CBS News’s EARLY SHOW on the Savoie Child Abduction Case, reenacting the US Consulate Fukuoka’s refusal to open the gates, guests Amy Savoie and Patrick Braden.
US Rep Chris Smith: “International child abduction violates the rights of the left behind parent and the rights of the child to know both parents,” said Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), a senior Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a Congressional Representative to the United Nations. “Sadly, international child abductions are on the increase. In the last three years, reported international child abductions have increased 60 percent.”
“My legislation, HR 3240 empowers the United States to more aggressively pursue the resolution of abduction cases,” Smith said. “Our current system is not providing justice for left behind parents or for children whisked away from their mom or dad. Congress must act so that more children are not further traumatized by parental abduction.”
Key provisions of the Smith legislation include:
Requires the President to respond with a range of mutually reinforcing penalties, including sanctions against a country, when that country has shown a pattern of non-cooperation in resolving child abduction cases
Creates the position of Ambassador at Large for International Child Abduction within the State Department to advise the Secretary of State and raise the profile of the more than 2,800 children who have been abducted.
Empowers the Ambassador at Large to pursue additional legal frameworks abroad, including bilateral agreements with countries that have not yet acceded to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Authorizes greater resources for a new office within the State Department to better assist left behind parents and expand the State Department’s ability to collect detailed information on abductions.
“Child abduction is child abuse,” Smith said. “The kidnapped child is at risk for serious emotional and psychological problems. As adults, they may struggle with identity issues, their own personal relationships and parenting.
Yomiuri describes the political business as usual regarding another facet of human rights in Japan:
A legislator-sponsored bill calling for a revision of the Civil Code in response to CEDAW recommendations has been repeatedly presented to the Diet. But the bill that would delete provisions that discriminate against women has been scrapped every time without in-depth deliberation.
Japan’s failure to ratify the Optional Protocol on the convention on the elimination of discrimination against women also is being questioned by the international community.
The protocol stipulates that a mechanism should be put in place that would allow individual women who have exhausted legal and other avenues available within Japan to report directly to CEDAW to ask them to inquire into alleged human rights violations against them.
As Japan has been repeatedly urged to ratify the protocol, government ministries and agencies concerned have been studying the wisdom of doing so.
However, with many politicians expressing wariness about signing a protocol they say might come into conflict with the principle of independence of the nation’s judiciary, no earnest discussions have yet to take place in the political arena.
Asahi: 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.
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.]
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.
COMMENT: Leaving aside yet another media opportunity for this crank lawyer to make yet another bigoted statement, I’ll come out and say it plainly:
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?
What follows are several articles on Japan not signing the Hague Convention on Child Abductions, and how after divorce in Japan one parent gets denied all access to their child (especially in international marriages, where children get abducted to another country). This has been getting international press and diplomatic attention. Finally NHK did a report on it this morning, and it was a crock — trying too hard to present the Japanese as being kawaisoued (even presented a Japanese mother as being forced to live in Japan against her will, hostage to American courts, while one who abducted to Japan managed to escape the NJ “cultural” tendency towards violence. Very, very disappointing NHK, if not damaging of the case being made internationally by left-behind parents. I get the feeling the wagons are circling to galvanize public opinion against Hague. And I speak too as a left-behind parent who hasn’t really seen his kids for more than five years now.
This marks the 1000th post on the Debito.org blog since it started a little over two years ago, in June 2006. Long may we run. To celebrate, some good news about the developing documentary called FROM THE SHADOWS, on child abductions after divorce in Japan, and the growing attention being devoted to it (including NHK). Word from David Hearn, one of the directors (along with Matt Antell) follows about a recent OYAKO-NET meeting…
Addendum to yesterday’s entry, complete with little needles in the article trying to poke holes in the NJ case:
“Kensuke Onuki, a lawyer familiar with the issue, is opposed to Japan signing the convention, based on the viewpoint of Japan protecting its own citizens.
“In over 90 percent of cases in which the Japanese women return to Japan, the man is at fault, such as with domestic violence and child abuse,” Onuki says. He says that when the Japanese women come back to Japan, they don’t bring with them evidence of domestic violence or other problems, making their claims hard to prove, and the voice of the man saying, “Give me back my child,” tends to be heard louder.”
I wonder where he got the figure of 90% from? From his practice of representing NJ clients (one of my friends hired him, and says he’ll fire him after this comment).
Mainichi: Japanese women from collapsed international marriages are increasingly bringing their children to Japan without confirming custody rights, creating diplomatic problems between Japan and other countries, it has emerged.
In one case three years ago, a Japanese woman’s marriage to a Swedish man collapsed and she brought their child to Japan. Later when she traveled to the United States by herself she was detained, as police in Sweden had put her on an international wanted list through Interpol for child abduction. She was sent to Sweden and put on trial.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction bans people from taking their children to their home country after a collapsed marriage without confirming issues such as custody and visitation rights of the country in which they are living. The convention has about 80 signatory countries, mainly in Europe and North America, but Japan is not one of them.
