Kidnapped by Japan - How A Mother's Dying Wish Led To A Father's Unimaginable Loss

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Kidnapped By Japan - Update

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According to The Asahi Shimbum:

Japan to sign parental-abduction treaty


Japan will sign a treaty obliging the government to return to the rightful parent children of broken international marriages who are wrongfully taken and kept in Japan, sources said Friday.

The Justice Ministry will begin work to review current laws with an eye on meeting requirements under the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the sources said. The government plans to conclude the treaty as early as in 2010.

The decision was reached amid criticism against Japan over unauthorized transfer and retention cases involving children. The governments of Canada and the United States have raised the issue with Japan and cited a number of incidents involving their nationals, blasting such acts as tantamount to abductions.

In one case, a Japanese woman who divorced her Canadian husband took their children to Japan for what she said would be a short visit to let the kids see an ailing grandparent. But the woman and her children never returned to Canada.

Once parents return to their home countries with their children, their former spouses are often unable to find their children. In Japan, court rulings and custody orders issued in foreign countries are not recognized.

Under the convention, signatory parties are obliged to set up a "central authority" within their government. The authority works two ways.

It can demand other governments return children unlawfully transferred and retained. But it is also obliged to find the location within its own country of a child unlawfully taken and retained, take measures to prevent the child from being moved out of the country, and support legal procedures to return the child to the rightful parent.

Sources said the Japanese government will likely set up a central authority within the Justice Ministry, which oversees immigration and family registry records. The ministry has decided to work on a new law that will detail the procedures for the children's return.

In 2006, there were about 44,700 marriages between Japanese and foreign nationals in Japan, about 1.5 times the number in 1996. Divorces involving such couples more than doubled from about 8,000 in 1996 to 17,000 in 2006.
While this sounds positive, any optimism must be tempered by the reality of the fact that, although Japan has agreed to sign the Convention, its requirements remain contrary to Japanese custom, calling Japan's commitment into question. Signing the Convention, which at best is still two years off, does not guarantee immediate action. In order for any real action to take place Japan will first need to overhaul significant portions of its family law system. More than that is required though as even modified laws are only as good as the judges and police whose job it will be to enforce the new system and historically they have frequently chosen to ignore mandates with which they disagree. Or as The Japan Times stated,

“Professor Colin Jones of Doshisha University testifies in a recent law journal article, ‘In the Best Interests of the Court: What American Lawyers Need to Know about Child Custody and Visitation in Japan,’ … Japanese courts often act in the ‘best interests of the court’ to protect themselves from becoming irrelevant to society due to their inability to enforce their own orders. This authoritative source ensures that future judges will understand the unique meaning of the ‘best interests of the child’ in Japan and realize that even Japanese court orders are not enforceable, so neither are foreign ones.”
To compound the uncertainty, whatever inroads are made in the current system with the impending signing of the Hague Convention, the case of Paul Wong and his daughter Kaya remains even more problematic than most as it doesn't involve a divorce as do almost all other cases of Japanese child abduction, but involves one parent's death. Although this might logically seem more straightforward, the fact that it is an unusual case may very well place it outside whatever the rules for child custody of which Japan finally decides to abide.

The truly encouraging aspect of this news is that it shows that Japan is susceptible to international pressure and it should act as an impetus for further action to speed Japan along the way to rectifying its inhumane policy of kidnapping foreign children. Therefore the following actions from the original post are even more necessary than before:

This story needs the kind of exposure that will cause the Japanese government to feel the shame that it should. You can help by emailing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi here and Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid here. Let our Congressional leaders know of your awareness of this issue and your belief that it needs to be addressed now so that not another day passes where another American family and its children are torn apart, or in Paul's case, his daughter continues to be ripped away from her sole remaining parent to one day become a ward of the state.

In addition you can email your local newspaper, call local or national radio talk shows and inform them of this injustice.

The Japan Children's Rights Network offers a number of avenues that can be used to spread the word, as well and CRC Japan has a Yahoo group that can be used to help families torn apart by Japan's custodial policies get the word out.

Paul Wong can be reached at where you can leave ideas, notes of encouragement etc.

And finally, if you have a blog please consider posting about this story. The fate of these kidnapped children is now in our hands.

International Family Law News and Analysis is also skeptical

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