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Diet passes Hague-compliance law

Kyodo

The Diet enacted a law Wednesday needed to ratify an international treaty to help settle cross-border child custody disputes, paving the way for Japan to join the pact possibly early next year.

The Upper House at its plenary session unanimously approved the legislation, which stipulates domestic procedures for enforcing the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Diet endorsed the treaty in late May.

After completing all domestic procedures, the government aims to join the convention with 89 signatories by the end of this year. The pact sets out rules and procedures for the prompt return to the country of habitual residence of children under 16 taken or retained by one parent, if requested by the other parent.

Japan will be the last Group of Eight member to accede to the treaty. The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had planned to have both the Hague treaty and the legislation on domestic procedures clear the Diet ahead of this year’s G-8 summit to be held in Northern Ireland starting next Monday.

The other G-8 members are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the U.S. and Russia.

Under the legislation, a central authority will be set up in the Foreign Ministry to locate children who have been taken away and encourage the people involved to settle the dispute through consultations.

If the consultations fail, family courts in Tokyo and Osaka will decide on the matter. The legislation also allows a party to refuse to hand over a child if abuse or domestic violence is feared.

  • phu

    “The legislation also allows a party to refuse to hand over a child if abuse or domestic violence is feared.”

    This is the unfortunate footnote that makes the legislation almost entirely toothless. As soon as the abducting Japanese parent (because they’ll certainly expect prompt resolution if a Japanese national’s child is similarly taken) decides not to hand over their captive, all they have to do is say they “fear abuse or domestic violence.” Anecdotally, this already happens all the time, but now it’s an official excuse.

    It’s great that Japan is considering being part of the convention, but it’s sad and frustrating that it’s so obviously neutering enforcement. Hopefully this does not make it past international scrutiny.

    • Masa Chekov

      No, I hope this is just honestly enforced. Certainly there are cases of abuse in international marriages, so children who may be subject to abuse should not be returned to the abusive parent.

      As long as this is HONESTLY implemented, I don’t understand the objection.

      • Ben Snyder

        What Phu points out, however, is that we have almost no reason to believe that honest implementation will take place. The fact that we’re talking about this 33 years late by itself should be cause for caution and close monitoring of the next few of these cases to be brought to court.

    • Trevor Cobb

      History of abuse is already considered by the courts in the US (and I’m assuming most countries) when issuing a custody order in the first place. If additional abuse has occurred since the custody order that the parent coming to japan to have enforced under the Hague convention, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for the Japanese courts to review that. One can’t just claim abuse though. There has to be documented evidence vis-a-vis hospital visits, photographs, police records, arrest records, etc…