Among cases known to foreign governments, there are about 50 cases between Japan and the U.S. in which foreign husbands are requesting custody of children brought to Japan by Japanese women, and about 30 such cases between Japan and Canada. Similar cases exist between Japan and countries such as Britain, Australia and Italy.
In such cases, when foreign husbands file lawsuits in Japan seeking custody or visitation rights, their claims are rarely accepted, and the tough barriers put up by Japan in such cases have caused frustration…
Guardian: Clarke, a 38-year-old management consultant from West Bromwich, has gone to great lengths to win custody. The Crown Prosecution Service said his wife could be prosecuted in the UK under the 1984 child abduction act.
However, he can expect little sympathy from Japanese courts, which do not recognise parental child abduction as a crime and habitually rule in favour of the custodial – Japanese – parent.
Japan is the only G7 nation not to have signed the 1980 Hague convention on civil aspects of child abduction, which requires parents accused of abducting their children to return them to their country of habitual residence. He is one of an estimated 10,000 parents, divorced or separated from their Japanese spouses, who have been denied access to their children. Since the Hague treaty came into effect, not a single ruling in Japan has gone in favour of the foreign parent.
Campaigners say Japan’s refusal to join the treaty’s 80 other signatories has turned it into a haven for child abductors.
The European Union, Canada and the US have urged Japan to sign, but Takao Tanase, a law professor at Chuo University, says international pressure is unlikely to have much impact. “In Japan, if the child is secure in its new environment and doesn’t want more disruption, family courts don’t believe that it is in the child’s best interest to force it to see the non-custodial parent,” he said.
Japanese courts prefer to leave it to divorced couples to negotiate custody arrangements, Takase said. Officials say the government is looking at signing the Hague treaty, though not soon.
Imagine the trauma of the mother being permanently denied visitation with her own children in this family court decision handed down by the Tokyo High Court. Being told to pray, watch and love “from the shadows.”…
In January 2006, David Hearn, Matthew Antell and Sean Nichols began research on a documentary film that would dramatically affect their lives over the next few years.
They had heard about high-profile cases of parental child abduction, such as the two children of Murray Wood being abducted from their home in Canada by their Japanese mother, but these filmmakers had not yet realized all the muck they would have to work through in order to gain a clearer understanding of what has increasingly become Japan’s own scarlet letter…
Colin Jones in the Japan Times: “I feel like a bit of a wet blanket writing this. Make no mistake, it will be great if Japan actually does join the Hague Convention on Child Abductions. Whatever help Japanese authorities need in understanding and implementing the convention should be offered unstintingly. Anything which improves the situation of children abducted to Japan is to be applauded. And if joining the convention somehow leads to improvements for the many more Japanese children in strictly domestic cases who lose one parent through judicial action (or inaction), it would be almost revolutionary… It seems unlikely that Japan joining the convention alone would change this basic aspect of the country’s legal system, since it would involve the police (and prosecutors) in a vast new area of law enforcement family disputes when only a tiny fraction of such disputes would involve the Hague Convention. Perhaps some enforcement mechanism limited to convention cases will be developed, though it would be an odd (though not impossible) result if parents and children from abroad got a better deal in the Japanese legal system than those actually living in Japan. Furthermore, bureaucratic imperatives being at least as important as actual law in Japan, it is difficult to imagine how the police and prosecutors could ever find it in their interests to be arresting Japanese parents (more often than not mothers) in order to return Japanese children to foreigners.”
Terrie’s Take: “Two weeks ago, the Japanese government made a notable announcement that may make Japan more compatible with the legal conventions used internationally, and will be of particular benefit to non-Japanese spouses of Japanese. The announcement was that by 2010, Japan would sign the the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international legal construct that attempts to deal with the thorny issue of court jurisdiction when children of international marriages are moved cross-border, often by a parent trying to thwart a court ruling in the previous jurisdiction. Currently, Japan is known as a haven for disaffected Japanese spouses who, in getting divorced, abscond with their kids back to Japan. Once in Japan they can dare their foreign spouses to try getting the kids back — something that despite around 13,000 international divorces a year in Japan and more overseas, has NEVER happened…”
Canadian and the U.S. government officials and a law expert Friday
urged Japan to join an international legal framework to resolve
cross-border cases of child abduction by parents and others… The U.S. currently has 40 cases of international child abduction
involving Japan, the third-largest after Mexico and India, said
Kathleen Ruckman, deputy director of the U.S. State Department’s
Children’s Issues Office.
