The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has issued a statement regarding the debate over accession to the Hague convention. Japan may sign the Hague, but reform requires that Japanese lawyers busy themselves dealing with the politics of adopting an international convention that is not popular by any stretch of the imagination. Offering appeasement to everyone on their flanks and pandering to their primary clients and sources of private income, they are proposing conditions in Japanese law which from a parent’s point of view undermine the purpose of signing, which is ostensibly to protect and return abducted children. Or is it? Here are some high and low points.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has recommended that if they sign, the convention – which regulates the return of internationally kidnapped kids – should:
1 – be made inapplicable to cases where the abductor might be prosecuted for a crime in the country where the child belongs;
2 – be made inapplicable to all retroactive cases, thereby absolving in an instant the hundreds of kidnappers and child abductors already harbored in Japan, and leaving the kidnapped kids in the care of their kidnappers forever; and
3 – be implemented with a 3-year window of delay while awareness is created among an apathetic Japanese public. The net result in the meantime, the children can be further alienated from their parent culture, language and most significant family relationships. The JFBA is trying to do its job all right; to help the Japanese publicly pretend to abide by international standards while internally maintaining the status quo of holding non-Japanese children like Rui hostage.
Humans can change. They can live almost any place on earth. The distribution of plants and animals, however, is limited to a place they are environmentally adapted to: a continent, a country, even a small region within a country. They adapt to environmental conditions and survive to reproduce. The Japanese judicial bureaucracy appears to want to control the environment they are in just as any humans would, to avoid the risk of an environmental change. Still, that the Japanese are even talking about this and taking a position is a sign that there is division within the JFBA just as there are divisions within Japanese society over what to do about child abduction, and how to strategically to achieve reform of the judiciary, a rigid bureaucracy that is about as flexible and responsive to change as the Catholic Church. The Japanese Bar wants to discuss with countries that regard international parental child abduction as a crime (how about you?) the possibility of not prosecuting parents who return with the child . See the logic? If you get the child back home, you won’t prosecute the “taking parent,” as parental kidnappers are known. If the child is not returned and is kept in hiding in Japan, you have the right to follow your legal processes through to your heart’s and lawyers’ content. Go ahead! Prosecute the absent criminal because Japan won’t surrender that person to you anyway. Either way, the perpetrators who constitute the criminal element in this issue go free. At this moment, it could hardly look more like a hostage negotiation.
At first blush, this makes us ill, yet I for one would make any sort of compromise to bring Rui back again. The problem that we are dealing with people who have brought us to this place by committing wildly violent actions against our children … do we have to be reminded what a kidnapping is? … and who have themselves shown no sign that they are capable of or interested in compromise is going to have to run up the flagpole and wave in the breeze forever. Those of us with abducted kids have no one to talk to but the lawyers anyway, because our own government shares priorities with the Japanese. It’s hard to imagine how a parent would sanction the more absurd recommendations of this Japanese legal panel. Their recommendations read like a provocation and an insult to the aggrieved parents of the world.
If there were proposals here that would bring the son I love safely and permanently home to me, I would cede my right to a criminal prosecution in a second. We’re told that other countries have made similar concessions in order to convince the reticent and the skittish; but then, Japan is not other countries. No kidnapped child has ever been returned from the black hole of Japanese abduction, and there are thousands of such children. As for point number two, above, I will never rest until my son is returned to his country of origin and to my care. And with a little help, neither, I trust, will his mother.
Diplomats and politicians make statements of principle all the time here in the US that they will neither compromise nor negotiate with those who are defiant of international law. But for us whose children’s destruction lies in the balance, ugly compromises with people who mean our children harm may one day be looked back upon as what was once a brighter hope of salvaging them.
More should come of this soon.