Happy 8th birthday

It is your 8th birthday today.  Your 6th in Japan.  I hope that you have a very good day, and one filled with blessings, in all that you do.  Another year and, amazingly, you will be half way to becoming an adult.

It has been reported that it is going to very very cold in England this week, even by November standards, and a lot colder than where you are.

See below for some items that I mailed to you earlier this month.  I was told by the Post Office clerk who processed the package that it should have reached you mid-to-late last week so I trust that it got there on time.

Happy birthday!

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Above:  your birthday card and presents as mailed to you

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Above:  Post Office shipping receipt, 18 November 2016 

India unlikely to accede to Hague Convention

The Tribune

Posted at: Nov 6, 2016, 9:51 AM; last updated: Nov 6, 2016, 4:54 PM (IST)

Govt likely to junk inter-parental child abduction Bill

New Delhi, November 6

Despite international pressure, the Centre is likely to junk the Bill on inter-parental child abduction, which deals with child custody issues for NRI couples, and would have paved the way for India’s accession to the Hague Convention.

The Law Commission, though, recently submitted its report to the Law Ministry sticking to its 2007 stand advising the government to accede to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspect of International Child Abduction (1980).

(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)

“We are very clear that we are not signing the Hague Convention. This is a decision collectively arrived at by the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA),” said a senior WCD Ministry official.

On June 22, 2016, the WCD Ministry had uploaded on its website a proposal to enact a draft of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Bill, 2016. Subsequently, the draft Bill was placed on the website seeking comments.

The draft Bill was prepared following a reference made by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to the Law Commission of India and the WCD Ministry to examine the issue and consider whether recommendations should be made to enact a suitable law and for signing the Hague Convention.

However, the Bill has since been removed from the Ministry website.

The draft envisaged “prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained in a contracting state, and to ensure that rights of custody and of access under the law of one contracting state are respected in other contracting states.”

It also proposed a central authority to discover the whereabouts of a child, to prevent further harm to any such child and to secure the voluntary return of the child to the signatory nation.

WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi has expressed apprehension over acceding to the Convention at several forums, primarily on two grounds — that taking such a decision will not be in the interest of aggrieved women and because the government maintains that there are fewer instances of Indian children being abducted and taken abroad.

At an event last month she had said, “Personally, in the beginning, when I was new, I thought we should join the Convention because we get protection. But with time and after interacting with women who have been abandoned by their husbands abroad, had their passports snatched from them, been beaten up, and have somehow scraped the money and are in terrible fear, I wonder whether we should join or not.”

The draft Bill also made it clear that a decision under the Hague Convention to return a child would not be final and courts will have the power to deny custody on certain grounds.

These grounds are two-fold — firstly, if the person having the care of the child was not actually exercising the custody rights and secondly, if he/she put the child at a grave risk of physical/psychological harm.

The Law Commission report had an additional exception to Hague Convention: “The person who is allegedly involved in wrongful removal or retention, was fleeing from any incidence of domestic violence.”

It also recommended a jail term of one year for any parent or family member found guilty of wrongfully retaining or removing a child from the custody of the other parent.

Legal experts say that while the Hague Convention does have safeguards for women, India can also have a domestic law with stronger protection and then accede to the Convention.

“The Convention is to protect the interest of children. It is not for protecting the interest of the women. However, Article 13 of the Hague Convention states circumstances under which the child can’t be ordered to be returned. Additionally, according to the draft prepared by the WCD Ministry, the central authority can decide whether to accept or not an application demanding that a child be returned.”

However, the draft bill also then specifies exceptions under which a child can’t be returned. So, there is a three-tier protection available to women,” according to Anil Malhotra, who was the amicus curiae when the Punjab and Haryana High Court gave its recommendations on the matter.

“Not signing the Convention is not a good idea. This is like going backwards. If you make safeguards, checks and balances, you should sign the Convention and become a part of a civilised order whereby free movement of children is allowed,” Malhotra said.

There is immense international pressure on India, especially from the US and the UK, to accede to the Convention.

Susan S Jacobs, special adviser on children’s issues, the US State Department, had met WCD Minister Gandhi on September 15. There are at least 80 cases where an Indian parent has removed the child from the US and brought them to India.

The Hague Convention, signed by 94 countries, provides for a mechanism to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another. —PTI

Source:  “Govt likely to junk inter-parental child abduction bill”, The Tribune, 6 November 2016 

Further reading:  “21st Law Commission releases its first report on international parental child abduction”, Live Law website, 1 November 2016 

Universal Children’s Day

The irony that Universal Children’s Day falls on the anniversary (yesterday) of my son’s abduction was not lost on me – all the more so as the focus of the day seems from yesterday’s piece in the Telegraph (below) seems to be more on refugee children rather than the many victims of domestic and international family law arrangements.

The Telegraph

What is Universal Children’s Day and why is Google celebrating it with a Doodle?

What is Universal Children’s Day?

Established by the United Nations in 1954, Children’s Day is marked on November 20 each year to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare.

The UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child on November 20, 1959, and then 30 years later it adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child on that same day.

The convention, which is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, lays out a number of children’s rights including the “right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence, to not be discriminated, and to have their views heard”.

 

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said Universal Children’s Day was “an annual opportunity to recommit ourselves to protecting the rights of every child”.

Google is marking Universal Children's Day with a doodle
Google is marking Universal Children’s Day with a doodle CREDIT: GOOGLE

“These children are the future leaders of their societies. The future engines of their national economies. The future parents and protectors of the next generation.

“When we protect their rights, we are not only preventing their suffering. We are not only safeguarding their lives. We are protecting our common future.”

Best five Google DoodlesPlay!02:46

How is it celebrated?

As well as Google marking the day with a Doodle in its search engines around the world, the UN children’s body, Unicef, launched a short stories week to celebrate the day and to mark the agency’s 70th anniversary.  More than 200 prominent writers penned “tiny stories” – each around seven lines long – to highlight Children’s Day and the challenges many of the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged children still face.

“As writers we are able to advocate through the simplicity of storytelling. With this worthy and necessary campaign, we advocate for the protection of the rights of precious children all over the world,” said Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie.

Among the writers is one the world’s youngest published authors – seven-year-old Michelle Nkamankeng from South Africa.

“It is shocking to see that the lives of many children are still so heavily impacted by the horror of conflict, inequality, poverty and discrimination. I hope these Tiny Stories can remind the world that we must sustain our commitment to all of these children whose lives and futures are at stake,” said Paloma Escudero, Unicef spokesperson.

State of the world today for children

In many developed countries, children have never had it so good, with access to education, health care, the internet and much more.

But millions more are facing unprecedented upheaval. More than 50 million children have been uprooted from their homes due to conflict, poverty and climate change while millions more face violence in their communities. According to the UN, around 263 million children do not attend school and last year nearly six million children under five died from mostly preventable diseases.

This picture of a wounded Syrian boy captures just a fragment of the horrors of AleppoPlay!00:40

Children in Syria are living in fear every day. The relentless bombardment forced schools in east Aleppo, many of which already operate from basements because of government attacks, to close on Saturday and Sunday “for the safety of students and teachers, after the barbarous aerial strikes”, according to humanitarian coordinator for Syria Ali al-Za’atari and regional humanitarian coordinator Kevin Kennedy. Staff were forced to evacuate the east’s only children’s hospital because of repeated attacks, removing babies from incubators.

“On this Children’s Day, we must confront the uncomfortable truth that around the world, the rights of millions of children are being violated every day,” Anthony Lake, Unicef Executive Director, said.

Children collect firewood amid the rubble of Aleppo this week
Children collect firewood amid the rubble of Aleppo this week CREDIT: REUTERS

“They’re being violated in eastern Aleppo and other besieged areas across Syria, where children are cut off from food, water, and medical care,” he said, adding their rights were also being violated in Yemen, northeastern Nigeria and South Sudan.

“They’re being violated around the world, in every country, wherever children are the victims of violence, abuse and exploitation,” he said.

How to help

There are many ways to help promote children’s rights and donate money, but one of the most high-profile causes in the UK is Children in Need, which took place on Friday.

This year the live Appeal Show raised a record total of nearly £47 million in a night of tributes to the late Sir Terry Wogan – an impressive rise from last year’s total of £37.1 million.

Announcing the sum, Presenter Rochelle Humes said: “That’s absolutely incredible and I just know how proud Sir Terry would have been.”

Children In Need aims to protect every child in the UK and currently supports 2,400 projects across the nation.

Source:  “What is Universal Children’s Day and why is Google celebrating it with a Doodle?”, Telegraph online, 20 November 2016 

 

Five Years of Separation – Message to Hugo

Hello Hugo

I hope that you are keeping well in Japan.  You left the UK exactly 5 years ago today, about exactly an hour ago; I type this message to you at an internet cafe in the airport about 10 metres from the spot that I last set eyes on you.  This is the first time that 20 November has fallen on a Sunday since that date.

In every waking hour since then I have kept you in my thoughts.  Yet the reality is that the price I (we) pay is that we are strangers to one another.  As one of my closest colleagues in the legal world says whenever faced with something he disagrees with, that cannot be right.

These past five years I have done what I can from afar to support and love you.  I hope that the money, clothes, food, cards, gifts etc that I have sent you on your birthday, at Christmas, at Easter, on Children’s Day in Japan and (to bridge the gap between then and your birthday) each summer made it to you and made a difference to you and, too, that you knew it was all from me.  I have no way of knowing even that.

It’ll be Christmas soon.  I shall be visiting Hamley’s on Regent Street, London – last visited by me aged about the same age as you in 1986 – to get you something. I spent the Christmas in the year immediately after you left in Japan in what turned out to be a futile (but agreed) attempt to visit you.  I took a few photographs (of Japan) on that visit and will share them here next month.  What I want to share with you today, immediately below, are some photographs that I took of your exactly 5 years ago; I was allowed to see you a few times immediately before you left.  I have not placed them on this blog before now.  They are not the greatest photos but when taking them immediately before, as I said, your departure to Japan I did not anticipate not seeing you again.