Here’s a magnificent article from ABC News (USA) about how Japan remains a haven for child abduction after a Japanese-NJ marriage breaks up. Long-overdue attention to one of Japan’s worst-kept secrets–how NJ have essentially no parental or custody rights in Japan, and how Japan refuses to take any measure to safeguard the access of both parents or the welfare of the child under the Hague Convention (which it refuses to sign). Article: “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.”
Quick reminder about the “For Taka and Mana” film documentary (see poster below) fundraiser coming up on December 11 at the Pink Cow, Shibuya (RSVPs please by December 4, i.e. tomorrow). An update for the fundraiser from directors Matt Antell and Dave Hearn follows…
Here is the poster for the documentary film FOR TAKA AND MANA, with news on December 11 fundraiser. Please consider attending. I will. Debito
Fundraiser for documentary film “For Taka and Mana”, on child abductions to Japan after divorce, taking place Tuesday evening December 11 in Tokyo. Link to film trailer included. Please consider attending and helping out in any way you can. I’ll be there.
Michael Hassett writes about divorce in Japan for The Japan Times, and tells me in advance that Debito.org in part inspired the article. Two more articles come out from Mark Smith and Colin Jones on the same subject the same day. Capital!
First, excellent video by Eric Kalmus on the irony of Japan’s child abductions (in the face of all the international rules against this, not to mention the political capital gained by the GOJ over the DPRK abductions of Japanese) after the breakdown of international marriages. Courtesy of YouTube. Then more importantly, the US State Department has included on its site a warning re Japan’s negligence regarding divorce, child custody, and abduction. We’re getting through, on an international level. Referential links included.
IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE COURT: WHAT AMERICAN LAWYERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION IN JAPAN
By Colin P.A. Jones, JD, Asian Pacific Law and Policy Journal University of Hawaii Volume 8, Issue 2, Spring 2007, linked from this blog entry. First sentence: “Japan is a haven for parental child abduction.”
From Mark Smith at the Children’s Rights Network Japan–Debito There is another “Protest Against Japanese Abductions” coming up in Portland Oregon this Saturday, Sunday and the following week. (Feb 3,4,10,11). This is the FOURTH event so far, and promises to be the biggest yet. There are over 20 left behind parents, friends, and family known …
‘[Murray] Wood’s is just one of the 31 active cases of child custody and family distress that the Canadian Embassy is currently dealing with in Japan, a sharp increase from the 21 active cases a year earlier…. No Japanese court has ever caused a child abducted to Japan by a Japanese parent to be returned to the child’s habitual residence outside Japan. Part of the problem is that Japan is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which works to ensure the prompt return of abducted children to their country of habitual residence. “Japan continues to be a haven for international child abduction”..’
Links to articles of interest from Mark Smith of the Children’s Rights Network of Japan, charting the media’s growing awareness of Japan’s safe haven for child abductions after international divorces.
Japan rightfully protests abductions of its citizens by rogue states (cf. Yokota Megumi). Then turns a blind eye when its citizens abscond with children to Japan after international divorce. People from the Children’s Rights Network Japan have their say on YouTube.
As was reported on Debito.org last October 28 regarding the issue of Japan as safe haven for international child abductions, the US courts looked like they actually might start enforcing their arrest warrants against Japanese child abductors. In this case, against a Japanese woman named Inoue Emiko who reportedly whisked the kid off to Japan despite a US court awarding the father, Moises Garcia, custody. Then Inoue used the time-honored tactic of abducting the kid anyway and getting a Japanese court to award her the kid instead regardless (with a gracious 30-day per year visitation allowed; thanks a heap). Then she presumptuously decided to have her cake and eat it too, coming back to Hawaii last April to renew her Green Card, whereupon the authorities honored the arrest warrant against her and sent her to stand trial in Wisconsin (leaving the kid in limbo with the grandparents in Japan).
Back in October I said that enough is enough, and that the American judiciary should throw the book at her. Well, guess what — they did, and it looks as though the mother will return the child to the custodial father. Bravo! Read on. Let that be a lesson to you, child abductors, and let that be an incentive for Japan to sign the Hague Convention.
Journal Sentinel: [Abducted child] Karina Garcia’s mother agreed in court Monday to have the girl home in Fox Point by Christmas. If she makes it, the 9-year-old would be the first of what advocates say are more than 300 children around the U.S. abducted to Japan in violation of American court orders to be returned through legal intervention. She also could become a poster child for how to solve a growing problem as international marriages increase in the global economy.
The girl’s father, Moises Garcia, was pleased but cautious in talking to reporters after the hearing, where his ex-wife, Emiko Inoue, pleaded no contest to the felony charge of interfering with child custody by other parent. She was found guilty, but a plea agreement could leave her with only a misdemeanor conviction if Karina returns and Inoue completes other conditions.
