Sankei articles April 16, 2017
Hague Convention criticism article translation.
Three years after the Hague Convention ratification,
Japan’s approach towards it is being criticized both within our country and abroad. “Taking away” a child in English is called “abduction” or “kidnapping”
When it comes to parental child abduction, voices pointing out the deficiency of Japan's prevention and resolution system are becoming louder and louder both in Japan and abroad. Currently in the National Diet it’s been pointed out that “leaving things as they are means that abductions will keep coming”, and several groups of left-behind parents have requested the government to come up with countermeasures. Abroad there are also voices requesting sanctions towards Japan. Three years have passed since the Hague Convention came into effect in Japan, and the way our country is dealing with it is under strict observation. (Yuichi Onoda)
“While Japan is a member of the Hague Convention, within Japan, parental abductions are substantially tolerated, moreover the standard is ‘who abducts the child first wins’”, “taking the child away in English is called ‘abduction’ or ‘kidnapping.’ Some Japanese women who have abducted children from the U.S. even end up among the Most Wanted International Criminals list. According to the ‘Goldman Act,’ which stipulates sanctions against countries not complying with the return of children, there is also the possibility that the U.S. will sanction Japan.”
These are things pointed out by the Diet Member Kenta Matsunami (45) of the Japan Restoration Party during two sessions of the House of Representatives Budget and Justice committees. In addition to this, he questioned the government officials about the fact that the current system easily awards the custody of children to the parent who abducts them first.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (62) replied that “custody is decided upon taking into consideration the overall circumstances for each case separately.” The Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida (59) also showed the understanding that “so far there has not been a single case in which the Goldman Act sanctions have been applied, therefore we believe that the possibilities for Japan to be sanctioned are low.”
Mr. Matsunami said, "In the case of custody disputes, Japan gives too much importance to the ‘principle of continuity’ (basically, even though the child has been abducted, as long as there is no problem with the new environment, the priority is given to keeping the situation as is.) As a result, the government should recognize that parental abductions will not stop.”
On March 22, a group of left-behind parents signed a petition seeking to promote policies that would make parental abductions stop.
A man from this group said, "In many developed countries, parental abduction and abuse are considered penal crimes. Kidnapping is also considered a penal crime in Japan, however parental abduction is simply considered a domestic matter, so the Penal Code is not usually applied. Japan must also apply the Penal Code for this type of matters and stop parental abduction once and for all.”
Overseas, on April 6, there had been a hearing regarding the Goldman Act at the Human Rights Subcommittee of the U.S. Congress House of Representatives, and some American citizens, whose children have been abducted to several countries including Japan, testified. At the beginning of the hearing, the Chairman said that the reply of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Kishida was “outrageous”, and there was also an instance in which he said that “Japan must be sanctioned.”
A man whose four children were abducted by his Japanese spouse also said that “the Osaka High Court revoked the previous return order, this is a violation of the Hague Convention. President Trump should bring the topic towards Japan at the next G7 Summit. We must activate sanctions against Japan.”
According to the man’s testimony, in January last year the Osaka High Court decided that the children should be returned to the U.S. However, the wife filed a new lawsuit, and in February this year the same High Court overturned its previous ruling with the reason that “the man cannot provide for his children, so it’s not appropriate for them to be returned to him.” He then confirmed that he intends to bring his case to the Supreme Court.
This is also in Italy, several news agencies including the major newspaper La Stampa wrote about an Italian man whose children were abducted by his Japanese wife. There have been lots of reactions and requests to the Italian government in order to act towards Japan.
Regarding these movements, the Hague Convention Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “The Hague Convention allows the possibility not to return the children in case of grave risk. It is regretful that an American citizen alleges that this is a violation of the Convention principles.” Also, “Not all the signatory countries of the Convention publicly announce their results, but we believe that the approach and results obtained by Japan do not fall behind those of other member countries.”
MoFA achievements article translation.
Thirty percent of internationally abducted children are returned three years after the Hague Convention was implemented,
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs summarized the results
When it comes to international parental child abductions, for example children born from international marriages, in principle, the Hague Convention stipulates that the children have to be returned to the original country of residence. On April 15 I learned that for cases related to Japan, the rate of children being returned is about 30%. The Hague Convention came into effect 3 years ago on April 1, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs summarized the results up to March 31.
According to the Convention, the parents whose children have been abducted can apply for assistance to their country’s central institution (in Japan it’s the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) in order to have the children returned to their home country. The central institution offers assistance with the negotiations between married couples. If the negotiations cannot come to a conclusion, the courts will have to decide whether the children should be returned or not. Although the principle is for the children to be returned, if (1) the children have adapted themselves to the new environment, (2) the return of the children can adversely affect their physical and mental health and harm them or (3) for example the children don’t want to return, etc. exceptions can be made to avoid the children’s return.
To summarize, the number of applications to assist the “return of children from Japan towards foreign countries” is 68, while 56 were the applications for the “return of children from foreign countries towards Japan.” Among these, there have been 20 cases of “children returned from Japan towards foreign countries”, and 19 cases of “children returned from foreign countries towards Japan”, turning up with an overall return rate of about 30%.
On the other hand, there were 16 cases of “children not returned from Japan to foreign countries”, and 8 cases of “children not returned from foreign countries to Japan.”
The Convention was established in 1980. Japan ratified it in April 2014 in order to deal with the parental abduction problem related to the increasing number of international marriages.
[Glossary] The Hague Convention
International regulation for protecting children from being “taken” to one parent’s home country without the consent of the other parent. Children that have been abducted face parental alienation and separation from relatives and friends, and on top of this have to adapt to living in a different environment with a different language. This sudden change of living conditions can have harmful effects on the children, and as a principle, the parents are obliged to return them to their original country of residence.