Two children from separate families who were taken by one of their parents to Switzerland and the United States were returned to Japan last month in accordance with the Hague convention on child abduction, Foreign Ministry officials said Friday.
According to the ministry, an 8-year-old child was taken to Switzerland by his American father. The Japanese mother successfully applied in August for help from the ministry.
After Swiss authorities tracked down the child, a Swiss court issued an order in September for the child to return to Japan.
In the other case, the mother took her 3-year-old child to the United States, prompting the father to seek assistance from the ministry in June. After negotiations, the mother and child voluntarily returned to Japan, the ministry said.
The ministry did not disclose the sex of the children.
Since Japan joined the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in April, the ministry has received 77 requests for assistance as of Friday.
Of those requests, 57 involved parents seeking visitation, eight others wanted the return of a child taken abroad from Japan, and 12 sought the return of a child brought to Japan from overseas.
The pact, only recently signed by Japan, sets out the rules and procedures for promptly returning children under 16 taken or retained by one parent, to their country of habitual residence if requested by the other parent.
The treaty was applied to help resolve cross-border custody disputes involving a Japanese national for the first time in July, when a British court ordered the return of a 7-year-old child who had been taken to Britain and kept there by the child’s Japanese mother.
In that case, the Japanese father did not ask for help from the Japanese ministry, but sought assistance from British authorities.
According to the father’s lawyer, the mother took their 7-year-old child to Britain at the end of March because of her work, as the Japanese couple were going through a divorce. When the child didn’t return in four weeks as the father expected, he applied to the British government in May for support based on the international treaty.
Britain’s High Court later ruled that keeping the child in the country was illegal under the international treaty and ordered the mother to return the child to Japan.
The mother reportedly said that her work took her to England, and she had no intention of abducting the child. She said she was planning to return the child to Japan at the end of the month, regardless of the court’s decision.