UPDATE DEC 25 2011: Convicted felon Inoue Emiko returns the child to the father and gets released from the clink. Bravo. And of course, the Japanese media still refuses to use her name in the domestic press. Or even call what she did a crime. Check out the wording below: “arrested on suspicion of taking her 9-year-old daughter to Japan in violation of the father’s parental rights, the father’s lawyer said”. Those pesky lawyers and their allegations; never mind the conviction and sentencing by a judge. She abducts the kid, tries to game the USG by coming back to renew her Green Card, and after all that still has visitation rights in America. All right for some, isn’t it? Try getting this fair a deal in Japan. But again, fairness is not a highly-prized cultural conceit for Team Japanners. Especially when you consider the bias in reporting. The Japanese article claims the daughter “wanted to live in Japan”, but once told of the situation, “went to America to save her mother” according to the very different headline. What a trooper! Especially after being put in this position by her irresponsible mother in the first place!
Here’s some good news for Left-Behind Parents. The Americans are (unusually, according to the Mainichi and Yomiuri below) enforcing their arrest warrants against Japanese child abductors. In this case, against a Japanese woman who reportedly absconded with the kid off to Japan and, despite a US court awarding the father custody, then used the time-honored tactic of abducting the kid anyway and getting a Japanese court to award her the kid instead regardless (with a gracious 30-day per year visitation allowed; thanks a heap). Then she carelessly decided to have her cake and eat it too, by coming back to the US to renew her Green Card, whereupon the authorities honored the arrest warrant against her, leaving the kid in limbo with the grandparents in Japan.
Not an unusual story (especially since the Japanese media once again refuses to use the word “abduction” in conjunction with any of this — just “taking without permission”; sounds much better), except that the Americans are now finally taking action regarding child abductions to Japan, honoring court decisions despite Japan’s vehemently guarding its safe-haven status for international child abduction.
Let’s see how the Japanese media further spins this; I doubt it’ll run against Team-Japanism. But already the editorial slant in the articles below is that signing the Hague Treaty will (somehow) prevent this, in defiance of all the Japanese safe-haveners that want to either not sign it, or caveat it with DV provisions into meaninglessness. Anyway, throw the book at her. This sort of thing has gone on long enough.
CRN: Now offering assistance to those with cases of Parental Abduction. Over 50 years combined experience.
PASS provides testimony in order to educate the courts, and put “safe-guards” into place to protect children from being wrongfully removed from the USA. Effective testimony can assist parents in their court cases by educating attorneys and judges about the risks of parental abduction and the dangers associated with it. PASS assists you in making sure that high risk cases are carefully examined by the courts. When needed PASS assists the courts in implementation of supervised visitation and port closure to protect at risk youth.
Testimony includes –
★ Training courts on the factors that indicate an individual is likely to commit an international child abduction
★ Assisting Judges in assessing the degrees of the risk of international child abduction
★ Presenting arguments regarding the sufficiency proposed custody order in preventing a potential international child abduction
★ Supplying Data on the likelihood that a foreign country will return an abducted child, and / or allow continued visitation
McPike: Based on research done by both Law Professors in Japan and by Left-Behind Parents, we know that these cases [of abducted children in Japan with American citizenship] number into the thousands.
In the english translation (Translation by Matthew J. McCauley of University of Washington’s Law School) of a paper written by Professor Tanase in 2009 (who has also been used as a consultant by DoS) he states, using statistics provided by various Japanese sources, that:
“ Over 251,000 married couples separated in 2008, and if this number is divided by the 726,000 marriages in the same year, roughly one out of every 2.9 marriages will end in divorce. Out of all divorcing couples, 144,000 have children, equaling about 245,000 children in all. Seeing as roughly 1.09 million children were born this year, about one out of every 4.5 children will experience divorce before reaching adulthood. Even with the increase in visitation awards, only about 2.6% of the 245,000 children affected by divorce [in Japan] will be allowed visitation. “
To simplify it: Out of 245,000 children who’s parent’s are divorced in Japan ONLYabout 6300 children will be allowed to maintain some level of contact with their “non-custodial parent” (We’ll get back to how custody is determined). The remaining 238,700 children have one parent ceremoniously cut completely and suddenly from their life – often being punished, either emotionally or physically, by the “custodial parent” if they ask to continue to see the removed parent.
In addition, based on statistics provided by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (and gathered by Left-Behind Parent: John Gomez):
From 1992 to 2009, there have been 7,449 divorces between an American and a Japanese in Japan.
Of those Americans, 6,208 were men, and 1,241 were women.
According to the statistics, there is, on average, one child per divorce in Japan
So when you take 7,449 divorces (each with an average of 1 child based on the above statistics) and use Professor Tanase’s 2.6% estimate (which should be expected to be higher than would actually apply to foreign parents), that leaves you with approximately 7,255 children of US citizens (just counting data up to 2009) that are being denied access to their US parent….
