Two abduction-related articles in today’s Japan Times

There were two parental child abduction-related articles published in today’s Japan Times.

 
The first was by Professor Colin Jones, who regularly writes about the subject. Writing about the James Cook case – which was addressed by him before. Here, he writes of Cook’s (what will be) futile attempt to impeach the Supreme Court justices who ultimately found against him. That such an attempt is made at all shows how set in their ways the Japanese judiciary is.

 
The second piece, though not on child abduction specifically does address the treatment of children post a divorce in Japan. According to the Japanese Bengoshi who wrote the piece, the views of a 15 year old and above child will take “paramount importance” in determining what will happen in terms of custody. If aged between 10 and 15 the views of the child are “supposed to be respected” but if the child is under 10 “the probability that the mother wins custody is over 80.” If these arbitrary demarcations based on age were entirely accurate, that would in itself be somewhat disconcerting but the reality is that in most cases the child will stay with the parent with physical custody, invariably the mother. That the article says nothing about contact/visitation for the non-resident parent and also ignores the reality, particularly prevalent in abduction cases (such cases of course occur within Japan as well), of parental alienation.

 
Overall, the content of both articles is unsurprising but say a lot about how the judiciary conducts itself in Japan.

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US State Department 2018 report on child abduction – Japan excerpt

Country Summary: The Hague Abduction Convention entered into force between the United States and Japan in 2014. Since then Japan has made measurable progress on international parental child abduction. The number of abductions to Japan reported to the Department has decreased since the Convention came into force for Japan. Despite this progress, in cases where taking parents refused to comply with court return orders, there were no effective means to enforce the order, resulting in a pattern of noncompliance. As a result of this failure, 22 percent of requests for the return of abducted children under the Convention remained unresolved for more than 12 months. On average these cases were unresolved for one year and 10 months. The Department continues to urge Japan to resolve the 21 pre-Convention abduction cases that remained open at the end of the year, all of which have been outstanding for many years.

 
Initial Inquiries: In 2017, the Department received three initial inquiries from parents regarding possible abductions to Japan where no completed applications were submitted to the Department.

 
Central Authority: The United States and the Japanese Central Authorities have a strong and productive relationship that facilitates the resolution of abduction cases under the Convention. The Japanese Central Authority has focused effectively on preventing abductions, expanding mediation between parents, and promoting voluntary returns. The average number of children reported abducted to Japan each year has decreased by 44 percent since 2014, when the Convention came into force in Japan.
Voluntary Resolution: The Convention states that central authorities “shall take all appropriate measures to secure the voluntary return of the child or to bring about an amicable resolution of the issues.” In 2017, four abduction cases were resolved through voluntary means.

 
Location: The competent authorities regularly took appropriate steps to locate children after a Convention application was filed. The average time to locate a child was 15 days.
Judicial Authorities: The judicial authorities of Japan routinely reached timely decisions in accordance with the Convention. Japanese courts routinely issued orders pursuant to the Convention for children’s return.

 
Enforcement: Unless the taking parent voluntarily complied with a return order under the Convention, judicial decisions in Convention cases in Japan were not enforced. There are two cases (accounting for 100 percent of the unresolved cases) that have been pending for more than 12 months where law enforcement has failed to enforce the return order. Japan’s inability to quickly and effectively enforce Hague return orders appears to stem from limitations in Japanese law including requirements that direct enforcement take place in the home and presence of the taking parent, that the child willingly leave the taking parent, and that the child face no risk of psychological harm. As a result, it is very difficult to achieve enforcement of Hague return orders. In addition, the enforcement process is excessively long. Left-behind parents who have obtained Hague return orders can spend more than a year in follow-on legal proceedings seeking an order to enforce the Hague order.

 
Access: In 2017, the U.S. Central Authority acted on a total of 37 open access cases under the Convention in Japan. Of these, three cases were opened in 2017. A total of 36 access cases have been filed with the Japanese Central Authority, including two of the three cases opened in 2017. By December 31, 2017, six cases (16 percent) have been resolved and five cases have been closed for other reasons. Of those resolved, one was as a result of a voluntary agreement between the parents. By December 31, 2017, 26 access cases remained open, including 23 that have been active for more than 12 months without achieving meaningful access. The total number of Convention access cases at the beginning of 2017 includes 14 pre-Convention abduction cases that later filed for access under the Convention. Of these, one resolved, four closed for other reasons, and nine remained open at the end of 2017. In addition to filing for Hague access, these LBPs continue to seek the return of their abducted children.

