Letter in today’s Japan Times…

The Japan Times

Custody rights remain huge problem

Thank God for Christopher Savoie. I always remember the American father who forced Tokyo to act on the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.

Years after Hague signing, parent who abducts still wins” in the May 1 edition and “Parental abduction victims hold rally to push for joint custody rights” in the May 6 edition are the most recent additions to my thick file of Japan Times stories on this issue which I began keeping in September 2009.

This is when Christopher Savoie famously, valiantly, virtuously and rightly tried to reclaim his kidnapped children from his Japanese ex-wife by seeking asylum inside the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka. “Asylum” is self-evidently the right word for it. Ultimately, he failed. The consulate turned him over to Japanese authorities, but the Fukuoka police and prosecutors dropped their case and deported him instead. Prosecuting him would have been too shameful for Japan and cast the country in a humiliating bad light internationally. It was a textbook example of how it (sometimes) takes foreign pressure to move Japan forward.

More attention has been given to the plight of children and their alienated parents since then, but the application of the Hague Convention is not satisfactory. To make it satisfactory requires starting with acknowledging and treating the abducting parent (usually but not exclusively their Japanese mothers) as criminal kidnappers. Active intervention to repatriate the children followed by the prosecution and long imprisonment of the kidnapper are not excessive suggestions.


Pakistan: Hague Convention Enters into Force

Pakistan: Hague Convention Enters into Force

On 1 March 2017, the Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction entered into force for Pakistan. After having deposited its instrument of accession to the Convention on 22 December 2016, Pakistan became the 96th Contracting State to the instrument.

More information is available on the Child Abduction Section of the Hague Conference website.

While not a Member State of the Hague Conference, Pakistan is now a Contracting Party to two Hague Conventions, the other instrument being the Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters.

Source:  “Pakistan:  Hague Convention Enters Into Force”, Hague Conference on Private International Law website, 2 March 2017

G7/G8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Hiroshima, Japan, 10-11 April 2016

Text of my email to the Rt. Hon. Philip Hammond, MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

From:  Richard
Sent: 03 April 2016 21:53:51
To: fcocorrespondence@fco.gov.uk (fcocorrespondence@fco.gov.uk)

Dear Mr Hammond

I understand that you will be attending the G7/G8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Hiroshima in a week’s time.  The last time that Japan hosted this meeting, and the summit that it is the precursor of, was in 2008.  That was the year in which my son, a British and Japanese citizen, was born in Bromley.  As documented on this blog – https://hugojapan.wordpress.com/ – I have not seen my son since 20 November 2011 because his mother took him to Japan and now fails to provide access to him.  That, in itself, is wholly unacceptable, but the situation is exacerbated by the approach, or more accurately the lack thereof, of the UK government to cases of international child abduction that concern Japan prior to the coming into force of the Hague Convention.

Whilst in Japan I ask that you raise the issue of my son, and others like him about which your department must be aware, with your Japanese counterpart.  I can think of no better venue as my son lives in Saeki-ku, a ward of Hiroshima city.  Despite having been there, despite having sent him money, food, cards, presents and so on, I have not seen the little boy since the date he was taken there in 2011.  I can make no decisions about his future, am not allowed to be his father and he is growing up without any contact with his family in the UK and without any appreciation of his cultural background and native language.  All of that is as profoundly shocking as it is true.

The Hague Convention, which came into force in Japan two years ago last Friday, does not have retrospective effect in terms of its summary return procedures.  Therefore I have had no effective legal remedy in terms of bringing my son home.  Whilst there are procedures contained within the Convention that provide for the grant of access rights – even in pre-1 April 2014 cases – the Japanese courts simply maintain the status quo; they are, at best, incapable of recognising the concept, let alone the importance for any child, of dual parenting and are, sadly but frankly and for whatever reason that may be, hostile to foreign parents.

From what I can see, the UK government has not done anything meaningful since the coming into force of the Hague Convention to resolve the pre-Convention cases of international parental child abduction in Japan.  It seems, without more, that the attitude of the Foreign Office is that the issue has simply gone away by virtue of Japan enacting the Convention.  That is a wholly misguided approach.  The meeting next week offers an opportunity to do something to put this right.  That is why I am asking you to raise my son’s case.  The Foreign Office is very quick to condemn Japan for its use of the death penalty even though that, a sovereign matter for Japan to decide about, is none of the UK’s business (unless of course it concerned a UK resident).  Yet the UK falls wholly silent when it comes to the welfare and rights of my son, a British national, and no doubt others like him.  That cannot be right.  International parental child abduction manifestly does raise issues of British national interest as it concerns British children and that is why I send this email in the hope that you can offer some help.

I have been in contact with the Child Abduction Unit in the past but I would be happy to provide any further information that is required to facilitate my request.


