27 January 2014 - Japan Joins 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention

Japan Joins 1980 Hague
 Child Abduction Convention

G'day folks,

I'm always prepared to honour and acknowledge good works on this blog. Well, you may recall that I had a special guest on my blog some time back – Peter Thomas Senese. Peter has been involved in the prevention of child abduction for a long time. Who is he? What does he do?

“The I CARE Foundation is deeply committed to preventing child abduction and trafficking from occurring.  Truth is, regardless if a child is kidnapped by a parent or a stranger, that child is placed in grave jeopardy.  Protecting children from abduction and trafficking requires an indefatigable commitment to stand unbowed so children and their families may never know the nightmare of the missing. The reality is that children of abduction, regardless if they are taken by a stranger or a parent, are emotionally, spiritually, and often severely physically abused.  Too many children never come home: they can't. They're gone forever. And for those that do, particularly those who were victims of international parental abduction, they return with a stripped identity. Often these child-victims face severe short-term and long-term life-challenges that cause them to question their own life value and worth. Tragically, some see their identity as the reason for great disharmony amongst their family.

Understanding the reality of what the end of the line is for many targeted children of abduction, we are deeply committed to preventing abduction. Our concentration focuses on stopping international parental child abductions.  Since the I CARE Foundation formally commenced operations, the U.S. reported cases of IPCA has declined by 28% during fiscal years 2011 and 2012.  We expect the reported cases in 2013 to significantly decline. This is remarkable when considering that there was a decade-long average growth rate of over 20% per year. “

Good news!

 Japanese Ambassador Masaru Tsuji (second from left) and  Hague Conference Secretary General Christophe Bernasconi
  (far right) show Japan's ratificaiton documents to the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention.

Today in Tokyo, the Government of Japan approved ratification of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention; a few hours later, the Japanese Ambassador to the Netherlands, Mr. Masaru Tsuji, deposited the instrument of ratification, making Japan the 91st Contracting State to this important treaty. This significant development reaffirms that diplomatic efforts among the international community, together with the invaluable assistance provided by the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, are working; it also reaffirms that the Hague Child Abduction Convention is the proper mechanism for all governments and families around the world to utilize in order to settle international child abduction disputes.

Japan’s ratification of the Convention comes after long-standing multi-lateral diplomatic efforts combined with global public outcry over Japan’s previous failure to participate in the international child abduction treaty and to offer victimized children and targeted parents of abduction a vehicle to turn to in order to resolve international parental child abduction disputes.

The 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention will enter into force for Japan on April 1st, 2014. Under Japan’s participation, foreign parents who have previously had a child internationally abducted to Japan are not eligible to file a Hague Application or utilize the treaty. Retroactivity remains a concern for hundreds of left-behind parents still seeking to reunite with their kidnapped children.

The 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention seeks to combat parental child abduction by providing a system of co-operation between Contracting States and a rapid procedure for the return of the child to the country of the child’s habitual residence. Judges overseeing litigation revolving around the1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention are not to determine issues of custody as that issue typically falls under the jurisdiction of the courts located in the child’s country of habitual residency.

Japan’s ratification of the convention demonstrates that international diplomacy and education continues to work, while also creating a stronger atmosphere for other countries that are not participants to the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention, such as India, to strongly consider ratification.
In the past, Japan has been considered a ‘black hole’ for international parental child abductors as the overwhelming number of children abducted to Japan by a Japanese national living abroad have not been returned to the child’s country of original jurisdiction.

The vast majority of left-behind parents are fathers residing in Europe and North America. Tragically, the targeted parent often has little or no rights of access or custody to their child once the child lands in Japan due to the country’s antiquated and prejudicial family law policies that tend to grant a child’s mother sole custody of the child while simultaneously removing the child’s father’s access to the child. Japan’s legal system does not recognize the concept of joint-custody.

In May 2013, the Diet had approved Japan’s compliance to the treaty, sending out a clear indicator that the country was steadily moving toward participation. Until today, Japan was the only country in the Group of Eight (G8) that has not affirmed the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention.

The following month (June) Japan’s Parliament enacted a law stipulating domestic implementation procedures for the Hague child abduction treaty.

Japan’s Parliament established procedures requiring the country to create a Central Authority under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry. The Central Authority’s responsibilities include the tasks of locating children who have been abducted and encourage families involved in international parental child abduction claims to settle disputes through consultations. 
If the consultations fail, family courts in Tokyo and Osaka specifically trained in 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention matters will decide on matters. The Central Authority will be staffed with legal experts in international private law as well child psychologist and domestic violence counselors. A third Hague Court location could later be added.

Under the terms of Japan’s Parliamentary action in June, 2013 the new law provides grounds for refusal to return a child if abuse or domestic violence is feared, issues that are expected to draw keen interest in light of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention’s Article 13, a provision that is almost always utilized by parental child abductors regardless of the gender of the abductor.

Child abduction prevention advocates from around the world hope that Japan’s ratification of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention will further push non-Hague countries including India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Philippines, and China (mainland) who are all believed to be actively assessing the Convention with a view to becoming a party to. 

Today Japan has taken its place at the table of nations and finally a stand against the atrocity of international parental child abduction and severe abuse against targeted children and their families.  As Japan works to uphold the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention we must first and foremost not forget the children who have been abducted to Japan and their left-behind families, many whom successfully advocated for Japan’s ratification of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention.

Clancy's comment:  Well done, Japan. Peter has many other talents as well. He is an author of some note. Check out his books. Pete, I take my hat off to you.

Love ya work!

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