BAChome: On August 24, 2011, 14 year-old Mary Victoria Lake, a U.S. citizen, who was kidnapped by her mother and taken to Japan in 2005, in one of the most high-profile international kidnapping cases in the United States, walked into the U.S. consulate in Osaka, Japan. She asked to be rescued from her kidnapper, an act of enormous bravery by a teenager who has been cut off from her father and held captive overseas for the past six years. Indifferent and incompetent U.S. Consular officials refused to aid or rescue her and instead sent her back to her kidnapper…
This is third and latest episode of gross negligence by the Department of State toward Mr. Lake and his daughter. Twice previously, they illegally issued passports for his daughter without obtaining the father’s signature, even after it had been established that her father was the lawful parent and the mother was a wanted kidnapper.
Almost all of the existing cases involve at least one parent who is Japanese. This case however is a clear exception. Neither one of the victims nor the kidnapping mother are of Japanese ancestry. There is simply no reason for Mary to be held in Japan. However, no one from the White House or The State Department is publicly demanding the return of Mary Victoria Lake or any of the other 374, and more realistically, thousands of American children held captive there.
It has become starkly apparent to the parents victimized by the crime of parental child abduction that the Department of State clearly values the relations with foreign nations over the safety, well-being and lives of U.S. citizen children being held captive in Japan.
Colin Jones: Those focused on the government’s stumbling efforts to protect the children of Fukushima from radioactive contamination may find this hard to believe, but Japanese family law just got more child-friendly — maybe. If Japan finally signs the Hague Convention on child abduction, as it appears it will, it could become even more so. There is a big “maybe” here too, so it remains to be seen whether these two steps taken by the Diet will steer the country away from its status as a black hole for parental abduction or leave it treading the same sorry path.
On May 27 a law was passed amending a number of provisions in the Civil Code relating to children and their parents. First, Article 766 of the code was revised to require parents seeking a cooperative (i.e., nonlitigated) divorce to decide upon visitation, child support payments and other matters relevant to their children’s upbringing after divorce. Furthermore, the new provision says that the welfare of the children must be the primary consideration when these matters are decided….
Meanwhile, on the Hague Convention front, a legislative committee appears to be considering domestic legislation that will ensure no abducted child ever has to be returned after Japan signs it. A basic premise of the convention is that judicial determinations about children after their parents separate should be made in the country where the children have been living. Children who are unilaterally removed to another country should thus promptly be located and returned to their country of habitual residence…
Based on current proposals that I have seen, Japanese authorities may be allowed to refuse to return a child if (a) either the child or taking parent have been subject to abuse (including “violent words”), (b) the taking parent cannot return to the child’s home country because of fear of criminal prosecution upon return, (c) the taking parent is the primary caregiver but cannot raise the child in the home country for financial or other reasons, or (d) the helpfully vague “there are other circumstances” making return potentially harmful to the child.
Congratulations to Chris Savoie on his massive U.S. court victory against his ex-wife for, inter alia, false imprisonment of his children in Japan.
Debito.org has talked about the Savoie Case for quite some time now (do a search), but I devoted a Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column to it back in October 2009. I’m personally glad he’s staying the course, and seeking judicial recourse that is amounting to legally-binding agreement. This is setting an important precedent regarding the issue of international child abduction, and drawing attention to a long-neglected problem. Arudou Debito
PS: Note the lame (if not just plain inaccurate) headline by the Japan Times/Kyodo News on this, “Wife fined for taking children to Japan”; makes it sound like she got punished for being a tourist. Get on the ball. Call it what it is: Child abduction.
Here’s some news on a MOFA survey that was skewed (by dint, for one thing, of it being rendered in Japanese only, effectively shutting out many opinions of the NJ side of the marriage) linguistically to get results that were negative towards the signing of the Hague Convention on Child Abductions. Even then, MOFA got mixed results (as in, more people want the GOJ to sign the Hague than don’t, but it’s a pretty clean three-way split). Nice try, MOFA. Read the survey for yourself below and see what I mean.
In any case, the bureaucrats, according to Jiji Press of Feb 1 (see bottom of this blog post), seem to be gearing up to join the Hague only if there is a domestic law in place for Japan to NOT return the kids. I smell a loophole in the making.
NHK’s “Close Up Gendai” gave 28 minutes to the issue on February 2, 2011 (watch it here), in which they gave less airtime than anticipated to portraying Japanese as victims escaping to Japan from NJ DV, and more instead to the Japanese who want Japan to sign the Hague so they can get their kids back from overseas. Only one segment (shorter than all the others) gave any airtime to the NJ side of the marriage — but them getting any airtime at all is surprising; as we saw in yesterday’s blog entry, NJ don’t “own the narrative” of child abductions in Japan.
It looks like the GOJ has pinched one of the essential avenues for Japanese overseas looking to abduct their children back to Japan after separation or divorce — the ability for a Japanese citizen to get their child’s J-passport renewed at any Japanese embassy or consulate without the consent of both parents. Somewhat good news, although commenter Getchan below points out that there are still loopholes in this development.
