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In Japan, many parents kidnap their children with impunity

original article in French appears here:

Au Japon, de nombreux parents kidnappent leurs enfants en toute impunité

Par Johann Fleuri

Here is our English translation below.
please refer to

In Japan, many parents kidnap their children with impunity

By Johann Fleuri

Every year in Japan, 150,000 minors are kidnapped by one of the parents who cuts off all contact. The second parent, often the father, then has no recourse to the authorities to maintain a link with his children. Febrile, Vincent Fichot speaks. The room is packed, Japanese and international media cameras are focused on him. By proxy, his wife, a Japanese national, warned him that if he speaks publicly about their family situation, he will never see his two children, aged 3 and 1 and a half years old, with whom he no longer has contact for four months. A few days before Christmas, the father is heartbroken. "Children I love you very much, I miss you," he said on the microphone, in French. This message, his children will probably never hear, but for him it is essential, visceral to send it, like a bottle in the sea.

"Japan is in an extreme violation of the rights of the child"

Even though Japan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994 and signed the Hague Convention in 2014, "they are not enforced," says John Gomez, Chairman of Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion. "Japan is in an extreme violation of the rights of the child because of a weak policy on the rights of families and the consequences that result from this lack." According to the research of the association based on official statistics 150,000 children are affected by the deprivation of one of their parents in Japan [per year]. "That's 3 million in twenty years. If we add the distress of the parent who has his or her children abducted, we can properly speak of 6 million victims."

According to the ratified Conventions and Article 766 of the Japanese Civil Code, the child should be able to communicate with both parents and be protected from abduction by one of them. Custody should also be granted for the well-being of the child. But as the principle of joint custody does not exist, it is entrusted to one of the parents who can choose to disappear. This is the case of Vincent Fichot but also Yusuke Nagatomo, Tommaso Perina, and HA, who have not seen their offspring for months, even years for some. The first three do not have the right to come into contact with them, on pain of prosecution or even imprisonment.

Yusuke Nagatomo, director of an audiovisual production company, has not seen his five-year-old son since February 2017. His wife went to pick him up at the nursery one night and never returned. Accused of domestic violence, Yusuke Nagatomo denies and "still does not understand why she is lying.” He wonders: "How can she prove that since she has invented everything?" What worries him the most is that "my son does not know that I think of him and that I want to see him.” HA is also worried about her two 13 and 16-year-old daughters. Her ex-husband, who has custody, plans to move to Singapore with her new wife "while the communication was cordial, and we live close to each other to facilitate the lives of our daughters." Outside Japan, her rights will no longer be recognized. "What I criticize the current Japanese system about is that it does not seek to understand individual family situations in depth. If the child is nurtured and healthy where he is, that parent is given custody, and the second parent is excluded without qualms."

"The child is considered the property of the home"

The main problem is that "justice is on the side of the parent who kidnapped the children," said Akira Ueno, a lawyer with the firm Nihombashi Sakura in Tokyo. The child is considered the property of the home not like an individual with rights; it is an object that is moved like a piece of furniture." After the abduction, "the police have one year to investigate, if at the end of this period it is estimated that children are not at risk in their new home, custody is automatically granted to the kidnapping parent." During the course of the proceedings, Japanese justice will not help the excluded parent maintain contact with his children, "out of respect for the new home based around the single parent.”

Noriko Odagiri, a professor of clinical psychology at the Tokyo International University, denounces these practices as "extremely harmful to the development of the child who imagines being rejected by her second parent." It is a devastating trauma that may cause long-term risky behavior such as school failure, hypersexuality and self-destruction. "Last year, the number of children who committed suicide reached a record for thirty years. "I think there is a link of cause and effect," says Tommaso Perina, who has seen his wife disappear with his two children. Yusuke Nagatomo does not forget the story of "Arnaud Simon who has put an end to his life after the disappearance of his son.”

In March, 26 representatives from European countries sent a letter to the Japanese Ministry of Justice to raise these issues. At present, "the kidnapping of a child by one of his parents is not recognized as a crime in Japan," says John Gomez.

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