When I started this blog 4 years ago, I said that I would say more about the circumstances of your removal.  Had I known what I know now I would have obtained an injunction to stop your removal – it would have been granted as at the time Japan was not signed up to the Hague Convention; I did consider doing so up until the early hours before you left but trusted that I would be permitted to see you.  I did what I thought was best for you but it turned out that I made a bad call.  I have to live with that decision everyday, the upshot of which is that we are as I said, for the time being at any rate, strangers.

None of anything that has happened dents my love for you.  Keep well in Japan and make the most of the great opportunities there; below are the photographs of you, 5 years on:

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Above:  photographs of you, taken in November 2011

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Above:  drafting this blog post; I last saw you just beyond the pillars to the right of the photograph (added 23 November 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japan’s mega-sinkhole is repaired in just a WEEK

Japan’s mega-sinkhole is repaired in just a WEEK (remember that next time you’re caught up in roadworks or hit another pot hole)

  • Constructions teams worked around the clock to fix the damage in the city of Fukuoka
  • The gaping chasm measured around 30 metres wide and 15 metres deep
  • Social media users have voiced their amazement after it opened so fast
  • The city’s mayor, Soichiro Takashima, apologized for the inconvenience 

While motorists around the world endure the misery of pothole damage, authorities in Japan have given a lesson in efficiency – by fixing a huge sinkhole in just one week.

The gaping chasm measured around 30 metres wide and 15 metres deep, yet now the road is completely reopened.

Many people have expressed their amazement at the fast repair work.

The busy road pictured last week (left) and today (right) after crews worked around the clock to ensure it opened again seven days after collapsing

The busy road pictured last week (left) and today (right) after crews worked around the clock to ensure it opened again seven days after collapsing

Workers dumped huge amounts of wet cement and sand into the huge hole and fixing electricity, gas and water lines, as shown in this picture taken on Thursday last week

Workers dumped huge amounts of wet cement and sand into the huge hole and fixing electricity, gas and water lines, as shown in this picture taken on Thursday last week

What a difference a week makes: The five-land stretch of road today (left) and in the aftermath of the collapse

What a difference a week makes: The five-land stretch of road today (left) and in the aftermath of the collapse

Huge damage: The gaping chasm measured around 30 metres wide and 15 metres deep

Huge damage: The gaping chasm measured around 30 metres wide and 15 metres deep

Construction teams in Fukuoka, in the southwest of the country, worked around the clock, dumping huge amounts of wet cement and sand into the huge hole and fixing electricity, gas and water lines.

It is thought the road collapsed because subway construction exposed support columns of nearby buildings.

The city’s mayor, Soichiro Takashima, said in a statement: ‘We’re very sorry for causing great trouble.’

Burst water mains spewed a torrent of muddy water into the giant hole, which caused chaos in the city's business district

Burst water mains spewed a torrent of muddy water into the giant hole, which caused chaos in the city’s business district

Massive problem: Nearby buildings had to be evacuated as a result of the road collapse

Massive problem: Nearby buildings had to be evacuated as a result of the road collapse

Miraculously, no one was hurt when the road collapsed in Fukuoka, which is the biggest city on the southernmost main island of Kyushu.

Many on social media expressed amazement at the quick recovery.

‘I’m surprised the road reopened in a week!’ one Twitter user said.

The road reopened in just a week after a huge repair operation which saw teams operating around the clock

The road reopened in just a week after a huge repair operation which saw teams operating around the clock

Construction teams worked around the clock to repair the damage to the road following the sudden collapse

Construction teams worked around the clock to repair the damage to the road following the sudden collapse

‘Impressive. That was fast,’ said another.

The street reopened at 5am on Tuesday.

The massive cave-in appeared in the city’s bustling Hakata district, a major business and entertainment centre, with muddy underground water flowing into the hole.

Scale of the problem: An aerial photo of the city's business district shows the size of the gaping sinkhole which opened up

Scale of the problem: An aerial photo of the city’s business district shows the size of the gaping sinkhole which opened up

It happened in the business district of the city of Fukuoka

It happened in the business district of the city of Fukuoka

‘I saw a stop light fall. It was really scary,’ one man told Fuji TV after it happened.

The sinkhole is believed to be about 40 feet wide and 25-30 feet deep.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3936796/Japan-street-swallowed-giant-hole-reopens.html#ixzz4Q5BoafBY
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Source:  “Japan’s mega-sinkhole is repaired in just a week”, Mail Online, 15 November 2016 

Further reading (updated 29 November 2016):  “Panic in Japan as giant sinkhole which was repaired in just a week begins to sink again, forcing road to close (so did they carry out the repairs too quickly?)”, Mail Online, 28 November 2016