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Hague treaty returns two children to Japan

Kyodo, JIJI

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.

  • Charlie Sommers

    Cases like this bring many questions to my mind. Was the child consulted before the decision was made? If the father is American why is the child referred to as a Japanese child? Can the child speak Japanese or will he be plunged into an environment in which he will not be able to converse with others his age and in all probability be bullied? Did the mother consider these questions before she petitioned for the return of her child?

    • Firas Kraïem

      Did you pay attention to anything? The Hague convention specifically mandates a child’s return to his or her “habitual country of residence” after having been taken to another country by one parent without the consent of the other. Hence, Japan was the habitual country of residence of the child (otherwise the Convention wouldn’t apply) and barring evidence to the contrary one can only assume that the child was well-integrated in Japan.

      Also, if the father is American and the mother is Japanese, then the child is Japanese. He or she is also American, but this seems irrelevant here.

      • Charlie Sommers

        I paid a great deal of attention, however none of these points were addressed directly in the article. I still would like to know if the child was questioned as to what his desires were. Custody battles, international or not, often ignore this very important issue, If the child holds dual citizenship I believe I would have described him as a Japanese/American if I had written the article, rather than “a Japanese Child” as the writer did.

      • itoshima2012

        trying to find the needle in the hay stake ehi….. what difference does it make to call him Japanese, American, Japanese/American…. what a pain

      • Charlie Sommers

        It really makes no difference at all in the long run but should have been correctly addressed by the reporter writing the article.

      • Earl Kinmonth

        Child would not have American citizenship unless born in the US or the parent with American citizenship meets certain requirements. http://travel.state.gov/content/travel/english/legal-considerations/us-citizenship-laws-policies/citizenship-child-born-abroad.html Also, nationality is not the same thing as ethnic idenity. I am a Japanese citizen but I was a native born American citizen and despite being a Japanese citizen, I do not consider myself Japanese in any ethnic sense.

    • Guest

      It’s all too obvious from your comment that you want the Hague convention to be invoked when wanting to repatriate a child from Japan to another country. When vice versa, you have a problem.

      In 2008 or 2009 an American abducted his children and fled to the American embassy. Back then there was outcry that Japan should ratify the Hague convention since the child was originally taken from the US by the mother and brought to Japan despite a US custody granting custody to the father. Now that the convention has been ratified but Japanese parents are using it to their benefit, the likes of you have problems again.

      Your second comment about calling the child Japanese rather than American further attests to your mistaken belief in the Hague convention protecting American citizens’s interests exclusively. Sop daydreaming.

    • Guest

      It’s all too obvious from your comment that you want the Hague convention to be invoked when wanting to repatriate a child from Japan to another country. When vice versa, you have a problem.

      In 2008 or 2009 an American abducted his children and fled to the American embassy. Back then there was outcry that Japan should ratify the Hague convention since the child was originally taken from the US by the mother and brought to Japan despite a US custody granting custody to the father. Now that the convention has been ratified but Japanese parents are using it to their benefit, the likes of you have problems again.

      Your second comment about calling the child Japanese rather than American further attests to your mistaken belief in the Hague convention protecting American citizens’s interests exclusively. Stop daydreaming.

    • James

      It’s all too obvious from your comment that you want the Hague convention to be invoked when wanting to repatriate a child from Japan to another country. When vice versa, you have a problem.

      In 2008 or 2009 an American abducted his children and fled to the American embassy. Back then there was outcry that Japan should ratify the Hague convention since the child was originally taken from the US by the mother and brought to Japan despite a US court granting custody to the father. Now that the convention has been ratified but Japanese parents are using it to their benefit, the likes of you have problems again.

      Your second comment about calling the child Japanese rather than American further attests to your mistaken belief in the Hague convention protecting American citizens’s interests exclusively. Sop daydreaming.

      • Charlie Sommers

        I concur with you and have “soped” daydreaming. :-)

      • Gordon Graham

        Isn’t that the case in which the father dumped the mother for his lover immediately upon arrival to the States then hustled his kids off to court to procure a favourable ruling on his home turf. I believe the court granted joint custody. However, his wife became a kidnapper when she took her kids home…to Japan. The kids being born and raised in Japan for all but one year, the Hague Convention could have saved her from being a felon if only signed sooner.

    • Gordon Graham

      Telling that your queries put the onus on the mother…”did the mother consider this before she petitioned for the return of the child?”. Did the father consider whether or not his child could speak French, German or Italian, before uprooting him and taking him to Switzerland? Was the child consulted before being taken from his home and friends? As the rules concerning the return of a child who has been wrongfully abducted to a country other than that of his or her “habitual country of residence” by a parent have been laid out in the Hague Convention perhaps a quick Google search would yield some helpful answers.