MOFA: To Parents with Children of Japanese Nationality:
Notice: Passport Application for Japanese Minors
Under Japanese civil law, those under the age of 20 are regarded as minors. When a Japanese minor applies for a Japanese passport, one parent/guardian must sign the “Legal Representative Signature” section on the back of the passport application. An application signed by one parent will be accepted under the assumption that the signature is a representation of consent from both parent(s)/guardian(s)…
The latest in a series of tragedies through child abductions by Japanese because Japan’s laws and Family Court do not prevent them (more at crnjapan.net): The tragedy is clearly not only that of children being deprived of a parent. On November 19, a Left-Behind Parent deprived himself of his life. As reports the French Embassy in French and Japanese on November 24. English translation first, then official texts from the Embassy. We’ve had government after government denouncing this practice, GOJ, as the French Embassy puts it so eruditely below. How much longer must it go on?
French Embassy: Our compatriot Arnaud Simon killed himself Friday, November 19. The French teacher in Tokyo, he was 35 years old and lived in Japan since 2006.
Separated from his wife since last March, he was the father of a boy of 20 months he had sought unsuccessfully to gain custody. Our community is in mourning and I present on behalf of all our condolences to his family and loved ones.
Nobody can speak with certainty about the reasons why a man so young to commit an act so terrible. Mr. Simon, however, had recently expressed to the consular section of our embassy in Tokyo of its difficulties to meet his son and it is very likely that the separation from her child was a determining factor. This reminds us all if need be suffering fathers of the 32 French and two hundred other cases identified by consular authorities as being deprived of because of their parental rights.
It is clear that our words and deeds are little face a dramatic situation, but I wanted to remind the determined action of the French authorities and the Embassy in connection with its German partners, American, Australian, Belgian, British, Canadian, Colombian, Spanish, Hungarian, Italian and New Zealand calling on Japan to ratify the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and expedite a review of individual records to find appropriate solutions where they are possible, depending on circumstances.
It is the interests of children, that nobody has the right to deprive one of their parents. It is also to take into account the suffering of the fathers we have today is a tragic event.
Japan Times: Look at my case (and what the judge wrote in her custody ruling in July). My wife had admitted to the following:
• More than three years of ongoing adultery (“The reason for the breakup of the marriage was the respondent’s adultery”); Giving large sums of money (¥7.7 million) to her lover to help him pay off his gambling debt (“Respondent lent a large sum of money to her colleague”);
• Taking my children on dates to bet on horse racing;
• Being currently on medication for various disorders (“Respondent became mentally ill and started seeing a doctor in or around January 2010 and worried about her insufficient communication with the children”);
• Physically abusing her own spouse and children (“Respondent attacked petitioner . . . and used physical power that cannot be justified as discipline against the children”).
Her own daughter fled from her after being abducted, and then testified against her. Moreover, my wife did not even petition for custody of the children until four months after I filed for divorce and custody. I even submitted a video showing my wife with not one of the bruises or injuries she claimed to have sustained the day before the video was taken. And we even had eyewitness testimony of her trying to injure herself. Could my case be any stronger?
Nevertheless, when the judge awarded me physical custody of my daughter, she also awarded physical custody of the boys to their mother. The reason: “There’s no big problem (with the boys staying where they are).”
Based on such reasoning, you can bet the bank that this judge would have awarded custody of all three children to my wife had I not been able to rescue one. And the judge would probably have given me custody of them all had they all been able to get free.
Japan’s family court is simply a facade designed to make an unevolved system appear civilized.
Let’s not kid ourselves. In Japan, “possession of the children” trumps the “best interests of the children” every time, particularly when the “best interests of the children” are never even addressed. And when you have a country that is pouring great sums of money into a system that shuffles children off to hidden locations whenever a parent makes an unverified DV claim, the state, in essence, becomes complicit in the abduction of the children…
Japan Times: In December 2009, shortly after I detailed my fears in this column (Zeit Gist, Nov. 3, 2009) about my wife’s ongoing affair potentially resulting in me losing custody of my children, family life got even worse as she became increasingly physically abusive toward our children. In fact, the police visited my home after one incident in December and recommended that I take my daughter to the Child Guidance Center (jidosodanjo) so that we could determine how to best handle her mother’s violent behavior. Over the next few months, my daughter was interviewed twice at the Child Guidance Center and a few times at her public elementary school.
Unfortunately, as we neared the abduction date, bias against her American father started to become evident. Exactly two weeks before her abduction, her female school principal met privately with my daughter, who summarized her principal’s comments as follows: “Your mother might be violent, but we know she’s a very nice mother on the inside. She will change one day. She’s just stressed right now.”
