Following up on “DV“certified: “I can never meet my 9 year old daughter again…”

Custody Order Rui 3

(From the order of custody of Rui, petitioned in October 2010, granted on March 24, 2011, a full year before Japanese family court heard the case, ignoring the existence of the U.S. court decision entirely)

This news piece (included in the previous post yesterday) was posted on Japanese “Yahoo News” site and then pulled within a few hours. No explanation for that is readily available, but I’m pleased to be able say I’d posted it on my blog before it was lost entirely to the ether around the internet. I am suspicious that the reason it was pulled has to do with the fact that it tells a critical truth about Japan’s family courts and substantiates claims against the legitimacy of those courts effectively. Needless to say, I won’t pull it down.


Yahoo logo

It details an unconscionable fact about Japan’s regime of child abduction and state-supported, institutionally-induced child abuse under cover of a profoundly disturbing and destructive outward appearance:
That is, the significant use in Japan of “fake claims of domestic violence” to break off family ties from children and permanently eliminate their relationships with their parent.
The extraordinary thing I want to emphasize here is that this is NOT a case of zealously angry, vengeful men’s rights advocates refuting the legitimate claims of women in need of protection from violence in domestic relationships. If that were the case, I would not dream of supporting or spreading vile rumors.
Rather it is the case that Japan has a *horrendously* bad record of failure to protect women, children, and the elderly from violence, and an enormous juridical apparatus, buffered by legislative laxity and complicit-to-the-point-of-absurdity policing, all enabling the abuses, and minimizing the capacity and effectiveness of authentic support for victims.
It is therefore doubly, triply galling to see that rather than addressing its high incidence of domestic violence, public violence against women, violence against children in schools and homes, the family court makes this a practice that it appears to believe is useful to its reputation; that it attempts to bum rush parents out of their families- permanently – while turning a blind eye to the numerous silences and abuses that surround this system. This allows them to reinforce a creaking, broken family form, while doing nothing to save children from an abusive exercise of dominating power.

If it could happen to me, it can happen to anyone.
150,000 Japanese state-sanctioned abductions, every year.

visit Japanlogo D

Read the original story, here.

Posted in Japan Child Abduction | 4 Comments

2nd Bilingual post today: French periodical ‘Liberation’ – “Japan: confiscated children, abandoned parents”

Japon : enfants confisqués, parents abandonnés

Liberation logo

Par Arnaud Vaulerin — 29 janvier 2018

Snow (2012) Yamaguchi

Extrait de la série «Neige» (2012), Yamaguchi. Photo France Dubo. Vozimage

En cas de divorces, beaucoup de parents, notamment occidentaux, restent impuissants : nombre d’enfants sont «enlevés» par le père ou la mère, sans que les autorités locales n’interviennent. Les associations lancent un cri d’alarme.

  • Japon : enfants confisqués, parents abandonnés

C’est le genre de vocabulaire d’ordinaire employé pour des affaires criminelles, des intrigues mafieuses et des guerres. On le retrouve de plus en plus dans la bouche de parents séparés de leurs enfants, privés à la fois de droit de visite et de garde. Ils parlent d’«otage», d’«enlèvement», de «violation» et de «kidnapping» pour raconter des histoires qui charrient souffrances, silences et injustices entre le Japon et de nombreux pays. Plusieurs centaines d’enfants binationaux et des dizaines de milliers d’autres uniquement japonais sont victimes des manquements de la «bureaucratie judiciaire japonaise», comme le formule sans détour John Gomez, président de l’ONG Kizuna («lien» en japonais) à Tokyo, qui milite pour le droit d’un enfant de voir ses deux parents. Cet Américain s’alarme du «mépris du Japon pour les droits et le bien-être de l’enfant». Et de la situation de pères et de mères abandonnés et sans beaucoup de recours.

Le 25 janvier, le sénateur LREM Richard Yung a posé une question orale au gouvernement français pour attirer l’attention de Jean-Yves Le Drian, ministre de l’Europe et des Affaires étrangères, sur les difficultés rencontrées par certains ressortissants français pour exercer au Japon leurs droits parentaux.