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    Why does the Japan Times not report how many abducted children have been returned the other way – from Japan to overseas signatories of the treaty? Because the answer is none and will always be none. And Caroline Kennedy looks away and shrugs impotently. What a waste of time as a US Ambassador!

    • Gordon Graham

      Because the Japan Times is all about inflaming the righteous indignation of malcontent ex-pats.

      • qwerty

        or maybe because the answer really is “none”

  • Tim Johnston

    This is great news for the Parents to be reunited with their children here in Japan, Just waiting for one of all the Foreign parents to have one of their children returned from Japanese soil to a foreign country.
    Tim Johnston Japan

    • tony

      While I agree that’s child should always be return to the habitual residence, provided is safe, the article fail to mention that probably the father was desparate as he knew that in a Japanese court he would have not right to see his child. The Japanese courts always give children to their mother with no visitation right for the father. If the system was fairer perhaps people would not have to resort to act of desperation like abduction.

      (this is not a reply to Tim, just pressed the wrong button)

      • Gordon Graham

        I agree that no access to children for any parent is insanity…absolute insanity!

      • tony

        This reason could be the defense case against the return.

      • Gordon Graham

        unless of course the parent is abusive…

      • tony

        The best interest of the child is what need to prevail in any case.

        I have been gone through the system here in UK and I can tell that this is not often the case, although I have the residence of my daughter.

        Unfortunately the Japanese system does not provide for access for the other parent and nothing good can come out out of this. Only fathers committing suicide or abductions or fatherless children

  • PuyiGoroIgor

    Why at all , I wonder , do these people pretend to love these mixed parentage children so much as to abduct and /or retain them,in most legal cases against foreigners yet they NEVER induct them in mainstream Japanese society? Has anyone of you readers seen any” Haafu ” in the Japanese civil service ? or any where else in a visible public employment ? Japan is a hideous practitioner of the doctrine of exclusion, more so to its mixed blood (” konketsu “) citizens.. We shouldn’t ourselves ask this ?

    • Gordon Graham

      Sure, guy…the guys in the black trucks are abducting kids of mixed parentage in order to prevent them from entering mainstream Japanese society. The only thing clear about your incoherent babble is the hate that rings loud and clear.

    • Earl Kinmonth

      There are in fact “haafu” in prominent positions in Japan. For example, Renho, a member of the upper house and a cabinet member under the DPJ government is half Japanese and half Chinese. “Japan’s homerun king” Sadaharu Oh is also half Japanese and half Chinese and is moreover not a Japanese citizen. A number of prominent sports and entertainment personalities in Japan are “haafu” with parents from a wide range of countries. If you read Japanese, it is easy enough to search on the Internet and find lists of “haafu” who are prominent in various of activity. Here is one such list to get you started. http://www.kanshin.com/keyword/1278224 My children are “haafu.” They’ve never been excluded from anything on this basis.

      • PuyiGoroIgor

        Thanks Earl. I do realize that most of the prominent ” Haafu ” have features that resemble the Japanese and most probably had to hide their foreign roots at some point to get to where they are, it seems the Japanese don’t want to stray far from the center. Sir, I lived in Hokkaido for 20 yrs with ” haafu ” children too, they went to Japanese school with other pure-blood Japanese but is it far fetched to say they have no chance since they are half Africans and I’d like to think there have been many “haafu” of various nationalities before them but, in my twenty yrs, I met NONE in the police, teachers, civil service ( both central and local gvmnts) .
        Many of the prominent ones are talented in their fields where they didn’t have to go through institutional bureaucracy, they’d have gotten nowhere. Renho is half Taiwanese, I remember an incident when she asked ” Is it a must to be No.1 what’s wrong with No.2 or 3 ? ” and all of a sudden her origins and loyalty were called into question, and with it lots of unnecessary ad femina. It would be nice to go to a post office, a local government agency e.t.c and see some faces that reflect the world family, after all, we have them in US and many other CIVILIZED and Not-so-civilized countries. Such precedents also assure the coming generations of ” Haafus” that there is a place for them in the Japanese society.
        That we are are having this discussion in 2014, on its own is an indiction of the skewed playing field that is Japan.