 
Pre-Convention Cases: At the end of 2017, 12 pre-Convention abduction cases remained open in Japan. In 2017, seven pre-Convention cases were resolved and one pre-Convention case was closed for other reasons. In these cases, the parents have chosen not to file for access under the Convention.

 
Department Recommendations: The Department will continue its engagement with relevant Japanese authorities to address the areas of concern highlighted in this report.

 

 

Read the full report here (section on Japan at pages 21 to 22)

 

 

See also:  “US cites Japan for non compliance with Hague treaty on cross border parental child abductions”, The Japan Times, 18 May 2018

Japan Times “in search of” column (13 May 2018)

There was a child abduction related piece in The Japan Times today; I set out below relevant extracts from it.  The full article can be read here.


 

How-tos | LIFELINES

The Japan Times

Readers reach out to lost friends and family in Japan
by Louise George Kittaka
Contributing Writer

May 13, 2018 

 

Here is another of our occasional “in search of” columns featuring people hoping for a blast from their pasts, along with an update on efforts to help children and parents in international abduction cases.

 

[…]

 

Next is a father looking for his daughter. Michael Spangler lost touch when his Japanese girlfriend — and the mother of his child — married someone else. His daughter was born on Dec. 16, 1996, christened Tina, and later renamed Mina. He notes that his former girlfriend chose to end contact at that time but assured him that she would support their daughter if, upon reaching adulthood, she wanted to get back in touch with her father. As Mina is now 21, Michael hopes this will be possible. “I am not trying to interfere in their lives in any way. I only would like to find a way to have some type of connection and relationship with my daughter,” he writes.

 

[…]

 

On parental child abduction

Also helping to connect loved ones is Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion (Kizuna CPR), a Japan-based NPO that has been mentioned before in Lifelines. Kizuna CPR advocates for international families torn apart through divorce or child abduction, with the aim of enabling children to have stable relationships with both parents under such circumstances. Representative John Gomez talked to Lifelines about the NPO’s latest news.
“We launched the G-7 Kidnapped to Japan Reunification Project with the objective of putting the parental child-abduction problem on the agenda of the G-7 Summit, to be held in Canada on June 8 and 9. Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion has entered into a working relationship with International Alliance Partners to achieve this objective. These partners are parents in member countries of the G-7 with abduction cases to Japan, and are from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S.”
In 2014 Japan formally joined the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which states that children under 16 should be returned to their country of “habitual residence” if abducted across international borders by one parent. The treaty is not retroactive, however. According to Gomez, Japan is not complying with the Hague Convention and two other international treaties on children’s rights, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC) and the Vienna Convention.
“If applicable, these can be used as a legal premise in cases to petition for access to children if they were taken prior to when the Hague Convention took effect in Japan. In the Hague Convention, rights of access could be applied for in cases that occurred before the Hague took effect, if the child was living outside of Japan prior to being taken,” Gomez explains. “The UNCRC is applicable in all cases. The Vienna Convention should enable consular officials to access the children in Japan.”
For more information about Kizuna CPR, visit http://www.kizuna-cpr.org/g7-kidnapped-to-japan. For comments and questions, or if you have any information that might assist the readers searching for family and friends, please contact lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

Children’s Day 2018

Hugo

It is national Children’s Day in Japan today. Today marks the 70th anniversary of the year when the government of Japan designated the day as a national holiday.

Today also marks a sad but true milestone in this blog: this is the 300th post. I have delayed posting a couple of recent developments in the US and Canada as regards the issue of international parental child abduction so that the 300th post would be on Children’s Day in Japan. I will post about those other developments in the coming days.

Earlier this week I mailed to you a package containing a card and some other items (photographed below); the package has yet to be delivered but should be early next week…

Have a nice Children’s Day in Japan, son. I will send you a further personal message a bit later in the summer. You are welcome to contact me at any time and you don’t need to worry about me telling anyone in Japan about it. Apart from anything else, it has been over 5 years now since I had any proper news about you and, knowing so little, it is very difficult to choose things to buy for you.