«Je ne la reverrai pas»

Le Français Emmanuel de Fournas est l’un d’eux. Depuis le 7 juin 2015, il n’a pas revu sa fille Claire, née en janvier 2012. Cet ancien chef d’entreprise dans le secteur du bio a épousé sa femme, japonaise, en 2011. Après plusieurs années de vie commune en Thaïlande, le couple se sépare en 2014. La mère s’installe au Japon avec la petite Claire, le père effectue des allers-retours, tentant de maintenir un contact avec sa fille. Sur fond de tensions médicales et familiales, commence alors un long parcours judiciaire entre les tribunaux français et japonais, avocats et commissariats.

Dans ce qui ressemble à une descente aux enfers, Emmanuel de Fournas est même placé en garde à vue en mai 2015 au Japon, pendant vingt-trois jours, avec placement à l’isolement, test ADN et fouille anale. Il est accusé de «harcèlement» et même soupçonné de vouloir enlever sa fille. «Je me suis retrouvé dans un vide de droits fondamentaux terrible, raconte-t-il depuis Toulouse où il vit. J’étais présumé coupable. Un policier japonais a fini par me dire qu’à partir du moment où ma fille avait été enlevée, je ne la reverrai pas. Le Japon fonctionnait ainsi selon lui.»

Un diplomate japonais qui souhaite rester anonyme tente une explication culturelle : «La prise de conscience de la situation des enfants séparés a été tardive au Japon. Selon les principes du code civil, la garde partagée n’est pas reconnue. Traditionnellement, le foyer est constitué des deux parents et du ou des enfants. Une fois qu’il est brisé par un divorce, l’enfant “n’appartient” plus qu’à un des deux parents. Après, bien sûr, les parents peuvent se mettre d’accord.» C’est souvent compliqué. Les cas les plus nombreux concernent des citoyens américains, britanniques, australiens ou même italiens. En France, le ministère de la Justice dit avoir été saisi officiellement de «quatorze dossiers depuis l’entrée en vigueur de la convention de La Haye entre la France et le Japon le 1er avril 2014».

Cette année-là, après trois décennies de polémiques dont certaines ont abouti à des suicides, l’archipel finit par ratifier ce texte sur les enlèvements internationaux d’enfants. Sans aucun effet rétroactif, cette convention vise à «assurer le retour immédiat des enfants déplacés ou retenus illicitement dans tout Etat contractant et à faire respecter effectivement les droits de garde et de visite existant». Elle est explicite et précise sur les engagements des parties signataires. Mais, de l’avis de pères et mères français, américains, britanniques que Libération a contactés, le «Japon viole» la convention de La Haye et s’en «sert uniquement au bénéfice de parents nippons», sans «se soucier de la tragique situation des enfants binationaux, les premières victimes»,écrivent des Français qui tentent de défendre leur cas. «Force est malheureusement de constater que le Japon ne satisfait pas pleinement aux obligations qui lui sont imposées par la convention de La Haye, a dénoncé Richard Yung dans sa question au Sénat, la semaine dernière. Par ailleurs, il est regrettable de constater que l’exercice effectif d’un droit de visite continue de dépendre du bon vouloir du parent japonais.»

Bataille procédurale

Fin décembre, des Français ont constitué un collectif : «Sauvons nos enfants-Japon». Ils ont rencontré des conseillers consulaires (Evelyne Inuzuka, Thierry Consigny) et des parlementaires. Tout en frappant aux portes des consulats et ambassades qui apprécient modérément cette mobilisation peu en harmonie avec la diplomatie officielle. Ils martèlent que le Japon ne respecte pas la convention. Ils en veulent pour preuve que les autorités de l’archipel n’ont pas mis en œuvre des ordres de retour d’enfants binationaux dans un autre pays. Pis, ces décisions de justice ont été rejetées par la Cour suprême du Japon le 21 décembre. Ce jour-là, plusieurs ordonnances de retour préalablement rendues en faveur de James Cook, un Américain père de quatre enfants enlevés par leur mère japonaise, ont été annulées, donnant un redoutable signal aux parents privés de leur progéniture.

