Japan firm on not addressing existing cases of parental child abduction

The leadership of Left Behind Parents Japan met with Yoshinori Oguchi on Monday, January 16th, 2012. Mr. Oguchi is a member of the New Komeito party, the third largest political party represented in the Diet. He was a member of the MoFA committee who discussed modifying Japan’s civil code last fall, in order to sign The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
We presented our policy statement calling for joint custody, criminalization of parental child abduction, policy enforcement of family court orders, meaningful visitation for non-custodial parents, addition of a new visa category for parents of Japanese children to remain in Japan after losing spousal visa status and modification of domestic violence law in Japan to preclude false allegations with no empirical evidence.
We asked if the committee had completed their recommendations to the Ministry of Justice at this time. Mr. Oguchi’s response was that joint custody and the Hague Convention were closely related. Regarding joint custody, it is a huge hurdle to overcome. Regarding the Hague Convention, we are now preparing to accede due to the foreign pressure to do so, especially from the USA.
We asked if, in his opinion, joint custody was not going to move forward in this session of the Diet? His response was that there would be discussion of joint custody in the upcoming full Diet session.

When asked about current cases of international child abduction his response was that resolving current cases was “quite impossible”.

We asked if there was any plan whatsoever to resolve existing cases his response was that the government was discussing modifying Japanese domestic law and signing the Hague and that there were groups that were both for and against signing the Hague and that these groups will be listened to during the upcoming session of the Diet. (evasive)
When we asked about guaranteeing visitation to non-custodial parents Mr. Oguchi responded that he believed that visitation was important for the children. He added that in his opinion, visitation of the non-custodial parent was crucial to reducing child abuse. He stated that he believed that children of divorce should remain in contact with both parents and have the right to be educated by both parents. He stated that visitation of the non-custodial father was a concern due to the possibility of domestic violence. (Gender stereotyping – very concerning)
When Masako asked about the right to secure information about abducted children from governments, schools etc., Mr. Oguchi’s response was that he believed that this information was attainable currently. (completely inaccurate, it is not available to non-custodial parents.)
When asked (again) about resolving existing cases for foreign parents who have had their child abducted to Japan, Mr. Oguchi reiterated that existing cases of international abduction were not open for discussion and would not be considered. He said that MoFA and the MoJ had said it was “impossible”.
Masako pointed out that Japan was continuing to press North Korea to resolve cases of abduction that occurred many years ago and that if Japan does not resolve existing cases of child abduction to Japan it will not reflect favorably upon Japan. She asserted that dealing with existing cases was very important.
Carlos stated that the GoJ MUST create a way to reunite parents and their abducted children in the existing cases, both international and domestic, to not do so was unacceptable. Mr. Oguchi did not respond to this.

I stated that currently, court ordered visitations were being denied by abductors. I asked about enforcement of court ordered visitation rights, what enforcement mechanism was the GoJ going to create to ensure that court orders are not violated? Mr. Oguchi’s response was evasive, he spoke of (jishin ho ho ho) which we questioned…Was he referring to the Civil Execution Law for property? He was. ((because children are basically property in Japan))
Oguchi then said (in complete contrast to his previous answer) that he believed children had a right to see both of their parents. We asserted that only the installation of joint custody would protect those children’s human rights. Current laws are inadequate.
We asked if Japan signs the Hague Convention, would Japan then use the police to find abducted children? Mr. Oguchi said that police were used in cases of crime. If it is a crime then the police would be used.
I asked if Japan has plans to criminalize parental child abduction?
Mr. Oguchi’s response was that if it is judged as a crime by the court then it is possible. (Japan considers abduction a crime when the non-custodial parent, who has no parental rights, takes the child away from the custodial parent.)
He continued that it is difficult to consider this a crime because it is the biological parent ( and custodial parent) who abducted the child. Japan does not consider this a crime.

Carlos asked again if Japan needed to create a law which criminalizes parental abduction by either parent?
Mr. Oguchi responded in an evasive fashion, he talked about the fact that there were current discussions about how Japan can modify domestic laws in order to accede to the Hague convention and still protect women from domestic violence. (We have known this for six months. We know that Japan is trying to find loopholes to the Hague as it is currently written. Japan continues to portray foreign fathers as abusers)
We further discussed violations of agreed upon parenting plans…When visitation is modified, revoked or changed by the custodial parent currently there is no recourse for the non-custodial parent. Mr. Oguchi’s response to this was again that the Civil Execution Law currently in place for property transfers can be used for forced custody transfers. We asserted that this was only effective when the custodial parent voluntarily agrees to give over custody, it is not actually enforcement. Mr. Oguchi stated, regarding enforcement, “it looks difficult”.

Final question by me was to request a comment from Mr. Oguchi regarding the fact that Japan is currently in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, sections 9.3 and 10.2 specifically. His response, translated, “There are many lacking points in Japanese system. Japan already ratified that Convention. I would like to recognize what you have suggested to us today. It is the base of Japanese law, so there are many opinions. We received over 800. The Japanese system regarding protecting children’s rights is inadequate. This is from the base of Japanese tradition and law. Japan, as a democratic country…of course, there will be many detailed discussions regarding domestic law ahead.”

