2 judges to join Hague Convention network

2 judges to join Hague Convention network

2:50 am, June 30, 2015

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Supreme Court has decided to register two Japanese judges as members of the Hague Convention Attorney Network, which comprises judges from 65 signatories to the Hague Convention (see below), to help determine whether children of broken international marriages should be returned to their countries of habitual residence.

The measure is expected to give family court judges in Japan better access to information related to such proceedings via the network.

Through e-mails and other communications from their counterparts overseas, family court judges will be able to obtain constant, up-to-date information about legal and other systems to protect children and their mothers in other nations.

Lawyers specializing in such cases of parental child abduction have expressed high hopes. “Having detailed knowledge of the situation in the countries where children will be returned could make it easier to reach decisions,” one said.

The Supreme Court said 97 judges, drawn from 65 of the total 93 countries joining the convention, were registered in the network as of March.

Family laws differ among the signatory countries, and in the United States, they can even vary among states. Network members can exchange information about various legal systems and share their views on rulings in specific trials.

When the convention went into effect in Japan in April last year, the idea of registering Japanese court judges in the network was considered.

But some legal experts reportedly voiced concerns, saying that providing details of domestic trials to judges in other countries could hurt the independence of the judiciary.

Court judges experienced in handling such cases sought to enroll in the network. “I want to hear about the latest cases in other signatory countries so I can use them as reference,” one explained.

Consequently, the Supreme Court decided to register two judges who belong to its Family Bureau of the General Secretariat, rather than judges working in courts.

The two member judges are expected to liaise over the phone and e-mail after collecting questions from family courts and other related entities.

For example, in cases of suspected domestic violence, Japanese court judges will be able to inquire in advance whether mothers and their children are eligible to receive assistance from administrative authorities if they repatriate.

If the conditions for returning the children are decided through legal mediation, Japanese court judges will be able to verify whether the terms decided in Japan are also legally binding in the other country.

The sources said the network members occasionally hold gatherings and exchange opinions.

“Participation in the network means that judgments based on the convention [in Japan] will be more aligned with international standards,” said Toshiteru Shibaike, a lawyer and expert on the convention. “In the future, court judges will hopefully make more flexible judgments that emphasize the welfare of children while using the perspectives of their peers abroad as reference.”

■ The Hague Convention

Formally called the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, it went into effect in April 2014 in Japan. As of April this year, 93 countries were signatories. If children are taken to Japan, family courts make decisions over whether to accept requests to return the children filed by parents in other countries. As of the end of March, Japanese family courts had received a total of 16 such requests, nine of which were granted.

Source: “2 judges to join Hague Convention network”, The Yomiuri Shimbun, 29 June 2015

Kelly Rutherford case

People Exclusive

Kelly Rutherford Talks Custody ‘Nightmares’ in Briefing on Capitol Hill

Kelly Rutherford Talks Custody 'Nightmares' in Briefing on Capitol Hill
Kelly Rutherford
KRIS CONNOR/ GETTY

06/25/2015 AT 05:15 PM EDT

As she awaits yet another hearing on the fate of her two children, Kelly Rutherford headed to Washington, D.C., to fight for the rights of parents facing their own international custody battles.

Rutherford, 46, spoke at a congressional briefing with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee from Texas on Thursday, participating on behalf of the Children’s Justice Campaign, an advocacy group she founded based on her own struggle to bring son Hermes, 8, and daughter Helena, 6, home to the United States from Monaco, where they have lived with their father, German businessman Daniel Giersch, since 2012.

“Today’s hearing was a wonderful bipartisan showing of support for American families in the midst of international parental child abduction nightmares,” she tells PEOPLE in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to lend my voice to parents who are struggling with these profoundly unjust situations.

“I was particularly excited to hear several members of Congress say that they are proposing new federal legislation that will hold judges accountable and stop them from forcing American children to leave their own country.”

Jackson, 65, chairs the bipartisan House Congressional Children’s Caucus. Rep. Christopher Smith and Rep. Ted Lieu also attended and spoke at the briefing.

International parental child abduction “occurs when one parent unlawfully moves a child from his or her country of residence for the purpose of denying the other parent access to the child,” according to a CRC news release. About 1,000 cases have been reported to the State Department this year.

Rutherford and Giersch have been locked in a custody dispute for six years. A Monaco judge ruled Monday that their children will spend their summer with their mother in United States, as they have in years past. Giersch, 41, wants the kids to continue to reside with him in the European principality, but Rutherford argues they should be returned to American soil.

The parents are due in Los Angeles court July 9.

Subcommittee Hearing: The Goldman Act to Return Abducted American Children: Reviewing Obama Administration Implementation | House Committee on Foreign Affairs – Ed Royce, Chairman

Subcommittee Hearing: The Goldman Act to Return Abducted American Children: Reviewing Obama Administration Implementation | House Committee on Foreign Affairs – Ed Royce, Chairman.

America’s Abducted Kids Get No Help From Japan

America’s Abducted Kids Get No Help From Japan

June 16, 2015 1:40 p.m. ET

The Wall Street Journal

A new law was supposed to enlist the State Department in helping to bring the kids back, but Tokyo has talked its way out of cooperating.

Japan_Obama_Abduction

The U.S. State Department last month released its first annual report on countries that refuse to return American children who have been abducted by a parent and taken abroad. Conspicuously absent from the worst-offenders list in the report is the country with the world’s worst record of cooperation: Japan. Tokyo has never issued and enforced a return order for any one of the more than 50 American children currently held captive there by a parent who violated the wishes of another parent in taking the child overseas. This is in addition to the hundreds of previously abducted American children who became adults without knowing the love, culture and care of their American parent.