Abigaël Morlet redoute un scénario similaire. Cette Française a eu deux enfants entre 2007 et 2009 avec son mari japonais dont elle s’est séparée. Elle est lancée dans une bataille procédurale avec celui qu’elle accuse d’être un «pervers narcissique». Elle a obtenu l’autorité parentale exclusive, le droit de garde en France. Mais au terme d’un procès, son ex-mari a obtenu que l’autorité parentale soit partagée avec des droits de visite et d’hébergement (des DVH dans le jargon des couples séparés) au Japon. «Si mes enfants repartent dans l’archipel, je ne les reverrai pas, assure cette ancienne enseignante. Il y a un risque réel que leur père ne respecte pas le DVH et ne les renvoie pas en France. Et on ne peut pas compter sur la police japonaise pour appliquer les ordonnances de retour. Elle se contente de venir frapper à la porte et ne fait rien si l’autre parent refuse. Et il n’est pas interdit de penser que, moi aussi, je sois arrêtée et placée en garde à vue pendant vingt-trois jours si je me rends au Japon.» Elle a proposé à son ex-mari de venir voir ses enfants en France en novembre et décembre, il a refusé. Elle vit dans la crainte d’une décision de justice lui intimant l’ordre de confier son fils et sa fille à leur père.

Les autorités japonaises font profil bas. Elles ont créé une cellule de suivi au sein du ministère des Affaires étrangères. «Si je comprends bien, poursuit notre diplomate au fait de l’esprit de la convention de La Haye, le problème n’est pas la non-application, mais plutôt la lenteur, la mollesse dans la mise en œuvre. Surtout, les agents chargés de la mise en exécution de ces arrêts judiciaires [ordonnances de retour, ndlr], ne sont pas vraiment habitués. Ils hésitent à intervenir rapidement et par la force dans des affaires civiles et familiales toujours délicates.»

Mais de l’avis de plusieurs parents et experts, le «cœur du problème réside dans la branche judiciaire», analyse John Gomez de l’ONG Kizuna. «C’est le concept de “principe de la continuité” qui est problématique. C’est-à-dire que, dans l’esprit des juges, les enfants restent avec le parent qui les a enlevés. Autrement dit, on entérine et on valide le kidnapping», explique cet Américain mobilisé depuis dix ans sur ce douloureux dossier. Il balaie d’un revers de main les explications culturalistes, les probabilités de discrimination envers les étrangers, les femmes ou les hommes. Durant ces dix années d’activisme, il a croisé des victimes de tout genre, de toute catégorie et de toute nationalité. Ce qui l’amène à parler de «véritable violation de droits de l’homme commis dans l’archipel». A partir des statistiques officielles sur le nombre de divorces et celui des naissances, il assure que chaque année au Japon, jusqu’à 150 000 enfants seraient privés d’un des deux parents à la suite d’une séparation.

Se faire entendre

Le Français Stéphane Lambert, qui vit en banlieue de Tokyo, en sait quelque chose. Il a rencontré sa femme japonaise et a vécu à l’étranger avec elle et leur fils, Nathan, né en 2012. Puis ils sont rentrés au Japon en février 2013. Deux ans et demi plus tard, la mère a kidnappé l’enfant. Stéphane Lambert dit avoir obtenu très péniblement du tribunal de Yokohama un droit de visite de quatre heures par mois. Mais la mère a déménagé et le père a perdu la trace de son enfant qui souffrirait de «troubles du développement». Il s’est tourné vers la police japonaise, qui lui a indiqué qu’elle n’interviendrait pas. Quand il a frappé à la porte des autorités consulaires françaises, il s’est entendu répondre : «On ne peut rien faire, le Japon est souverain.» Déboussolé et désargenté, Stéphane Lambert a rejoint le collectif des parents français.