Editor’s notes:
This Congressman was the most evasive to date. I left this meeting having discovered only one thing for sure. JAPAN IS NOT PLANNING TO ADDRESS OR RESOLVE EXISTING CASES OF ABDUCTION.

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Meeting with Justice Minister (2011) Satsuki Eda

The meeting began with Masako explaining who we were and introducing the LBPJ & APFS joint policy statement. She talked about the need for Japan to establish a system of joint custody and indicated that we knew that the Diet was about to make changes to the current family law system. Mr. Eda interjected to say that they had discussed proposals for change to the family laws in order to accede to the Hague Convention. We said that we understood that. Masako said that it was our opinion that in conjunction with signing the Hague Convention, Japan should also change to a joint custody system. Takeuchi restated that opinion. Takeuchi also stated that there are many children who cannot see their non-custodial parent at all under the current system of family law. In order to protect the rights of non-custodial parents and the human rights of children, Japan needs to adopt a joint custody system.

Mr. Eda spoke about the many supporters of the current “traditional” Japanese system, and of the Japanese system’s design and its desire to prevent “confusion” in the children. (Editors note: this really pissed me off)
I responded that most of the world’s countries and people view the denial of access for a child to either one of his/her parents is against their fundamental human rights and constitutes child abuse. I spoke about the current system promoting and contributing to domestic and international child abductions. I spoke to the recent statement submitted in writing by the Embassy of Canada in October on behalf of six nations (Canada, USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand and France) and its content stating that the interim proposals for legislation discussed in 2011, that he referred to earlier, deviate from the convention.

I stated that when Japan signs the Hague Convention it must abide by it in letter, spirit and intent. Loopholes must not be woven into the legislation they are preparing for accession. I spoke about Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Campbell’s recent statements regarding compliant accession to the Hague and that Japan address outstanding cases immediately. I related all of my statements to the fact that Japan needs to adopt a system of joint custody with joint parental authority.
Mr. Eda’s reply was that it takes time to change a culture and a system within it.
I stipulated that the younger generation of Japanese people are more globalized and many, many of them are supportive of what we propose.
Mr. Eda acknowledged that to be true.
We discussed the current sole custody system and how the judicial branch of the GoJ has not moved forward with granting meaningful access to non-custodial parents.
Carlos asked, “What is the GoJ planning to do as far as changes to the law, as to how judges will award visitation and decide on…” Mr. Eda interjected “As you know, we have a rather sensitive system of (unheard)…3 government authorities, legislative, administrative and the courts. We don’t want to interfere in any sort of court action, especially in this case, the family court. I know a little bit about the family court because I used to be a judge in the family court, not domestic cases, but general cases.” (Ed note: What???) Eda continued, “The court is now…it’s rather awkward…we need to wait to have the courts include themselves by their own effort. But now, I think, even in the family court we have some decisions for the (non-custodial) parent to be allowed some sort of meaningful visitation.”
Masako, “I don’t think so…”
Mr. Eda, “In Kobe, (switches to Japanese)…”
Kato’s translation of Mr. Eda, “In court, in Kobe, in an international case there were some positive comments about visitation with the left behind parent. It will gradually happen.”
Masako and Mr. Eda talk back and forth in Japanese…
Takeuchi, in Japanese, asks about the fact that to deprive a child of one of their parents is against the human rights of the children (and parent). He asks about the fact that the current sole custody system and the removal of parent’s authority rights is against the human rights of both parent and child.
Mr. Eda, “What I promoted in the scrutiny of the law during the last committee is that the non-custodial parent is still the parent of the child. That the husband and wife might be separated but the relationship between the parent and child cannot be separated which is most important and I emphasized that point.”
I replied, “However, there is no enforcement mechanism in place so currently my wife, who abducted our children from Canada, can tell me: No, you are not allowed to see the children at all. You cannot speak to them on the phone or skype, NOTHING; And there is nothing I can do.”

Editor’s note: The next statements I made about my case will not be published here as I know that the Suzuki family is monitoring this blog.

Masako spoke to Mr. Eda about her case, in Japanese.

We requested Mr. Eda’s opinion on which other Diet members would be influential in the drafting of new legislation as we want to meet with them and speak to them about our push for joint custody. He made his suggestions of who to talk to.

We took photos. Mr. Eda asked if we were opposed to his using our images on his website.

Meeting concluded.

Editor’s notes:
This man is a very skillful politician. It was difficult for us to get a straight answer from him in either language. Having said that, he did state that he believes Japan should sign the Hague Convention and that as Justice Minister he met with many groups who were opposed to signing it. He said that he believed he was able to illustrate to them that it would be in Japan’s best interest to accede to the Hague Convention. I believe that Mr. Eda believes that a child should have access to both of his/her parents. I believe he is well intentioned but he is just one of 750 national politicians. I believe that this was a good opportunity to meet someone with considerable influence in the Diet and in his party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

I will continue to fight for the human rights of children and parents. I will continue to fight for meaningful, positive change in this country.

