Foreign minister to handle parental abductions


Responsibility for collecting data on parental abductions to Japan and settling cross-border child custody disputes resulting from failed international marriages will rest with the foreign minister, new guidelines said Sunday.

The guidelines, drafted by the Foreign Ministry ahead of Tokyo’s signing of the Hague Convention, state that the foreign minister can ask local governments, police, schools, childcare facilities and shelters for abuse victims to determine the whereabouts of abducted children.

The Hague Convention is an international treaty spelling out procedures for settling international child custody disputes. Japan is the only member of the Group of Eight major countries that hasn’t joined the convention.

The government is aiming to submit a bill to the Diet in March for endorsing the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and have it enacted during the 150-day session, which opens Tuesday. The convention took effect in 1983. The bill will state that a central authority will be established at the ministry to locate children wrongfully removed or retained by a parent and to secure their voluntary return in response to requests from the other parent, government officials said.

The guidelines state that those asked by the foreign minister to provide information on abducted children will be required to do so “without any delay.”

The minister could also inform the parents involved about a Japanese mediation system that represents another option for resolving custody disputes, the guidelines say.