Ces femmes et ces hommes veulent être plus offensifs pour se faire entendre. La députée des Français de l’étranger pour la région Asie-Pacifique, Anne Genetet, qui les a rencontrés et demande la «mise en œuvre effective du droit», les met en garde contre une «démarche trop agressive qui fermerait les portes du Japon». Mais le sénateur Richard Yung a demandé au ministre des Affaires étrangères si, «soucieux du respect de l’intérêt supérieur des enfants issus de couples franco-japonais, […] la France, en lien avec d’autres Etats, ne pourrait pas entreprendre de nouvelles démarches auprès du Japon». Aujourd’hui, certains parents n’ont plus d’autres choix que de faire du bruit. Seul espoir pour revoir leurs enfants.

Arnaud Vaulerin

story

Japan: confiscated children, abandoned parents

Liberation logo

By Arnaud Vaulerin – January 29, 2018 at 19:46

Snow (2012) YamaguchiExtract from the series “Snow” (2012), Yamaguchi. Photo France Dubo. Vozimage

In the event of divorce, many parents, especially Western parents, remain helpless: many children are “kidnapped” by the father or mother, without the local authorities intervene. The associations raise a cry of alarm.

  • Japan: confiscated children, abandoned parents

This is the kind of vocabulary usually used for criminal cases, mafia intrigues and wars. It is found more and more in the mouth of parents separated from their children, deprived of both visiting and custody rights. They speak of “hostage”, “kidnapping”, “violation” and “kidnapping” to tell stories that bring suffering, silence and injustice between Japan and many countries. Hundreds of binational children and tens of thousands of other Japanese-only victims of the “Japanese judicial bureaucracy”, as the straightforward formula John Gomez, president of the NGO Kizuna (“link” in Japanese) to Tokyo, which campaigns for the right of a child to see both parents. This American is alarmed by “Japan’s disregard for the rights and well-being of the child.” And the situation of fathers and mothers abandoned and without much recourse.

On January 25, Senator LREM Richard Yung asked an oral question to the French government to draw the attention of Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, to the difficulties encountered by some French nationals Japan their parental rights.

“I will not see her again”

The French Emmanuel de Fournas is one of them. Since June 7, 2015, he has not seen his daughter Claire, born in January 2012. This former business leader in the organic sector married his wife, Japanese, in 2011. After several years of living together in Thailand , the couple separated in 2014. The mother moved to Japan with little Claire, the father goes back and forth, trying to maintain contact with his daughter. Against a backdrop of medical and family tensions, a long judicial process begins between French and Japanese courts, lawyers and police stations.

In what looks like a descent into hell, Emmanuel de Fournas is even placed in custody in May 2015 in Japan, for twenty-three days, with placement in solitary confinement, DNA test and anal search. He is accused of “harassment” and even suspected of wanting to abduct his daughter. “I found myself in a terrible fundamental rights void, he says from Toulouse where he lives. I was presumed guilty. A Japanese policeman finally told me that from the moment my daughter was kidnapped, I will not see her again. Japan was working that way. “

A Japanese diplomat who wishes to remain anonymous tries a cultural explanation: “The awareness of the situation of separated children has been delayed in Japan. According to the principles of the Civil Code, shared custody is not recognized. Traditionally, the home is made up of both parents and the child or children. Once broken by a divorce, the child “only” belongs to one of the parents. After, of course, parents can agree. “ It’s often complicated. The most numerous cases concern American, British, Australian or even Italian citizens. In France, the Ministry of Justice says it has been officially seized of “fourteen cases since the entry into force of the Hague Convention between France and Japan on 1 April 2014”.