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Dear Rion,

I just wanted to take this opportunity to tell you how very proud I am of you. You are a beautiful, sensitive girl. You are also an amazingly strong 8 year old. Despite the difficulties of the past 2 1/2 years, you know the truth.

There are no words for me to adequately express my admiration and love for you. I hope, in time, your sisters will realize how much their daddy loves them and be able to share in it. I know that you will continue to impress upon them, with your words and actions, that it is okay for them to love their daddy.

Despite what must have been said to you, you have absolute clarity of what the truth is. For that I am so overwhelmingly grateful.

Rion, my eldest daughter, you are like a shining star. A pristine jewel. The light of my life. I miss you today and every day. The pain is sometimes almost too much. Tears they flow as I write. I know that you miss me at times too, and I say to you hold on, I am coming soon. It is our right to be together, and I will fight for it until my final breath. I will come to see you again very soon. I promise I will never stop fighting for our right to see each other in a truly meaningful way.

I feel that these words are too incommensurate, inadequate, imperfect and deficient to really express my distinct and complete admiration for you.


I remain, as always, your loving father.

Love, Daddy

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Happy Birthday Lauren!

Dear Lauren,

I hope you had a wonderful birthday on Monday. It was seven years ago when you came into this world more quickly than your mommy and daddy expected. Yours was a very special birth for many reasons, first and foremost because you were born into a happy, growing family. Mommy and daddy were so happy to have you join us. Big sister Rion loved to help us with her little baby sister. I know that you and Rion are very close and love each other very much. I also know from what I saw this Christmas that you and Julia have lots of fun together now and love helping your mom to do things at home.

I hope you enjoy your presents that I sent you. I remember that you loved your dolls in Canada and how you loved to give them names, change their clothes and do their hair.

I know that you are afraid of daddy right now, according to Rion. I hope that you can understand and hear from your big sister that daddy loves you very much and you can have a daddy and a mommy in your life. You are very young and I know you cannot understand that what has been done to you. Just know that daddy will always love you very, very much and I will always be there for you no matter what the circumstances. I fervently hope that this is the year that we can reconnect and the alienation we have suffered can begin to be overcome. Regardless of whether you will look at me or talk to me I will continue to work hard to try to overcome what you have been subjected to. I hope mommy will help with that now.

You are a smart, beautiful girl and I know that one day things will be a lot better for us. I will always be available so that you are able to receive the love that is here for you. Your Canadian family loves you and misses you so much, especially your Grandma. She told me to tell you how much she loves you and that she will see you again one day.

So, little angel, Have a happy birthday and know that you are loved more each and every day by so many people who will again be a part of your life one day.

Especially Daddy.

Big hugs and many kisses,

Love Dad.

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Christmas on the 26th

Fourth visit to Iwaki. Best one yet. Overjoyed.

I am still overjoyed by my visit yesterday to see my wonderful daughters. Julia was there but she was too fast to get a still photo of her. She is so cute and very funny (4 1/2 years old). Rion and I spent an hour together during which she talked with dad and drew a fabulous picture of a frog and eggs and 3 tadpoles named Rion, Lauren and Julia! (too cute).

Taiko gave me a hug, said she was sorry and was very nice to me for a few short minutes. She allowed me to have copies of the girls report cards (90% A’s, the rest B’s) for both Rion and Lauren. I will visit my daughters again, of course, in the new year.

I am a very happy daddy. I am very grateful to have three beautiful daughters whom I love with all my heart. I cannot describe in words the joy I feel having spent time with my family. It has been too long. I told Rion that I love her forever and always and that if she were living on the moon or even Mars I would follow her there.

If it were not for the help of many wonderful people none of this would have been possible, first and foremost amongst them, Mr. Dennis Gunn. A finer human being you will not find.

NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER GIVE IN. Go see your kids, wherever they are.

Bruce R. Gherbetti

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LBPJ delivers policy statement to Ministry of Justice – Japan

Left Behind Parents Japan and Asian Peoples Friendship Society held a demonstration 12/22/11 in front of the Ministry of Justice Building (Tokyo, Japan). We delivered our joint policy statement to representatives of the MoJ who will be directly involved in changing Japanese domestic law to align with The Hague Convention which Japan has pledged to sign asap.

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Demonstration and March Sunday, December 18th

A determined group of left behind parents marched through the streets of Tokyo on Sunday, December 18th to raise awareness of Japan’s pariah status amongst world nations. Japanese abduct children. Japan is a black hole from which no child has ever been recovered. There are over 2.2 million children in Japan who have no access to their non-custodial parent. There are thousands of children who have been abducted from other nations in the world and hidden away in Japan. It is a human rights violation. It is child abuse in its most vile form. Japan’s sole custody system must be changed. Currently, children can be abducted and held hostage away from their non-custodial parent. Many non-custodial parents have no access whatsoever to their children because the abductors can legally deny all access and contact. THIS MUST CHANGE!

Rion, Lauren and Julia are innocent victims of their mother and a system which supports her.

It is a violation of their human rights.

A child needs both parents.

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