Subcommittee Hearing: The Goldman Act to Return Abducted American Children: Reviewing Obama Administration Implementation | House Committee on Foreign Affairs – Ed Royce, Chairman

Subcommittee Hearing: The Goldman Act to Return Abducted American Children: Reviewing Obama Administration Implementation | House Committee on Foreign Affairs – Ed Royce, Chairman.

First Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction

The US Department of State has published its first Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction.  The statutory requirement to produce such a report every year was imposed on the Department by the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, about which I have written before – most notably here but also elsewhere.  The Act was only signed into law last year and, as such, the first report only covers cases in the last quarter of 2014.  It would therefore be unwise to draw any firm conclusions from the data.

In relation to Japan, Table 2 (at page 17 of the report) shows that there were 6 new Hague Convention abduction cases reported to the Department of State of which, at the end of the reporting period, 1 was submitted to the Japanese authorities to deal with and 2 were not referred; the other 3 must still have been pending action at the year’s end.  One case was ‘resolved’ as at the end of the reporting period.  Figure 2 (at page 6 of the report) states that a resolved case is where:

The child is returned to the country of habitual residence, pursuant to the Hague Abduction Convention or other bilateral procedures, if applicable;

The judicial or administrative branch, as applicable, of the government of the country in which the child is located has implemented, and is complying with, the provisions of the Hague Abduction Convention or other bilateral procedures, as applicable;

The left behind parent reaches a voluntary arrangement with the other parent;

The left behind parent submits a written withdrawal of the application or the request for assistance to the Department of State;

The left behind parent cannot be located for one year despite the documented efforts of the Department of State to locate the parent; or

The child or left behind parent is deceased.

Table 2 also shows that here were 40 applications for contact over the 3-month reporting period.  Of these, only 6 (14%) were resolved.  This is an important indicator of the scope of the (continuing problem in Japan:  many of these 40 cases are applications from left behind parents whose children cannot be returned to the States under the Convention because the abduction took place prior to the coming into force of the Convention.  The contact provisions contained within the Convention, about which I recently wrote here, do apply to pre-1 April 2015 abductions if the child remains under 16.

This issue is tackled head-on in the report which contains the following extended passage on the situation in Japan (at page 26):

As an example of the USCA’s [United States Central Authority] policy of promoting Convention partnership worldwide, the USCA spent more than a decade actively pressing Japan to ratify the [Hague] Convention.  The USCA maintained close contact with the government of Japan in 2012 and 2013 as Japan’s parliament prepared and passed the necessary legislation to implement the Convention.  On April 1, 2014, the Convention entered into force between the United States and Japan.  Since April, the USCA has developed a close and productive working relationship with the Japan Central Authority.

The USCA continues to urge Japanese action on non-Convention cases.  There are still more than 50 non-Convention cases of abduction to Japan, all of which predate Japan’s ratification of the Convention.  Many of these have been pending for years.  In these cases, parents are not able to seek return of their children under the Convention; however as of December 31, 2014, US left behind parents have filed 31 Convention access applications.  Of the few cases of which the USCA is aware in which parents have sought redress in Japanese family courts, none have resulted in either meaningful parental access or the return of the child to the United States.  [Emphasis added].

The USCA and the US diplomatic mission in Japan work with the Japanese government to bring about the return of abducted children to the United States or to obtain parental access.  The Department’s efforts have included individual requests through diplomatic channels seeking Japanese assistance in enforcing US parents’ rights and in persuading taking parents to provide access; exchanges and training for lawyers and officials; and outreach and public diplomacy efforts.  The Department continues to encourage the government of Japan to remove obstacles that parents still face in gaining access to or return of their children.  Meanwhile, the Japanese government is developing its own resources to address issues related to child abduction since joining the Convention.  Many of these initiatives, such as promoting mediation and alternative dispute resolution methods as a way for parents to reach agreement, using video-conferencing to foster communication between parents and children, and engaging in pubic outreach activities, may assist in non-Convention cases as well.  Despite these encouraging steps, during the reporting period almost all of these cases remained unresolved.  [Emphasis again added].

Japan also features in Table 3 (at page 22 of the report), a list of countries that qualify for ‘recommendations’ to apply to them because they have 5 or more pending abduction cases as at the end of the reporting period.  Six ‘recommendations’ are available in these circumstances (see the list at page 20 of the report); Table 3 indicates that the 3 less significant ones fall to apply, namely in the case of Japan:

The State Department promotes training with judicial and administrative authorities on the effective handling of international parental abduction (IPCA) cases.

The Department promotes training with law enforcement entities on how to effectively locate children and enforce court-ordered returns.

Embassy and consulate public affairs and consular sections promote the resolution of IPCA cases with public diplomacy and outreach activities.

These sanctions are, of course, a very light touch.  Japan was not on the more serious list of ‘countries demonstrating a pattern on non-compliance’ (see Table 4 from page 30 of the report) but the first year’s report only covered 3 months – it will be interesting to see whether, over the course of 2015, Japan so lets down children and parents that it makes it into this hall of shame.