That year, after three decades of polemics, some of which resulted in suicides, the archipelago finally ratified this text on international child abductions. Without any retroactive effect, this Convention aims to “ensure the immediate return of children illegally displaced or retained in any Contracting State and to effectively enforce existing custody and access rights”. It is explicit and precise on the commitments of the signatory parties. But, in the opinion of French, American and British fathers and mothers whom Libération contacted, “Japan violates” the Hague Convention and “uses it only for the benefit of Japanese parents”, without “worrying about the tragic situation of binational children, the first victims, “ write Frenchmen trying to defend their case. “Unfortunately, Japan is not fully meeting the obligations imposed on it by the Hague Convention,” said Richard Young in his question to the Senate last week. On the other hand, it is regrettable to note that the effective exercise of visiting rights continues to depend on the goodwill of the Japanese parent. “

Procedural battle

At the end of December, the French formed a group: “Save our children-Japan”. They met consular advisers (Evelyne Inuzuka, Thierry Consigny) and parliamentarians. While knocking on the doors of the consulates and embassies who moderately appreciate this mobilization, it is hardly in harmony with official diplomacy. They say that Japan is not respecting the convention. They want proof that the archipelago authorities have not implemented orders to return bi-national children to another country. Worse, these court decisions were rejected by the Supreme Court of Japan on December 21st. That day, several return orders made in favor of James Cook, an American father of four children abducted by their Japanese mother, were canceled, giving a dreadful signal to parents deprived of their offspring.

Abigaël Morlet fears a similar scenario. This French girl had two children between 2007 and 2009 with her Japanese husband whom she separated. She is thrown into a procedural battle with the one she accuses of being a “narcissistic pervert”. She obtained the exclusive parental authority, the right of custody in France. But at the end of the trial, her ex-husband obtained shared parental authority with rights of visitation and lodging (DVH in the jargon of the separated couples) in Japan. “If my children go back to the archipelago, I will not see them again,” says the former teacher. There is a real risk that their father will not respect the DVH and will not send them back to France. And we can not rely on the Japanese police to enforce the return orders. They just knock on the door and do nothing if the other parent refuses. And it is not forbidden to think that I, too, will be arrested and put in custody for twenty-three days if I go to Japan. “ She suggested to her ex-husband to come and see her children in France in November and December. He refused. She lives in fear of a court order ordering her to entrust her son and daughter to their father.

Japanese authorities keep a low profile. They created a monitoring unit within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “If I understand correctly,” continues our diplomat, aware of the spirit of the Hague Convention, ” the problem is not non-application, but rather slowness and sluggishness in implementation. Above all, the agents responsible for enforcing these court orders [return orders, ed] are not really used to it. They are reluctant to intervene quickly and by force in always delicate civil and family matters. “

But in the opinion of several parents and experts, the “heart of the problem lies in the judicial branch,” says John Gomez NGO Kizuna. “It’s the concept of” principle of continuity “that is problematic. That is, in the minds of the judges, the children stay with the parent who abducted them. In other words, we (judges) endorse and validate the kidnapping,” said the American, mobilized for ten years on this painful file. He brushes aside culturalist explanations and the higher probability of discrimination against foreigners, women or men. During these ten years of activism, he met victims of all kinds, of all categories and all nationalities. This brings him to speak of “real violation of human rights committed in the archipelago”. From official statistics on the number of divorces and the number of births, he assures that every year in Japan, up to 150,000 children would be deprived of one of the parents as a result of separation.

To be heard

Frenchman Stéphane Lambert, who lives in the suburbs of Tokyo, knows something about it. He met his Japanese wife and lived abroad with her and their son, Nathan, born in 2012. Then they returned to Japan in February 2013. Two and a half years later, the mother kidnapped the child. Stéphane Lambert said he very painfully obtained visitation of four hours per month from the court of Yokohama. But the mother moved and the father lost track of his child who was suffering from “developmental disabilities.” He turned to the Japanese police, who told him that they would not intervene. When he knocked on the door of the French consular authorities, he was told: “We can not do anything, Japan is sovereign.” Unbuffled and penniless, Stéphane Lambert joined the collective of French parents.

These women and men want to take the offensive (to be more assertive) to make themselves heard. Anne Genetet, French MP from abroad for the Asia-Pacific region, who met them and asked for the “effective implementation of the law”, warned them against an overly aggressive approach that would close the doors of Japan. “. But Senator Richard Young asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs if, “anxious to respect the best interests of children from Franco-Japanese couples, […] France, in connection with other states, could not undertake new approaches to Japan “. Today, some parents have no choice but to make noise. It is their only hope to see their children again.

