind of practice doesn’t really benefit anyone, there are many Japanese people in Japan who are in this same situation. Japan simply doesn’t recognize the benefits of joint custody regardless of race. Many times it is not even an option during the divorce proceedings because visitation or joint custody is viewed as harming the child.

    I personally know a Japanese coworker who has not seen his child since he was divorced and will likely never see him again.

    So while full abduction may be a separate issue and not having visitation is hard on parents Japan simply sees single custody as benefiting the child over joint custody. As such they likely don’t even view it as abduction since one parent would likely just get full custody anyway. It has little to do with race. Race might not help your chances of being one of the overwhelming minority who get visitation but it’s hard to say since almost no one gets visitation anyway, regardless of race. So I just have a hard time agreeing with this as an issue of “Institutional Racism”.

  • I have huge sympathy for families affected by these situations. However, I certainly don’t think Japanese courts should be recognising any foreign court. The UK ratified a treaty with the US and now any UK citizen can be extradited to the US at the drop of a hat, there is no need to even show a prima facie evidence. One of the great things about Japan is that it protects its citizens from foreign powers.

    I do think that Japanese courts are VERY backwards in regard to what is best for children in separations, courts (via a change in the law if necessary) need to recognise the rights of both parents (and children) to have EQUAL access for both parents to their children. They should certainly not discriminate on grounds of race or nationality.

    Perhaps there should be some kind of international or at least bi-national body/s set up to decide on international cases. At the very least, Japanese courts could rule in discussion with foreign courts.

  • Kakui Kujira says:

    Alex posted this on October 19th, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    “Comparing this to a violent crime, though, is ridiculous. This is a domestic dispute in which the father has been shorthanded, and that’s something that happens at even national levels in almost every country.”

    Well, yes it’s not murder and (not necessarily) violent. Nonetheless, it is still reprehensible and has far reaching emotional consequences. Moreover, it is not only the father who is shortchanged, the kids are as well, not to mention grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts etc. I would also like to ask what your point is when you say that this happens in other countries? So does murder/violent crimes.

  • “– And the silly point that courts side with their own nationals as a matter of course was certainly not true in the Elian Gonzalez case.”

    With your snarky tone aside, the Elian Gonzalez case was political maneuvering leading up to the 2000 presidential election. The difference between the Elian Gonzalez case and the news presented here is that Elian Gonzalez was making national headlines – This was an issue regarding much more than custody battles.

    “Trying to justify the Japanese practice…”

    I never did any such thing. Don’t confuse analysis with support. I was pointing out that the issue being presented here is decidedly one-sided and sensationalist. Custody cases involving international boundaries and court jurisdictions are not the same as extradition demands for violent murder suspects.

    There needs to be a solution to this, there’s no doubt about that. How about the U.S. and U.K. governments pressuring Japan into joining the treaty? I’m sorry to say, but anything short of that will have very little impact on Japan’s decision.

  • This nonsense has been going on for years and years and there has been no progress. It`s an absolute shame. It`s kidnapping and the parent who did so should be disciplined no matter what court. Where`s the UN on this one? How about sanctions/embargos etc.? The other parent in these families is suffering a great deal of emotional strain that isn`t needed. I thought Japanese people were known for their great kindness and peace. Their leaders certainly need to sort themselves out. Most Japanese people have no idea about the Japanese abduction problem. Why not?


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