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
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.
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
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.
Kyodo News about Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell to raise the issue of child abductions with his counterparts today.
2010/01/30 09:11 【共同通信】
Press release from the US embassy about an earlier meeting with MOFA renewing request to sign the Hague and resolve existing cases.
U.S. Renews Call for Japan to Accede to Hague Convention Concerning International Child Abduction
January 22, 2010
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.
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:
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
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.