Last year Congress passed the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, which requires that the State Department hold countries accountable if an abduction case is still unresolved a year after State requests assistance in the return of a child. As the prime sponsor of the Goldman Act, I believe it is important to remind the State Department of its obligations under the law. First, State must accurately count all unresolved cases in its annual report. Second, the secretary of state needs to take action against all countries that have 30% or more unresolved cases, or that are otherwise noncompliant in helping to resolve abduction cases. When it comes to Japan, State falls far short on both counts.

japanese child

Initially, the law seemed effective at bringing Japan’s attention to the issue. Tokyo was so worried about being found noncompliant in the report and put on the worst-offenders list that it sent a high-level delegation to the U.S. to meet with Ambassador Susan Jacobs just before the report was due and explain its lack of compliance.

For State, it seems, that meeting was enough to absolve Japan. Rather than provide the report as required by law, State later delivered to Congress a table loaded with zeroes in the “unresolved” category of countries and then, adding insult to injury, listed Japan with a 43% abduction-resolution rate.

The more than 50 American parents who have spent years trying to bring their children home were shocked and devastated. With the new law, they thought their country would finally stand with them in working to bring their children home. Instead, the State Department attempted an end-run around the Goldman Act, squandering any real leverage in the process.

State’s failure to hold Japan accountable delegitimizes the entire report and undermines its purpose. Other countries can now look at it as a deal-making political trope. It is truly a waste of what could have been a highly effective diplomatic tool.

Furthermore, State’s continued refusal to reveal each country’s real number of unresolved cases, even when required to do so by law, should worry every American who believes the U.S. government should be honest about successes and failures in the return of American abducted children. I have asked State repeatedly for the number of unresolved cases in India, for instance, only to be stonewalled.

Japanese-American-Flag1

Congress passed the Goldman Act to compel transparency and action. Yet what the State Department is doing is ultimately perpetuating the status quo, where far less than half of abducted American children are reunited with their families.

International parental child abduction rips children from their homes and uproots their lives, alienating them from a left-behind parent who loves them and whom they have a right to know. Abducted children often lose their relationship with their parent, half of their identity and half of their culture. Child abduction is child abuse.

Congress went to great lengths to reunite these families, passing the Goldman Act unanimously. But a law is only as good as its implementation. A congressional hearing on June 11 featured anguished parents of children abducted to and currently held in Japan, India and elsewhere. With hope, the State Department will learn from their stories and follow through on enforcement in the future.

Mr. Smith represents New Jersey’s fourth Congressional district.

Source:  “America’s Abducted Kids Get No Help From Japan”, Chris Smith, The Wall Street Journal, 16 June 2015 

A small step in the right direction?

The information set out below has appeared – it is not clear when exactly – on the Consulate-General of Japan in Edinburgh website; there does not appear to be an equivalent entry on the Japan Embassy in London website, at least not in the English section.  I reproduce the text in full below – to guard against the possibility of future removal – but the original web page can be accessed here.

Without at any stage using the word abduction, the page states that in cases where a (non-Japanese) parent has previously registered an objection to the issue of a chid passport with the Consulate General, a passport will “usually” only be issued where both parents consent – in circumstances where there is no pre-registered objection, the consent of one parent would suffice.

On one view, this is a case of “too little, too late” in the sense that the wrongful removal of a child can now, in theory, be put right through the Hague Convention and, in any event, this web page does not suggest that, even with one parent objecting, a passport will not be issued.  It also, of course, does nothing to address abductions taking place on the basis of previously-issued and still valid passports.  However the inclusion of this information can be said to suggest that Japan is possibly beginning to take these issues more seriously than in the past.

The web page reads as follows:

Application for Japanese passports of minors

Recently, as a number of international marriages has increased, there have been cases in which one parent, whose marriage has faced a difficulty and who has a different nationality from his/her spouse, takes his/her child back to his/her home country against the law of country of residence. Such cases have raised concern, and the following points regarding Japanese passport application for minors in relation with the child custody issue should be noted.

Regarding the application for Japanese passport of minors, Japan issues passports by having a signature of a custodian as a legal representative to the application form. However, if the other parent has expressed* his/her disagreement on the issuance of the child’s passport to the Consulate General of Japan in Edinburgh beforehand, the passport will usually be issued after the verification of the consent of both parents. In this verification process, the Consulate General of Japan in Edinburgh checks in principle with the parent who disagreed beforehand on the issuance of child’s passport whether he/she is now willing to submit a “Letter of Consent for an Application of Passport”. The passport will be issued after the submission of the Letter.

*(the expression of disagreement should be made in principle by a signed document attaching a supporting document which demonstrates the possession of parental authority)

In the UK, taking a child abroad without consent of his/her spouse who has parental authority is accounted to criminal liability (Please see the Directgov’s information). In fact, there are cases in which parent taking a child was arrested of child abduction when he/she re-entered the country, or that parent was placed on the international wanted list of International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO). To prevent Japanese citizens from such disadvantages, the Consulate General of Japan in Edinburgh is checking verbally to confirm the existence of agreement of both parents on the application for child’s passport, even if there is no declaration of disagreement from one parent.

For passport application procedures, please contact Consular Section by email visa@ed.mofa.go.jp or by telephone 0131 225 4777 (please select 2 for English guidance and then 1 for passport enquiries)

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