It has been reported today that a young boy, who shares my son’s age, has been returned from Japan to Germany. The report about it in the Japan Times can be read here.
It is being heralded as the first return of an abducted child from Japan thanks to the Hague Convention, which came into force in Japan on 1 April this year. To so say however is not quite right as the return came about, in the end, by agreement. The abductor, a Japanese mother, when faced with Hague proceedings brought for the German father, agreed that the child had to go back. She caved in and took the boy back herself. That, in itself, is perhaps unsurprising as the child’s country of habitual residence was clearly Germany. What is surprising is how, given this, and given that the abduction was a post-Hague case, the mother thought that she could get away with it at all. Perhaps she was counting on the father not doing anything about it or, if he did, the Japanese courts not doing anything about it. In this case, the outcome was certainly one that the Hague Convention exists to deliver. For the father and child involved, it is gratifying that the process appears to have been fairly swift as well.
That said, what is not known for sure is what the attitude of the Japanese courts, notoriously hostile to foreign spouses, would have been to this had these proceedings not settled and had a Japanese judge had to adjudicate on the dispute. That will be the real test of the system and it remains to be seen whether Japan will properly discharge its international obligations when a contested case comes before the courts as it is bound to before long.
The boy was removed from Germany in June 2014 and returned there in mid-October: news of these matters tends only to seep out some weeks later. The requested return occurred in August. Apart from the Japan Times report referred to at the beginning, there are at the time of writing further reports, along similar lines, in the Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Z News (India), the Daily Times (Pakistan) and The Western Australian.