U.S. cites Japan for noncompliance with Hague treaty on cross-border parental child abductions

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department on Wednesday listed Japan as one of the countries showing a pattern of noncompliance with the so-called Hague treaty, which sets procedures to settle cross-border parental child abduction cases.

Japan joined the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in 2014, and it is the first time since then that the nation has been put on the list in the department’s annual report on the issue of children taken by one parent following the breakup of an international marriage.

The listing may help put greater pressure on Japan to comply with the treaty, pundits said.

The 2018 report said Japan has made “measurable progress” on international parental child abduction, noting that the average number of children reported abducted to the country each year has decreased by 44 percent since 2014 thanks to the expansion of mediation between parents and the promotion of voluntary returns by authorities.

While noting that “a strong and productive relationship” between the Japanese and U.S. governments has facilitated the resolution of abduction cases, the report said that “there were no effective means” to enforce court return orders. As a result, 22 percent of requests for the return of abducted children under the treaty had remained unresolved for more than one year, or 22 months on average, the report said.

“Japan’s inability to quickly and effectively enforce Hague return orders appears to stem from limitations in Japanese law including requirements that direct enforcement take place in the home and presence of the taking parent, that the child willingly leave the taking parent, and that the child face no risk of psychological harm,” the report said.

It also said the enforcement process “is excessively long,” noting that parents who want to get their children back sometimes spend more than a year in follow-on legal proceedings seeking a ruling to enforce the Hague order.

A total of 12 countries — also including China, India, Brazil and Argentina — were on the 2018 list of countries showing a pattern of noncompliance.

“Now is an opportunity for the government of Japan to demonstrate a true commitment to reforming its inability to enforce its own judicial rulings,” said Jeffery Morehouse, who is seeking to gain custody of his son in Japan.

Paul Toland, who hopes to reunite with his daughter in Japan, said, “Japan will need a complete reform of their family law system and will have to change the way they view the rights of a child to know and love both parents after a divorce if they ever want to be compliant with the Hague (treaty).”

In April, International Alliance Partners, a group representing parents whose children were taken away by their Japanese partners or within Japan, sent an open letter to the governments of the Group of Seven member countries, urging them to take “firm, decisive, public action with the government of Japan to resolve the crisis and cases of parental child abduction.”

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