Two days before the abduction, the school principal and two child welfare officers met with my daughter in the principal’s office, and just hours after returning home, my daughter reported the following exchange between her and one of the welfare officers, an older Japanese woman: “And then she said, ‘Who are you going to choose?’ And I said, ‘Because Mama beats me, I want to go to Daddy’s side. I’m going to choose Daddy.’ Then she said, ‘Your mother does all the stuff at home, like cooking and doing the clothes and stuff like that, so I think it would be better if you choose your mother.’ “
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.
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.
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:
…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!
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.
Foreign Policy.com reports something interesting, and if true, exposes a deeper grain of irresponsibility within the USG:
“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. More media (not only on Savoie Case) in this blog entry, including accusations of Savoie being tortured in prison (it would be tantamount to such under international standards, as the UN has stated about Japan in the past), a divorced international family containing a child with a medical condition being financially strangled by court limbo, and Noriko Savoie reportedly complaining that she was treated “like a babysitter” and cheated out of money in the divorce settlement! Boy I’m glad I’m not a divorce lawyer.
The Economist print edition last week had a thorough story (albeit not thorough enough on Japan) on what divorce does to people when it’s international. Of particular note was that in Japan, the article noted that you don’t comparatively lose much money, but you lose your kids. It also mentions Japan’s negligence vis-a-vis the Hague Convention on child abduction. Excerpt:
“Japan has not signed [the Hague Convention] either—the only member of the rich-country G7 not to have done so. Canada and America are leading an international effort to change that. Foreign fathers, in particular, find the Japanese court system highly resistant to attempts even to establish regular contact with abducted and unlawfully retained children, let alone to dealing with requests for their return. Such requests are met with incomprehension by Japanese courts, complains an American official dealing with the issue. “They ask, ‘Why would a father care that much?’” Countries edging towards signing the Hague Convention include India, Russia and mainland China. But parents whose ex-spouses have taken children to Japan should not hold their breath: as Ms Thomas notes, even if Japan eventually adopts the Hague Convention, it will not apply it retrospectively.”
First Canada’s media and government,then America’s ABC News, then the UK’s Grauniad, and before The Economist came Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald. The story continues to seep out about Japan as a problematic party to a divorce and as a haven for child abduction. Now what we need is ever more big-impact media outlets such as The Economist to devote an entire story to it.
Michael Hassett: One year ago, The Japan Times (Zeit Gist, Aug. 7) printed some findings of mine that showed that there is a 21.1-percent likelihood that a man who marries a Japanese national will do the following: create at least one child with his spouse (85.2 percent probability), then divorce within the first 20 years of marriage (31 percent), and subsequently lose custody of any children (80 percent). And in a country such as Japan — one that has no visitation rights and neither statutes nor judicial precedents providing for joint custody — loss of custody often translates into complete loss of contact, depending on the desire of the mother.
And if this figure is not startling enough, this year’s calculation using more current data would leave us with an even higher likelihood: 22 percent. Having this information, we must now ask a question that most of us would dread presenting to a friend in a fog of engagement glee: Is it the behavior of a wise man to pursue a course of action that has such a high probability of leaving your future children without any contact with their own father?
The Oyako Net–A nationwide network for realizing child visitation for both parents after divorce/separation in Japan, first organizational meeting in Tokyo
Date: July 13th Time: 13:00~16:30 (Doors Open 12:30)
Place: Bunkyokuritsu Academy Miyogadani Kaigishitsu A
Station: Miyogadani (Marunouchi-sen)
Cost: 1,000 yen
Individuals to speak:
1. Paul Wong
2. Yuki Misuzu
4. Tanase sensei (Lawyer)…
SF Chronicle: Imagine discovering you have been living in an artificial world with rules designed to mask a terrible reality. This is, of course, the premise of “The Matrix,” but it is also an analogy I use to explain child custody and visitation in Japan, a subject in which I do research (and have had personal experience). Japan’s family courts have rules and procedures that hide a sad truth: They are powerless to protect the parent-child relationship when a divorce turns hostile…
Visible Minorities: Human Rights Top Ten for 2021
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, DEC 27, 2021 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
SNA (Tokyo) — Since 2008, I have always devoted my end-year columns to counting down the Top Ten human rights issues as they pertain to Non-Japanese residents of Japan. This year I’m moving this feature to the Shingetsu News Agency. Let’s get started:
10) Debito.org Turns 25 Years Old…
9) Tourism to Japan Drops 99% Since 2019…
8 ) Vincent Fichot Hunger Strike against Japan Child Abduction…
7) Tokyo Musashino City Approves, Then Defeats, Inclusive Voting Proposal…
Full countdown with write-ups at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/12/27/visible-minorities-human-rights-top-ten-for-2021/
Every year, the US State Department issues its “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices”. As highlighted by the Shingetsu News Agency, the 2018 Report on Japan came out last March. Now while it’s quite rich for the US to be reporting on other countries (but not, notably, itself) while it has an ongoing human-rights debacle for detained foreign entrants and asylum seekers (and their children) around its southern border, this Report has been cited over the years as authoritative (and it has also included the work of Debito.org and others). So here are the highlights on issues pertaining to Debito.org. As you can see, a lot of information is glossed over. Here are some highlighted sections for Debito.org Readers:
2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Japan, March 13, 2019
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
D. ARBITRARY ARREST OR DETENTION
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties
A. FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND PRESS
Freedom of Expression
D. FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT, INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS, PROTECTION OF REFUGEES, AND STATELESS PERSONS
Access to Asylum
Access to Basic Services
Elections and Political Participation
Participation of Minorities
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Government Human Rights Bodies
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
International Child Abductions
Section 7. Worker Rights
B. PROHIBITION OF FORCED OR COMPULSORY LABOR
E. ACCEPTABLE CONDITIONS OF WORK
Table of Contents:
POLICY PAROXYSMS THAT HURT PEOPLE
1) JT and Nikkei: Japan to offer longer stays for “Trainees”, but with contract lengths that void qualifying for Permanent Residency
2) Kyoto City Govt. subway advert has Visible Minority as poster girl for free AIDS/STDs testing. Wrong on many levels, especially statistically.
