The Hague Convention on the Prevention of Child Abduction has been put into action by 84 countries in an effort to encourage the safe return of children who have been abducted and taken into other countries. And while many counties are in full agreement that a parent should not be able to just take their child away from another parent and live in another country, Japan is yet to agree and sign the Hague Convention.
One heartbreaking story is that of a father who has not seen his children since August of 2009 when his ex-wife broke their child custody agreement and took off to Japan. And, despite the fact that the mother had a U.S. warrant for her arrest, had violated U.S. court orders and did not have full custody of the children, the father was still arrested after he traveled to Japan to try and retrieve his children. The father spent 18 days in jail before he was sent back to the United States, and has not been able to see his 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter since.
One U.S. embassy official in Tokyo said that, to their knowledge, no child that is a U.S. citizen and has been taken to Japan without consent from both parents has ever been returned to the U.S. Two years ago, the U.S. State Department listed Japan as the country with the highest number of abductions from the United States.
Japanese lawmakers have refrained from signing the treaty because they are worried that the Hague Convention fails to account for previous instances of domestic abuse. The country would prefer to create a law that says a child will not be sent back to their home country if they have been abused in that country, or if that child does not want to go back.
However, some feel that this law is anti-joint custody and that it gives preference to the parent who abducted the children. In terms of abuse allegations, sources claim that it is easy for one parent to claim abuse, even if it did not happen.
Looking to the future of international child abduction, one U.S. representative is hoping to create an office within the U.S. State Department that would specifically handle those cases where a child is taken to another country without permission, and in direct violation of a court-ordered child custody agreement.
Source: TIME, “How Did Japan Become a Haven for Child Abductions?” Lucy Birmingham, 7 March 2011