IHT/Asahi on Japan’s reticence to sign Hague Treaty on Child Abduction


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Hi Blog. Follow-up to the biased coverage by NHK two days ago on this issue of international divorces, we have the Japanese media once again quoting crank lawyer Ohnuki, depicting Japanese divorcees as refugees of violent NJ spouses. “Abductions”, of course, gets rendered in tentative “quotes”, and also you see how Japanese spouses have their cake and eat it too, with an example of the British legal system returning a child to the J side. Japan hasn’t signed the Hague Convention on Child Abductions yet, and why should it increase expectations of international cooperation by doing so?

I’ll say it:

The GOJ doesn’t want to cooperate with these international treaties because we have enough trouble getting Japanese to have babies. We don’t want to surrender them to NJ overseas. I have heard that theory off the record from an international lawyer quoting somebody in the ministries.

And I bet that even if Japan signs the Hague, it won’t enforce it (similar in the ways it will not enforce the CCPR or the CERD treaties). Why would the GOJ ever give more power over custody to NJ than it would its own citizens, who can already abduct and shut out one parent after divorce thanks in part to the koseki system? Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Tokyo in bind over treaty on child abduction

Courtesy of Paul Wong

Broken international marriages involving Japanese in which one parent takes offspring overseas without the other’s consent are on the rise, putting the government in a bind about how to deal with such cases.

The question is whether Japan should be a party to an international treaty aimed at settling such parental “abduction” disputes across national borders.

Tokyo is under pressure–from within and from outside–to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of 1980, which now has 81 parties.

The rise in cases involving Japanese parents as “abductors” has led to stepped-up calls from countries in North America and Europe for Tokyo’s accession.

Some divorced parents say their children would not have been taken overseas by their ex-spouses had Japan ratified the treaty; or it would have been much easier to have them returned.

Opponents, however, say Japan’s ratification would make it difficult for victims of domestic violence to flee with children.

There are also cultural and systematic factors to consider, given that under Japanese law only one parent is granted custody of offspring after a divorce.

The convention, which went into force in 1983, requires a child to be promptly returned to the country of their habitual residence.

It also requests contracting parties to take “all appropriate measures” to expedite the return of a child.

Senior officials and diplomats of the United States, Britain, France and Canada held a news conference in Tokyo in May to press Japan to join the treaty.

They said if children of broken marriages are taken to Japan, a non-party nation, there is “little realistic hope” of having them returned.

According to embassies here, there have been 73 child abductions by Japanese parents from the United States, 36 from Britain and 33 each from Canada and France. [NB: Time period not indicated.]

Kurt Campbell, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs who is visiting Japan from today, told a Senate committee in June that he would raise this issue in his first meeting with Japanese officials.

As it stands, the Foreign Ministry can only serve as “liaison” when it receives an inquiry from other countries.

The government has said it “is seriously considering” accession as it would help Japanese parents retrieve children from their ex-spouses.

A 40-year-old self-employed Japanese woman who faced difficulty regaining custody of her children said Japan should join. In 2007, her British husband went on a “trip” to Britain with the children, aged 5 and 9, and then told her they would never return. Communications were severed.

It took a month and a British lawyer’s services before she located the children at a school near London.

She finally got them back after a divorce mediation in Britain. She said lawyer fees alone cost 7 million yen to 8 million yen.

“Had Japan been a party to the treaty, their whereabouts would have been known right away,” she said. “It should have been much easier, too, to get them back.”

Another self-employed woman, 51, was cautious, however. She had long been a victim of domestic violence by her American husband.

The family moved from the United States to Chiba Prefecture in 1992, and she fled with two children to Tokyo in 1995.

She is now on an international wanted list on suspicion of abduction because the husband, saying the mother and children’s legal abode is in the United States, brought the matter before U.S. authorities.

The woman, who says “all I could do was flee,” thinks the treaty would make such escape difficult.

Lawyer Kensuke Ohnuki, who handles about 200 divorces among international matches a year, says most child “abductions” by Japanese women are a result of spousal violence.

