It seems that my scepticism the other day about whether a Japanese court would, if challenged to do so, have the courage to return an abducted child home might have been misplaced or, at the very least, uttered in haste. I do not believe my scepticism was at all unreasonable, however.
On 19 November 2014, the day before the third anniversary of my son’s abduction to Japan, the Osaka Family Court directed that a 4 year old girl be returned to Sri Lanka under the provisions of the Hague Convention. Unlike the case referred to the other day, this case was a contested one. The child has not yet been returned as the decision was only made this week and is in any event appealable. I say that my scepticism was not unreasonable because the facts of this case clearly showed that there was not much else that the court could rationally decide as the child’s country of habitual residence was, clearly, Sri Lanka. She was in the education system there and had been taken to Japan for “a holiday”. The case was, in legal parlance, “strong on its facts” which meant that there was only one rational outcome and no room for judicial manoeuvre. It remains to be seen what will happen when a less clear-cut case of abduction comes along and whether judges in Japan will seek to resist returns on the basis of the exceptions as set out in the Convention, as enacted in Japan. Still, the news must be an enormous relief to the left behind parent involved.
There are reports about the Sri Lankan case in the Japan Times here (dated 19 November 2014), the Asahi Shimbun here (also 19 November 2014) and the Colombo Gazette here (20 November 2014). There is also a piece on the Russian Legal Information website here.