Arnaud Vaulerin

 

Posted in Japan Child Abduction | 5 Comments

DV “certified”, “I can never meet my 9 year old daughter again…” The wail of another man who got hell from Japan’s divorce “law”

Some content on this page was disabled on February 7, 2018 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from Kodansha Ltd.. You can learn more about the DMCA here:

https://en.support.wordpress.com/copyright-and-the-dmca/

Posted in Japan Child Abduction | 3 Comments

Prior to New Year, Japan’s Supreme Court stands firmly in favor of parental child abductions

There is no remaining room for us to keep ahead of our doubts; we have long since passed the point of disillusion at the indifference of Japanese state institutions, and at dreaming the idea that states (such as the U.S.) located in the global order will press for a means of rescue or protection of our abducted kids. It is not possible at this point to imagine a change in the conjuncture that would alter Japanese practice on behalf of children and parents without a social revolutionary upheaval: a powerful, motivated, directed, organized oppositional development. The Japanese state as it is now constituted suffers from an incurable anti-popular, post- or non-democratic condition. It is firmly invested in restoring its silly but painfully consequential national myths, which bury in it the prison of abduction-by-the-Japanese-legal-order as firmly and deeply as a corpse in cement. There is no institutional alternative to Japanese child abduction at this point. Despair is reasonable. Children have no rights and no legal protection against Japan. Keep kids out of Japan! There is no existing remedy but to not be there.

Pigs Header-1

I’m late in posting this editorial piece, published by Professor Colin Jones on New Year’s Eve in The Japan Times, which explains:

Japan’s Supreme Court hands down a road map for parental child abductions

by Colin P.A. Jones

In 2014, after years of diplomatic pressure and countless horror stories about parents losing all contact with children taken to or retained in Japan, the nation finally joined the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This should have relegated to history Japan’s growing reputation as a “black hole” of abduction of children by one parent — usually the Japanese one —after the breakdown of a marriage or other relationship.

Less than four years later, in a sadly predictable ruling issued on Dec. 21, Japan’s Supreme Court confirmed abductions can continue. The difference seems to be that lower courts will pay lip service to the ideals of the convention by going through the motions, and various well-intentioned institutions now exist to help achieve the amicable resolutions that should ideally end such cases. But visitation with taken children will still be difficult or impossible, return orders will remain unenforceable and, at the end of it all, courts will be able to find it best for the children to stay in Japan.

The baroque procedural regime adopted by Japan to implement the convention was designed to give lower courts various ways to avoid returning children. Now that the top court has ratified such a result, we can probably expect to see more cases like this.

Children will be the principal victims of such abductions. However, I can’t help but feel sympathy for Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It bore the brunt of foreign criticism before Japan joined the treaty and, acting as Central Authority under it since , has devoted significant resources to resolving cases and helping the parents and children involved in such cases. This judgment will probably now make its job that much harder.

Escape hatches do their job

The case on which the court ruled has already been widely reported in the Western press. It involved the four children of an American father and Japanese mother.

According to the Supreme Court’s judgment they were brought to Japan by the mother in July 2014 with a promise they would be returned to their home in the United States the following month. They stayed. The following year the father applied to a Japanese court for a return order under the Hague Convention.

In 2016, the Osaka High Court issued an order that the children should be returned. The court found that the older children (11 at the time they were brought to Japan) were found to not want to return, but returning just the younger ones (who were both 6) would have been bad for all of them.

The basic concept underlying the convention is that children in these situations should be returned — promptly — by courts where they have been taken to their jurisdiction of habitual residence, and decisions about their long-term best interests should be made by courts there. The convention provides a few exceptions where returns can be refused, specifically: (i) if the child “objects to being returned and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which it is appropriate to take account of its views” and (ii) “there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.”

