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U.K. orders child back to Japan under Hague Convention

First Japanese returned under newly inked abduction treaty

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

A court in the United Kingdom has ordered that a Japanese child living with its mother in Britain be returned to Japan under The Hague Convention on cross-border parental child abduction, which took effect in Japan in April, sources said Tuesday.

It’s the first time a Japanese child has been ordered returned since Japan formally joined The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, according to the Foreign Ministry’s The Hague Convention Division.

According to Hirotaka Honda, a lawyer representing the father, the Japanese couple are estranged and going through a divorce.

The mother took their 7-year-old child to Britain at the end of March, because of her work. The father understood that the child would be away only for four weeks, but when the child didn’t return as expected, the father applied to the British government in May for support based on the provision of the international treaty.

On July 22, Britain’s High Court ruled that keeping the child in the country was illegal under the international treaty, and ordered the mother to return the child to Japan by Wednesday.

“I welcome the appropriate judgment,” Honda told The Japan Times. “Without The Hague Convention, I believe that the way to raise the child was made only by the mother’s decision.”

The mother reportedly said that her work took her to England, and she had no intention of abducting the child. She was quoted as saying she was planning to return the child to Japan at the end of the month, regardless of the court’s decision.

The Hague Convention 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.

Parents who have had children taken to Japan can ask for support from the foreign affairs ministry or central authority in their own country in charge of locating children who have been abducted.

The Hague Convention was drafted in 1980 to ensure that children abducted and taken overseas by a parent in a failed international marriage are promptly returned to their country of habitual residence.

Japan’s longtime refusal to sign the convention earned it a reputation as a “safe haven” for international child abductions.

But since Tokyo’s entry into the pact in April, parents who have had a child taken to Japan can receive public support from the Foreign Ministry or the central authority in their own country in charge of locating children who have been spirited away.

In the latest case, the child was whisked away from Japan, and Britain, where the child is staying, is obliged to do the same because it is a signatory of the convention.

  • Ron NJ

    Now let’s see if it works in the other direction.

    • phu

      “But since Tokyo’s entry into the pact in April, the Foreign Ministry has been legally bound to locate abducted children and facilitate their return at the request of parents abroad.”

      I don’t think this part of the article is exactly accurate, and I believe the Japanese government has already stated this is not how it sees the convention. Previous comments have almost certainly indicated their position is flexible in cases where it sees the potential for abuse — a claim long abused itself by Japanese parental abductors — though I can’t find a quote right now.

      • Firas Kraïem

        Well, the convention itself probably allows exceptions for cases of abuse, as well. And damn right it should.

      • R0ninX3ph

        It most certainly should have clauses when it comes to abuse, I think phu’s point was more than in the past Japanese parents have claimed abuse regardless of any abuse actually taking place, and when it comes to the Japanese court system, when has it ever been favourable to foreigners over Japanese citizens?

      • phu

        Indeed. I agree with Firas; it wasn’t my intention to say that abuse either doesn’t happen or shouldn’t be a reason to keep children away from a bad parent. It’s just that it’s also been a convenient way for Japanese courts to avoid uncomfortable conflict without, in many if not most cases, bothering to ascertain the truth of such accusations. Particularly when the accused party is the non-Japanese parent.

      • Mark Makino

        The country where the abuse supposedly took place is the best place to determine the truth of the accusation, hence it should not be an exception unless there is reason to believe the courts in that country would not treat the abuse allegation with sufficient seriousness.

  • Tim Johnston

    Good news for the Father.
    Hope these cases also involve foreign parents as well in the future. Seems as if the law works better for the Japanese thus far.
    Congratulations that they will be reunited and wish both parties involved a peaceful resolution.
    Tim Johnston Japan

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    Interesting to see if Japan will do this. Japan is very good at benefitting from treaties – I suspect not so good at meeting its obligations. I would be happy to be proven wrong.

  • Tim Johnston

    Out of all the LBP in Japan, I don’t know of one case yet, that a child has been returned to any parent within the foreign community.Foreign Parents have been lobbying for years to make/Get Japan to sign onto the Hague convention, yet if you live in Japan, The Japanese government refuses to help you,but if you live Outside of Japan they said the will assist, does this make any sense to any sane person?

    Why would someone move overseas to get assistance, yet when they live here they should have access.
    As, I always say………Yes means no and No means yes in Japan……….act like you are helping to save face and avoid the true problem at hand, while just complicating things with a bow or smile.
    Shouganai ne!!
    Tim