      • Earl Kinmonth

        Most “haafu” are probably not in Japan. Until relatively recently, most mixed couples involved a foreign national man and a Japanese national woman. (Most are now Japanese guy, foreign woman.) Unless the guy abandoned his kids, they moved abroad leaving the pool of “haafu” in Japan as a microscopic fraction of the Japanese population. Contrast this with the US where “race mixing” has been going on since before the country began. Look how long it took the US to get a “haafu” as president. How many members of Congress are “haafu” in the sense of “racially mixed?” Probably all who style themselves black. Anyone else? Where, outside of Hawaii, do you see many racially mixed people in prominent positions? Are you aware that until the US Supreme Court voided them in 1967 many US states had anti-miscegenation laws that made mixed race marriages of the kind that produce visible “haafu” illegal? Japan has never had such laws. The absence of “haafu” in prominent bureaucratic positions in Japan might be the result of invidious racial discrimination but it is far more likely that it is really because (1) the number of visible “haafu” in Japan is really quite small; (2) high profile bureaucratic positions require education at the most elite universities, something only a tiny percentage of the whole population gets regardless of their parentage and there is a very strong class bias in terms of who gets this education. I think you are also failing to allow for time lag. Let’s say you were in Hokkaido in 1985. As mid-career “haafu” aged 35 would have been born in 1950. How many “haafu” were in the population at that time? Or, if you were looking for a prominent politician or government official, given the seniority patterns in Japan, they would probably have to be at least 55 meaning they were born in 1930. How many “haafu” were in the population at that time? Move the dates up as necessary to correspond to your stay in Hokkaido. For example, if you were there in 2005, a prominent 55 year old “haafu” politician or bureaucrat would have been born in 1950 and would have had to remain in Japan to build a career. My guess would be that the total number was small to begin with, few remained in Japan, and even fewer were in Hokkaido. As for Renho, the issue was nationality. How many prominent US politicians were originally citizens of another country? Don’t know of any although there are probably a few and I would hardly be surprised if some redneck has made this an issue.

      • PuyiGoroIgor

        Thanks again for your insights. The US comparison is apt, but I mean there should be at least a few mixed parentage ( Not the Japanese looking ones ) Japanese citizens who passed through the Japanese system education who COULD be viable for any positions in the government system. There are None from the lowest level to the highest . As for the Haafus leaving for other countries could be attributed to them realizing there is no chance for them in Japan. Compare to the US of A where even in the war, a battalion of Japanese- Americans was formed to fight the homeland,( Even though being put in PoW was a blight) but I can mention the General Shinseki and many more in the lower cadres. In Peru, a Nisei became a President ( Alberto Fujimori) and a year ago His daughter ( Keiko ) became runners up for the presidency, surely a country like Japan can not be oblivious of these examples.
        It;s possible but highly improbable that through the history of time there has not been even one distinctively real haafu who has not been viable for a post in the ya-kusho, police e.t.c. otherwise I’ll surmise that that society is hideously racist, has a flawed education system or, are practicing some social engineering against the OTHER Japan. I’m grateful for the perspectives and insights you given me .
        Thanks again.

      • Earl Kinmonth

        How do you know there are no “haafu” in Japanese government service? There are currently roughly 3.4 million national and local government employees in Japan. In 2006 the Labor and Welfare Ministry tried to come up with the number of children having a foreign parent. The number they arrived at was 26000. Most of these children have a Japanese father and an Asian mother. They have Japanese citizenship and cannot be recognized at sight as being “haafu.” For the sake of argument, assume that 1/3 of these kids can be identified by their features as haafu. Even it is assumed that this number has been constant over time, the probability that any one person from a population of less than 10,000 employed in a universe of 3.4 million would be in a position where you or I would see them is microscopic. Even if every single one of those 10,000 got a job in national or local government service, they would constitute 0.3% of all civil servants. Even if they were perfectly randomly distributed throughout Japan rather than being in Okinawa because of US bases, the chances that you or I would encounter one are extremely low. Further, how would you know a “haafu” if you saw one? Some have very distinct features. Others do not. My kids do not get identified as “haafu” unless I am around. In a crowd of Japanese they do not stand out. Punch line – the number of highly visible “haafu” in Japan is tiny. Even with absolutely no discrimination and all of them being employed in government service, the chances you or I would see one that we could recognize as “haafu” is very, very, very low. The Japanese-American batallion was composed of people who had 100% Japanese ancestry and joining the military was one way to get out of the concentration camps they had been sent to because of their ancestry. Fujimori and has daughter are not “haafu.” They have 100% Japanese ancestry. Fujimori himself is in jail for human rights violations and embezzlment. A number of naturalized Koreans have been elected to the Diet. For some years there was a naturalized Finn in the Diet. Some naturalized European and Americans have been elected to local government office. Son Masayoshi, currently the wealthiest person in Japan with a net worth estimated at $16.6 billion US is a naturalized Korean.