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

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Six and a half years on…

Hugo

Today marks 6 and a half years since you were abducted to Japan so I thought I’d post a short note to you today with some bits of news for you.

Yesterday saw Prince Harry get married to Meghan Markle. The Prince is a few years younger than me and I remember watching him and his brother grow up when I was growing up so that shows how quickly time passes. I watched part of the television coverage from Windsor. It was reported that a billion people watched the proceedings around the world and it struck me that you might well have been one of them. I well remember the time when Prince Andrew married in 1986 when I was about the age you are now.

Tomorrow I have again been roped in to walk the 10 km London legal walk. According to my professional magazine, over 12,000 people are to participate this year. Because of the numbers, there are two routes again this year – one going down and then back up the other side of the Thames and the other through the parks. Not sure which route the team that I am going with is to take this year – we took the park route last year which also took in a bit of the River as well. I will try and take some photos for you again as I did last year, particularly if we take the river route this time.

On a much sadder note, on 28 May 2018, it will be exactly 10 years since Grandad, the Great grandfather you never met, passed away. As I’ve said before you were born 6 months to the day after he died. Along with you, he is the person I think about a lot. He achieved a lot in his life; he obtained a PhD from Cambridge University and went on to become the deputy head of a Ministry of Defence research facility.  He was involved in the design in the 1960s of the satellite dishes that adorned the BT Tower until quite recently; at the time they were state-of-the art and stood the test of time (the article that this link goes to is written by someone with the same name as me).  His ashes are interred in west London and I will go and visit him again later this month.

Hope you are keeping well.

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

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee resolution on international parental child abduction – 19 April 2018

[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 64 (Thursday, April 19, 2018)]
[Page S2330]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

SUPPORTING THE GOALS AND IDEALS OF “INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL CHILD
ABDUCTION MONTH”

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the
Foreign Relations Committee be discharged from further consideration of
and the Senate now proceed to the consideration of S. Res. 431.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The clerk will report the resolution by title.
The senior assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

A resolution (S. Res. 431) supporting the goals and ideals
of “International Parental Child Abduction Month” and
expressing the sense of the Senate that Congress should raise
awareness of the harm caused by international parental child
abduction.

There being no objection, the Senate proceeded to consider the
resolution.
Mr. McCONNELL. I ask unanimous consent that the resolution be agreed
to, the preamble be agreed to, and the motions to reconsider be
considered made and laid upon the table.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The resolution (S. Res. 431) was agreed to.
The preamble was agreed to.
(The resolution, with its preamble, is printed in the Record of March
12, 2018, under “Submitted Resolutions.”)

____________________

Source:  US Congress, Congressional Record, vol 164, no 64, page S2330, 19 April 2018

See also:  “Lawmakers consider issue of international child kidnappings”, Voice of America News, 26 April 2018

Canadian Supreme Court decision – Office of the Children’s Lawyer v. Balev (and others)

The Supreme Court of Canada has now given judgment in the appeal that I posted about last November. The decision of the majority – it was a split court – is not an altogether welcome one in terms of the guidance that it has provided for deciding future cases.

The case concerned Canada and Germany.  The former couple concerned had two children.  They had, latterly, been living in Germany but were not doing well in school and the father agreed that the mother could take the children to Canada for the 2013-14 academic year on the basis that (subject to any decision on his part to extend the time that the children could spend in Canada) they would then return to Germany.  Anticipating rightly that the children would not be returned, the father issued proceedings under the Hague Convention.

The judge at first instance held that the children should be returned to Germany.  That decision was reversed on appeal to the Ontario Divisional Court which considered that the children were habitually resident in Canada.  The father appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal which overturned the Divisional Court’s decision, finding that the children had to be returned to Germany.  Before the case reached the Supreme Court – the (now retired) Chief Justice of Canada remarked in her judgment how unacceptable the delay in the case being heard by the Supreme Court was given the issues it involved – the case had become academic.  However the Court still proceeded to determine it.

The sole issue was whether the children had been habitually resident, in Germany, at the time of the wrongful retention in Canada.  The only applicable “exception” to return under the terms of the Convention was objection on the part of the children.  Up until this decision, parental intention held sway:  the children’s return to Canada was “time-limited” so habitual residence did not switch from Germany to Canada.  However, the Court found that cases of this nature should now be decided on the basis of “a multi‑factored hybrid approach”.  Under this approach habitual residence can switch in the case of a time-limited visit abroad.  The effect of this is that a child can then be retained in the country that they were abducted to unless the deciding Court exercises discretion not to return them.  Central to that is the wishes and feelings of the child; if they object and are of a sufficient age and maturity to have their views taken on broad, that might well turn out to be determinative.

The decision is objectionable on two fronts.  First, where a parent in an international marriage agrees in good faith to a child living for a specified amount of time in their partner or former partner’s country (or indeed elsewhere), the child’s habitual residence, crucial to the determination of Hague cases, can switch.  That cannot be right as the move was agreed to be temporary and the Court is allowing a wrong-doing to benefit from the law.  The second concern is that because of this in some cases the wishes and feelings of the children will then become central to the final decision.  In Hague cases – and in family law cases generally – the is always a real risk of parental alienation, an appalling but all to real concept, in which the children are turned against the non-resident parent; as their wishes and feelings will be seen as central (particularly if they are older), that also sets a dangerous precedent.  Cases such as these to need to be resolved on a case-by-case basis; although the Court in this case stressed the importance of the individual circumstances, my fear is that this decision has set a most unfortunate precedent – one that may not be re-visited for many years.

The full decision can be read here.