National

Diet opens debate on Hague Convention bills

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

Amid mounting international pressure on Japan to rectify cross-border parental abductions of offspring, the House of Representatives on Thursday started deliberating bills related to joining the Hague Convention.

Signing the accord was one of the pledges Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made to U.S. President Barack Obama at their summit in February to bolster the Japan-U.S. alliance. The bills are expected to clear the Diet in the coming weeks with approval from the opposition.

“It’s very regrettable that some foreign media are treating the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea and this issue on the same level,” said Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the Diet. “Japan’s image has been impaired by the allegation that we are endorsing such parental abductions.”

The Hague treaty stipulates that abducted children should be sent back to their country of habitual residence to protect their human rights. Once the child has been returned, the parents can demand custody via government channels.

Whether a child can stay or go is based on family court rulings.

The focus of Thursday’s Diet session was whether a child whose mother fled an abusive spouse should be sent back to the country of habitual residence. While the number of international marriages has declined, divorce cases involving Japanese married to non-Japanese have climbed in the past decade, leading to several cases of alleged abduction.

Both Kishida and Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki offered assurances that the related bills provide legal options for rejecting requests to hand over children if the court identifies the involvement of domestic violence.