Girl’s return to Sri Lanka is first in response to Hague Convention court order


Staff Writer

A 5-year-old girl was returned to live with her Japanese father in Sri Lanka in early April after being abducted by her mother and brought to Japan, a government official told The Japan Times on Wednesday.

It was the first time Japan fulfilled a court order mandating the return of a child to his or her country of habitual residence, in accordance with the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The Convention aims to secure the swift return of children wrongfully taken across an international border by one of their parents.

The Foreign Ministry official added that another child was sent back to Spain earlier this month through court arbitration in Japan, after the parents involved reached an agreement. Another was returned to Japan from France in mid-April.

In the Sri Lankan case, media reports say the parents were both Japanese and that the daughter was born in Japan. The family had been living in Sri Lanka since February 2013, but when the mother returned to Japan with the daughter in June last year, she refused to go back.

The father sought his daughter’s return through the Hague Convention and the Osaka District Court issued a court order to that effect in November, the first such ruling since the treaty took effect in April last year. The High Court later upheld the ruling and the sentence was finalized in February.

Last month, the Tokyo District Court also ordered the return of a child to Turkey.

Mikiko Otani, an expert on the Hague Convention, welcomed the returns.

“The international community is closely watching the Japanese courts. . . . and these returns show Japan is acting properly in accordance to the Convention,” Otani said. “I think this will lead to Japan gaining trust from other countries.”

The lawyer, however, pointed out that while the returns meant the cases were closed for the Japanese government, that was not the case for the children or their families. But there is no official system that conducts follow-up investigations regarding what happens to the children in such cases, she said.

“This is not the end for the children who are sent back . . . and that is what many people are concerned about,” Otani said. “A follow-up is necessary so that people can have accurate information and will have a better understanding of the Hague treaty.”

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    The real question is: How many times has a Japanese court returned a Japanese child abroad to a foreign parent when the child has been abducted by the Japanese parent. This has NEVER happened. The Japanese courts always accept the assertion of the Japanese parent that the foreign parent is an abuser and never accept the assertion that the Japanese parent is an abuser. This is the elephant in the room than Caroline Kennedy is looking away from, selling US citizens short for the sake of placating an ally.

  • This is a case of a Japanese child taken from a Japanese parent being returned to a Japanese parent. The world is watching for the day Japan returns a child to a foreign parent, and / or allows article 21 visitation under the Hague. While this is a good start it does not show Japanese compliance with the Hague Convention on the aspects of International Parental Abduction.

  • Tim Johnston

    We are all waiting with baited breath until a child is returned to the States from Japan. From the Japanese abducting Parent.

    The U.S. State Department/ MOFA have yet to fulfill their promises one year after signature to the VAGUE Convention.

  • JusenkyoGuide

    Dear God people, the treaty is, unfortunately, not retroactive. It was adopted last year, the laws were just changed and promulgated in response, and sadly NO legal system in any country runs fast, especially one as bureaucratic as Japan. Give it time and/or an actual case to see what is decided/finalized/enforced before condemning.

  • CJ

    Statistically speaking, as uncomfortable and counterintuitive as it is, fatherless children, in aggregate, fare far worse than motherless children brought up by a father. Also, let’s not forget that in this case the mother committed an act of severe child abuse attempting to sever all contact with the Japanese father through an illegal abduction which is what started this process. It is indeed a sad situation for the child but it is the mother’s clear fault for behaving in a criminal and deceptive manner to try and gain an advantage in divorce court. The treaty did what it is designed to do here. Remember, this is a return. order and not a custody or visitation order. The mother will likely receive visitation in Sri Lanka which is a normal common law country. The reverse would not have been true for the father in Japan. Japan still severs one parent ‘ s parental rights without a fitness hearing in every single divorce. Barbaric. Japan not only lacks joint custody, it lacks joint parental rights after divorce!!!