This month I am (again) increasing the monthly standing order that I send to your mother’s UK bank account. I hope that this money is be being used to help you although, despite the years that I have been doing this for, there has been no acknowledgement of it or confirmation that it is being used or saved for you. As you get older, and particularly if I do not get to hear from you until you are better placed to make decisions for yourself, I am likely to start sending you, directly in Japan, money as well as presents so that (I hope) you will be able to choose something suitable for yourself.

That’s all for now.

Update (13 May 2018): the items were delivered on 9 May 2018:

 

Lawmaker: U.S. needs to pressure Japan to comply with international child abduction laws (USA Today)

Lawmaker: U.S. needs to pressure Japan to comply with international child abduction laws

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Japan remains a haven for parental child abductions and a U.S. lawmaker Wednesday urged the Trump administration to do more to pressure the country to fulfill its obligations under international law.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said during congressional testimony that between 300 and 400 children of international marriages have been abducted from the U.S. to Japan since 1994, and that more than 35 are still awaiting reunification with their American parents.

“Every day these children are separated from their U.S. parent, the damage compounds,” Smith said before a Congressional subcommittee on global human rights. “We must do better. We must not leave any child behind.”

Under international pressure, in 2014 Japan signed The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. The treaty requires the government to set up a process to allow foreign parents to appeal for visitation or return of their children. But Japan has been slack in administering the convention, according to Smith.

 “How many of these children have come home four years later?” asked Smith. “How many even have access to their left behind parent now?  Almost zero.”

James Cook, a Minnesota medical device specialist trying to gain custody of his four minor children from his estranged Japanese wife, also testified before Congress.

In July 2014, his Japanese wife Hitomi Arimitsu took their children to Japan to visit her family and refused to return. Cook submitted an application for return under the Hague treaty and the case has made its way through both the Japanese and American court system, but Cook has still not been able to see his children.

A Minnesota court ordered the return of Cook’s children in 2017, but the ruling wasn’t carried out in Japan.

A key issue is that Japan does not have a way of enforcing its Hague commitments. It requires the abducting parent to voluntarily turn the children over and doesn’t allow the use of force in extracting the children. There have been numerous cases of parents simply refusing to comply with the Hague rulings.

Cook’s wife petitioned a Japanese court against the ruling to return the children and it was overturned, a decision which Japan’s Supreme Court upheld in December 2017.

“[My wife] has achieved the perfect consequence-free abduction with the aid of Japan’s systemic non-compliance and [the US Department of State’s] inaction,” Cook said in his testimony.

“After over 2.5 years in this process, I have nothing,” he said. “This process has cost me everything.”

Attention to the issue within Japan has been growing in recent weeks. Last month, all EU Ambassadors to Japan signed an official letter of diplomatic protest to pressure Japan to follow international law and enforce decisions which give an international parent custody or visitation rights.

Also in March, Japan’s Supreme Court ruled that a Japanese mother who is refusing to return her child to their father in the United States is “illegally restraining” the child under the Hague Convention.

It was the first such ruling by a Japanese court.

The court ruling and international pressure are a cause for optimism, according to John Gomez, an American who is chairman of the Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion group in Japan.

Gomez said that barriers remain, including an underlying “continuity principle” in Japanese courts means that the abducted child stays with the abducting parent.

“Until the ‘continuity principle’ by which judges in Japan issue rulings is actually discarded and kidnapped children are returned, we must keep pushing to the utmost for the children to be returned to their loving parents,” said Gomez.

Rep. Smith said in his testimony that the State Department needs to apply more pressure on Japan and other countries that have refused to cooperate in returning abducted children. A 2014 law that Smith sponsored, the Goldman Act, requires the State Department to develop an agreement with Japan about children that had been abducted and to hold Japan accountable.

However, Smith said that no action has been taken against Japan for past or current cases, and the State Department hasn’t even listed Japan as “non-compliant” in its annual report on the Hague convention.

Source:  “Lawmaker:  US needs to pressure Japan to comply with international child abduction laws”, USA Today, 11 April 2018