Disobedience or Disconnect Between Minister and Judges Within Japan’s Ministry of Justice? 「連れ去り」容認する司法に現役副市長が実名で告発〈AERA〉


「連れ去り」容認する司法に現役副市長が実名で告発〈AERA〉

On October 23, a Diet Study Session called by Diet member Mr. Yokokume on the problems of parental abduction and custody determination in Japan’s family law and family courts was held.  The session ran a bit like a symposium combined with a press conference.  For the first time, Mr. Yasuyuki Watanabe spoke publicly about his case ,  naming the judge whose conduct, decisions and failure to follow the latest, best practices of the law as set out in revisions of the civil code exemplifies the problems of child abduction and elimination of parental rights for which Japan’s family courts have been bitterly criticized both within Japan and internationally. Mr. Watanabe and numerous other parents seek relief in the form of new law to guarantee the security of the parent-child relationship.

Law Professor Colin Jones also spoke, as well as several others.

Prior to this event, Mr. Watanabe had taken a case to the Supreme Court where he asked for custody of his daughter. The significance of the Diet Study Session is that a member of a government bureaucracy was making a very trenchant declaration; he is an official in the Ministry of Internal Affairs condemning the family law system and by extension the Ministry of Justice, and  is naming the judge in his case [Wakabayashi] publicly,  bringing  forward  that the actions of this judge as well as others are grounded in past practices which are no longer legally justifiable, and should not continue as they have been. The continuation of the practice of nearly automatic termination of parental rights by Japan’s family court judges is defiantly misguided. The judge in this case made disdainful comments in the course of the custody hearings which implied that by virtue of his position as a sovereign family court judge, he could and would ignore with impunity the statements of former Justice Minister Eda in Diet testimony in which he urged that an agreed revision of the family law be implemented and adopted immediately. Essentially a statement of the institutional and personal autonomy of his court room, the judge sidestepped agreed upon change in civil code article 766, which now requires a divorcing couple with a child to specify visitation arrangements between the child and the father and mother, in addition to custody. These are guidelines that the family court was and is supposed by the Diet and Supreme Court to have followed. But the judge in this case, as have judges throughout the system, simply resisted the guidelines. This reveals a disconnect between the Minister of Justice and the bureaucratic family law judges within the Ministry of Justice, and implies a certain willful disobedience of the intention of the law on their part. Even actions of the Supreme court and the admonishments of the Minister of Justice are ignored by family court judges who have self-interest and a “tradition” of their own making on which to rely.

Resistance to change in family law becomes complex very quickly. The State, seeking legitimacy through its public pronouncements, wants to be able to say it is protecting its families and its citizens;  yet it alternately collaborates with, seeks support from, or steps aside for practices in civil society which  undermine  family stability and seek to impose private interests over those of citizens, thus turning working life and the evolving material of citizenship  against family, community and neighborhood well-being. As a consequence of the State’s obsequy before interests which seek to see civil matters in maximally private terms (forcing the withdrawal from citizens of state protection against the power of those interests, such as those which may be financial and geo-political in origin ), it is then politically doubly-difficult for these  State institutions  to reform  so-called “private” matters of family law. In the end there is antagonism and conflict of loyalties within the direction pursued by the State.

There is a small but growing number of citzens such as Mr. Watanabe who are working to compel the Diet to create a real family law code, to pressure the Ministry of Justice to enforce the kinds of procedures needed to eliminate the abuse to which parents and children are subject under the current regime. This is occurring in the context of a small rebound of activism amidst an increasingly polarized Japanese public for the first time since the 1970’s as a consequence of the triple disaster and nuclear accident of 2011, the corruption evident in Japan’s energy politics, and popular outrage over U.S. military bases in Okinawa. Noisy nationalists are also very much on the rise, much to the detriment of Japanese political affairs. In an era in which institutions of the nation-state whose real sovereignty over matters of economy and society are rapidly waning, and whose accountability to the public has precipitously declined, this brings along with it very serious problems of legitimacy for the State. Japan’s is not an exceptional case in this regard. But the abuse and misuse of judicial practices in Japan’s family courts is more than noteworthy. It is endemic.

Press coverage of this controversy, particularly as regards abductions and the abuse of family court, is increasing, in Asahi, Yomiuri, and AERA news magazine.

The following appeared in AERA. An English translation appears below the article:

dot. 10月25日(木)7時9分配信

 離婚や別居を機にわが子に会えなくなってしまう「連れ去り」問題。その蔓延を放置してきた司法のあり方に、現役の副市長が実名で問題提起する。
総務省官僚として公務員制度改革にかかわり、現在は栃木県那須塩原市副市長の渡辺泰之(やすゆき)氏(39)は、2年前から5歳になる一人娘と一度も会えていない。2010年春、妻が突然、実家に長女を「連れ去」ったためだ。教育方針などをめぐり、妻とは意見がすれ違っていたという。