The treaty does not take a parent’s reason for fleeing into consideration, he said.(IHT/Asahi: July 16,2009)

8 comments on “IHT/Asahi on Japan’s reticence to sign Hague Treaty on Child Abduction

  • Can someone provide statistics if spousal violence is really the biggest reason for abductions.. like this 90% that the lawyer loves quoting, all done from the NJ side of course

    Signing the Hague Convention won’t just help NJ parents it will also help J parents to get their children back as well

  • Awful reporting, a serious issue this, Japanese abducting involving children, yet the story sinks into total ‘blame the gaijin’ mode…

  • I’m sorry, but crazy though the GOJ can be on occasions, I seriously doubt they have not signed this treaty because they “want to keep the babies” due to low fertility.

    I think the main reason is that they fear the image of “foreigners” gaining access or even custody of Japanese citizens children and then blaming that occurrence on the GOJ. Imagine a distraught Japanese mother who previously kidnapped her child and illegally brought them to Japan being forced to return their child and then turning on the GOJ and accusing them of not protecting her and her child – PR disaster. Sure I’m not defending the GOJ on this because it works the other way too, but I guess that’s what they are thinking. If they do implement this treaty they need to think it through carefully and make sure there are no reverse kidnaps and also that Japanese parents who have previously relied on Japanese law to “kidnap” their children are allowed to start with a clean slate and joint custody agreements can be put in place – in most cases children need and deserve access to both parents and vice versa.

  • Peter,

    Unlike Japanese courts, most foreign courts will grant custody to a Japanese National already because dozens of countries signed the Treaty ages ago. None of this police and government protection and stalling nonsense for the individuals who have abducted. Foreign courts aren`t quite as racist. If Japan wants to be a major player in the International Community they`ll have to alter some of their archaic laws to fit in. Such is life! And to think that this has been going on for decades and the politicians are just now getting around to possibly making a little progress. Very sad.

  • “Opponents, however, say Japan’s ratification would make it difficult for victims of domestic violence to flee with children”

    The issue is not about protecting victims of domestic violence, there are laws in place for that. The issue at hand is one parent abducting, or some would say, saving their children from the other person. This is illegal, kidnapping a child is illegal! These people are considered criminals in the country where they kidnapped the children from, but as soon as they get to japan they are what, heroes? Japanese courts don’t even recognize foreign court decisions, just look at the Murray Wood case. He was awarded custody but a Japanese court went against that decision.

    However, its not only happening in japan. check this out, its equally as disgusting


  • note: Brazil also signed the Hague Convention.. so it really boggles the mind.

    Is this happening, in Japan, Brazil, etc.. because the people being kidnapped are nationals of that country? The respective governments don’t see it as kidnapping?

  • The writer of the article should have chosen cases that show the situation in a more fair light.
    In the first case, the reason Japan should sign the Hague Treaty seems to be for their citizens to save on lawyer fees. Had the case been held in Japan, the NJ parent would never have won. The author should have put in statistics on how many times Japanese courts have returned adducted children, which is zero.

    In the second case, fleeing with the children the author condones the kidnapping because the J parent was fleeing domestic violence. But if custody was awarded to the NJ parent, then surely the court considered them the better parent. And if joint custody was awarded, then it considered both parents to be good guardians.

    This article is so biased. No self-respecting editor should have ever let it get published in any paper.

  • The last posting by Behan alludes to the main point. The article writers should have checked their facts for the other side of the stories (as there always is one). Ask yourself the reason why the British father took the children to the UK in the first place? It is because when he realised his marriage was doomed he knew his wife would be granted sole custody “Shinken” here (no such thing as joint custody in Japan)and visitation rights would be entirely at her whim. The divorce mediation didn’t happen in the UK. That was what the father wanted as his children’s rights to access both parents after divorce would be recognised. He wanted his wife to divorce him under UK law. Instead the court in the UK summarily returned the children (with father)to Japan as UK is a Hague member and treats every other country as if they were also. The parents were told that the divorce would have to be mediated in Japan and the children returned there as it was their habitual residence.
    So the issue is about children’s rights to access both parents after divorce and recognising dual custody not about abductions. Domestic violence cases are purely that and not a reason for abduction. The fact that Japanese family law if flawed and archaic just makes matters worse.
    Believe me I know about this case. How does one get MIYUKI INOUE AND SATOSHI UKAI to write a balanced follow up article? Who prompted the original article anyway?


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