Having obtained a return order, the father then set about trying to enforce it. Here he encountered the unpleasant reality that Japanese family court orders involving children are generally unenforceable. No adults get arrested or even punished for noncooperation, meaning abducting parents (and the family members who often help them) can flout the law and the rulings of Japanese courts. This is relatively common knowledge within Japan, where even domestic divorces can see a child unilaterally taken by one parent and the other losing all contact for years. That a case like this would arise under the Hague Convention was always predictable; it was just a matter of when it would happen.

Whilst refusing to cooperate with the return order, the mother filed a motion to have the whole matter reconsidered based on changed circumstances. This was one of the escape hatches built into Japan’s implementing act — the ability of a losing party to seek a new trial (after an appeal!), even though the whole point of the process is to get kids back home as quickly as possible.

The Osaka High Court did rule expeditiously on this motion (impressive when one considers it can take years or even decades for a wrongly convicted criminal defendant to get a retrial based on new evidence) and — lo and behold — found it was no longer appropriate to return the child because the father lacked the wherewithal to support them. (That the father had been forced to pursue ruinously expensive cross-border litigation to remedy the abduction did not seem to matter.)

This was the other bolt-hole built into Japan’s implementing act: the ability of judges to consider the child-rearing capabilities of both parents in determining whether the exception in (ii) above might apply. In other words, the court did a custody evaluation about what would be in the best interests of the children, which is one of the basic things that is not supposed to happen in Hague Convention cases. The basic premise, again, is that custody determinations should be made by courts where the children have been habitually resident.

That this escape hatch would be used in a difficult case such as this was also predictable. Otherwise Japan’s courts would have suffered the ongoing bother and embarrassment of a demonstrably unenforceable return order hanging out in limbo in a high-profile case.

Top court decides on custody

It is this ruling that the five judges on the Supreme Court’s 1st Petty Bench upheld. Judgments of Japan’s Supreme Court are often terse, particularly when dealing with subjects like excessive detention, police misbehavior, constitutional violations and so forth. Part of the rationale may be that, except in rare cases, the top court only considers appeals as to matters of law and does not revisit lower court findings of fact, and the judgment just needs to contain conclusions about the applicable law.

When it comes to family cases, however, the court sometimes breaks from this staid mold and its judges presume to explain what is best for children they have never even met. In their December ruling the court declared in no uncertain terms that “the appellant (father) lacks the financial basis to appropriately care for the children, and cannot be expected to receive ongoing support in their care and support from his family.” It would thus be bad for the children to be returned to America.

That in the course of ruminating on the best interests of the children the judges did not find it worth mentioning that they had been denied all contact with their father during the entire process is simply indicative of how little importance the Supreme Court attaches to the parent-child relationship, at least when it is inconvenient to the result that best suits the court system.

At risk of sounding repetitive, who is best suited to care for the children is precisely the type of decision that the Hague Convention expects to be made in the home country. Moreover, Article 20 of the treaty clearly states that “a decision under this Convention concerning the return of the child shall not be taken to be a determination on the merits of any custody issue.” Perhaps the court just found this language inconvenient when for all intents and purposes it conclusively determined the merits of the custody issues in this particular case — where the children would grow up and who would raise them.

There you have it. Courts in other countries should now be on notice that, despite Japan joining the Convention and a diligent Central Authority providing assistance to parents of taken children, return orders issued by the nation’s courts remain unenforceable, contact can be safely denied, Japanese judges looking for ways to let children stay in Japan can simply find fault with the left-behind parent’s imagined parenting capabilities and higher courts will ratify that decision as being “in the best interests of the children.”

By demonstrating such a low threshold for refusing returns and condoning noncooperation with enforcement proceedings, the Supreme Court’s ruling seems likely to serve as a road map for further abductions to come.

Colin P.A. Jones is a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto.

Posted in Brian Prager, Japan Child Abduction, Japanese Child Abduction, Machiko Terauchi, Parental abduction, Rui Prager, Rui Terauchi, 寺内るい, 寺内真智子 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment