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Tuesday, Sep. 4, 2012

News photo
Hear this: Left-behind parents march through Tokyo in July calling for Japan to ratify the Hague Convention on Child Abduction and change its custody laws. The rally was timed to coincide with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's visit. SIMON SCOTT

HOTLINE TO NAGATACHO

Delay in signing Hague child abduction treaty could provoke sanctions

Dear Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda,

The government submitted legislation to the Diet in March of this year to allow for accession to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. It has been five months since then and the legislation has been sitting on a shelf collecting dust ever since.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has previously said it is "treating the issue as its top priority." Parliamentary Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kazuyuki Hamada also stated on April 9 that "We are determined to push it forward because the issue is hugely relevant to the values of not only our country, but also those of the international community."

Evidence that the United States government is unconvinced of Japan's sincerity has recently been highlighted by a new Senate resolution. Bipartisan Senate Resolution 543, dated Aug. 2, 2012, to express the sense of the Senate on international child abduction was introduced by California Sen. Barbara Boxer and 14 other senators, including 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

In the resolution, Japan is mentioned no less than three times: "Whereas Japan, India and Egypt are not parties to the Hague Abduction Convention and were also among the top 10 countries to which children in the United States were most frequently abducted in 2011"; "Whereas, in many countries, such as Japan and India, international parental child abduction is not considered a crime, and custody rulings made by courts in the United States are not typically recognized by courts in those countries," and; "Whereas Japan is the only member of the Group of 7 major industrialized countries that has not ratified the Hague Abduction Convention."

The resolution also quotes the U.S. State Department's Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction from April 2010: "Research shows that abducted children are at risk of significant short and long-term problems, including 'anxiety, eating problems, nightmares, mood swings, sleep disturbances (and) aggressive behavior'. "

How much longer will foreign governments such as those of the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Australia, France and New Zealand continue to believe Japan's assertions that it will sign the Hague Convention? Evidence suggests that many countries' patience is coming to an end. In the U.S. Congress, House Resolution 1940 calls for legislation that includes presidential actions up to and including economic sanctions against countries that condone child abduction, such as Japan.

How many more children will be abducted to Japan while the Japanese government breaks promises to the international community and does absolutely nothing on the issue? Perhaps it is time to hold Japan accountable in a way which they will understand: economic sanctions. Continued delay on this issue will likely ensure that this possibility becomes a reality.

BRUCE GHERBETTI

Tokyo

Bruce Gherbetti is the father of three children abducted to Japan in 2009. Since that time, Bruce has moved to Japan to maintain contact with his children. He has also helped to form two organizations to fight for children's human rights in Japan and has lobbied Diet members including former Justice Minister Satsuki Eda. Send comments on this issue and Hotline to Nagatacho submissions of 500-700 words to community@japantimes.co.jp


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