Three Japanese mothers who took their children from the United States to Japan after failed international marriages urged the government Wednesday not to sign the Hague Treaty, which is aimed at preventing cross-border parental kidnapping.

The women, whose names have been withheld for privacy reasons, participated in a high-level government panel discussion on whether to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

According to the participants, the women talked about their reasons for returning to Japan, and brought their children with them, claiming they made the move because of domestic violence.

After the meeting, one woman told reporters she began to find inexplicable bruises on her child after her ex-spouse’s visitations. She said her child asked to be taken to Japan.

“If Japan were to sign the Hague Convention . . . (my child would) be forced to live with an abusive father and be exposed to violence again,” the woman said. “And I will become a (declared) criminal.”

The Hague Convention aims to promptly return children illegally taken out of their country of “habitual residence” by a parent. In U.S. divorce cases, for example, courts grant custody of children to a parent and spell out the other ex-spouse’s visitation rights. But removal of an offspring from the country of residence thus also violates those legally mandated visitation rights.

The panel is holding a series of hearings involving experts and related parties and is expected to field opinions from proponents of the Hague Treaty on Thursday.

Japan has faced international pressure to sign the treaty but there are also strong voices against such action, many citing concerns that this would result in children being forced back to an abusive environment.

During the latter part of Wednesday’s meeting, lawyers from the Japan Bar Association submitted a statement that points out legal aspects that need to be considered during the discussions, including the establishment of a domestic law that would prevent children from being forcefully returned to an abusive home.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama, who heads the government panel, said the JBA statement is worth referring to if Japan decides to draft legislation.

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