GOOD NEWS, SOMETIMES TAMPED DOWN
3) Mainichi: Zainichi Korean’s hate speech lawsuit ends in her favor. Bravo. But Mainichi plays word games, mistranslates “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu) into “ethnic discrimination” in English!
4) Japan Supreme Court enforces Hague Convention on Int’l Child Abductions (for Japanese claimants). Yet Sakura TV claims Hague is for “selfish White men” trying to entrap women from “uncivilized countries” as “babysitters”
5) Asahi: Setagaya Ward plans to battle inter alia racial, ethnic discrimination (in specific) in a local ordinance. Progressive steps!
6) Sapporo Consadole soccer player and former England Team striker Jay Bothroyd refused entry to Hokkaido Classic golf course for being “not Japanese”
7) “Japanese Only” sign on Izakaya Bar “100” (Momosaku 百作) in Asakusa, Tokyo
8 ) “Japanese Only” diving and hiking tour company in Tokashikimura, Okinawa: “Begin Diving Buddies”
9) “Japanese Only” tourist information booth in JR Beppu Station
… and finally…
10) My Japan Times column JBC 111: “White Supremacists and Japan: A Love Story” (March 8, 2018)
Table of Contents:
1) Japan Times JBC 93 Nov 2, 2015: “Tackle embedded racism before it chokes Japan”, summarizing my new book out this week
2) Asahi TV: Police training drill in Tokyo on how to deal with jewelry thieves brandishing knives. Oh, and they’re “foreign” thieves.
3) “Foreign Driver” stickers appearing on Okinawan rental cars
4) Japan Times: Japan sanctioning mass ‘slave labor’ by duping foreign trainees, observers say
5) Japan moving on to the next sucker societies for cheap or slave labor: Cambodia and Vietnam
6) Paul Toland Case Update: Japan as a “black hole” for parental child abductions — Family Court lawsuit & press conference to raise awareness of issue
7) “Onsen-Ken Shinfuro Video”: Japan Synchro Swim Team promotes Oita Pref. Onsens — and breaks most bathhouse rules doing so. Historically insensitive.
8 ) My Japan Times JBC 92 Oct. 5, 2015: “Conveyor belt of death shudders back to live”, on how Abe’s new security policy will revive Prewar martial Japan
… and in case you thought I was being alarmist with JBC 92…
9) CSM: Reviving Shinto: Prime Minister Abe tends special place in Japan’s soul for mythology
Table of Contents:
THE WEIRD EFFECTS OF JAPAN’S INTERNATIONAL BULLYING
1) From hate speech to witch hunt: Mainichi Editorial: Intimidation of universities employing ex-Asahi reporters intolerable; JINF Sakurai Yoshiko advocates GOJ historical revisionism overseas
2) Georgetown prof Dr. Kevin Doak honored by Sakurai Yoshiko’s JINF group for concept of “civic nationalism” (as opposed to ethnic nationalism) in Japan
3) Fun Facts #19: JT: Supreme Court denying welfare for NJ residents inspires exclusionary policy proposals by fringe politicians; yet the math does not equal the hype
4) Osaka Mayor Hashimoto vs Zaitokukai Sakurai: I say, bully for Hash for standing up to the bully boys
5) Two recent JT columns (domestic & international authors) revealing the damage done by PM Abe to Japan’s int’l image
… and finally…
6) Japan Times JBC column 80: “Biased pamphlet bodes ill for left-behind parents”, on MOFA propagandizing re Hague Treaty on Child Abductions