一昨年10月には、妻側が千葉家裁松戸支部に子どもの身の回りの世話などをする「監護者」の資格を求めて審判の申し立てをしたため、渡辺氏側も申し立て。今年2月、同支部は監護者を妻と定め、渡辺氏への娘の引き渡しを認めない審判を下し、9月には最高裁で確定した。

現在、渡辺氏は、一審の審判を下した家事審判官の若林辰繁裁判官に対し、裁判官を罷免できる「裁判官弾劾裁判所」へ訴追するべく、国会議員で構成される「裁判官訴追委員会」に審議を求めている。

現役の副市長という立場も明かしたうえで、あえて実名での問題提起に踏み切った理由を、渡辺氏はこう語る。

「自分のような目にあう親子は、これで最後にしたいんです」

昨年、民法766条が改正され、離婚時は子どもとの面会交流や養育費などについて、「子の利益を最も優先して」取り決めることが明文化された。国会審議でも、当時の江田五月法相が「裁判所は親子の面会交流ができるように努めることがこの法律の意図するところ」と答弁している。

弁護士資格を持つ早稲田大学の棚村政行教授(家族法)は、民法766条改正の趣旨を徹底するためには、司法へのアプローチ以外にも、離婚時に面会交流の必要性をレクチャーする機会を行政が設けたり、面会交流のための場をこれまで以上に増やしたりするなどの制度づくりが不可欠と説く。

また、「離婚後も両方の親が共同養育責任をもつ」というように民法で規定する必要もあるという。

※AERA 2012年10月29日号

AERA English Translation 10-29-2012 

I am no longer able to see my daughter because of the divorce and separation abduction machine problem. A deputy mayor using his actual name raises an epidemic problem that has been neglected by the judiciary. 

A bureaucrat in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications named Yasuyuki Watanabe (39) involved in the reform of the civil service system, currently the deputy mayor of Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture, said that he has not been able to meet his 5-year-old daughter even once for the last two years. It is because of her sudden kidnapping in the spring of 2010 to the house of his wife’s parents. This was over a disagreement with his wife about the education of their daughter. 

Mr. Watanabe says “I can no longer identify my daughter when I see her on street.” Mr. Watanabe also petitioned against the decision of the Matsudo, Chiba Family Court judge to grant custody to his wife and not to allow the delivery of their daughter to Mr. Watanabe in February this year. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal by Mr. Watanabe in September. 

Currently, Mr. Watanabe is seeking an impeachment trial consisting of Diet members deliberating in committee to be able to prosecute and dismiss judge Tatsushige Wakabayashi. Mr. Watanabe said that he dared to raise these issues revealing his real name and position as a deputy mayor. 

“I would like to end this so that parents and children can meet and see each other” 

Nowadays, “Abduction”, where a parent takes his/her children when the parents separate or divorce, has become a social problem. Courts never fail to furnish custodial rights to the parents who abducted their children. In such cases, left-behind parents like Mr. Watanabe often can no longer see their children. 

According to research, children who cannot see either of their parents lose their self-esteem much more than those who can see both parents after divorce. Recently, people are more likely to think that both parents should take care of their children. 

Last year, Civil Code Article 766 was amended. Arrangements have to be documented at divorce for child support and visitation where the “best interests of the child take precedence.” In Diet deliberations at the time, Justice Minister Satsuki Eda answered “it is intended that courts strive for parent-child visitation.” 

This amendment was at first regarded to bring advantage to Mr. Watanabe. However, Mr. Wakabayashi, at court, asserted to Mr. Watanabe “What the Justice Minister said has nothing to do with my decision!” 

Mr. Watanabe said “It is necessary that the judge should make a decision based upon the purpose of the legislation and the article of the law. The statement is against the Constitution and the judge should be fired. I cannot believe that a civil servant in the judicial branch completely ignores the law and the Diet….”

Mr. Watanabe states that he wants to take his daughter back and stop the production of unhappy parents and children though this impeachment. 

Mr. Masayuki Tanamura, a lawyer and professor at Waseda University, says that in addition to the approach of justice, (family law), in order to ensure the intent of the amendment of Article 766 of the Civil Code, the government must provide a lecture on the need for visitation at the time of divorce, and increase visitation opportunities. 

In addition, “the responsibility of both parents in joint custody after divorce” and so on must be defined in the Civil Code. 

“In foreign countries, both parents seek a new relationship with their children even when both parents have severe conflict. Japan is really primitive.”

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About Brian Prager

I am the father of a beloved son who has been retained in Japan by his Japanese mother against my will. My boy has been kept out of contact with me since June, 2010. I am struggling to save him and get justice for us.
This entry was posted in Brian Prager, 誘拐犯, Japan Child Abduction, Joint custody, Machiko Terauchi, Parental abduction, Parental Alienation, Rui Prager, Rui Terauchi, 寺内るい, 寺内真智子. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Disobedience or Disconnect Between Minister and Judges Within Japan’s Ministry of Justice? 「連れ去り」容認する司法に現役副市長が実名で告発〈AERA〉

  1. Jose says:

    You have a friend in Madrid… Supporting you !

    Like

  2. Jeff Ragsdale says:

    And a friend in Texas .

    Like

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