Feb. 9, 2011
We, the Ambassadors of Canada, the European Union, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, the Political Counsellor of the Embassy of Australia, and the Consul of Colombia, called on Japan’s Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs today to express the importance we continue to attach to the issue of international parental abduction, and to once again urge Japan to ratify the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“the Convention”).
The Convention seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention across international borders, which can be a tragedy for all concerned. The Convention further establishes procedures to ensure the prompt return of children to the State of their habitual residence when wrongfully removed or retained, and secures protection for rights of access of both parents to their children. Under the Convention, a State is not bound to order the return of a child if it is established that 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.
To date, 84 countries have joined the Convention, including the eleven countries that jointly carried out today’s demarche, and all 27 member states of the European Union, which, moreover, has enshrined the principles laid down in the Convention into EU law. In the past year alone, three additional countries – Morocco, Gabon and Singapore – have joined the Convention, making it an increasingly universal standard for the handling of cross-border abduction cases. Japan is the only G-7 nation that has not signed the Convention. Currently the left-behind parents of children abducted to or from Japan have little hope of having their children returned and encounter great difficulties in obtaining access to their children and exercising their parental rights and responsibilities.
In our meeting with Parliamentary Vice-Minister Yamahana, we emphasized the high priority our governments place on the welfare of children affected by the breakdown of international marriages, and stressed that children should grow up with access to both parents. We also noted that Japanese ratification of the Convention would benefit Japanese nationals as much as those of other countries, since, as revealed by a recent web survey by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are many cases where Japanese parents and their children have lost contact because of abduction to other countries. We further urged Japan to identify and implement measures to enable parents who are separated from their children to maintain contact with them and ensure visitation rights, and to establish a framework for resolution of current child abduction cases. Finally, we emphasized that the Convention has provisions to prevent children from being returned to abusive or otherwise threatening situations in other countries, as well as the existence of protective provisions against domestic violence within the legal systems of our countries.
Japan is an important partner for all of our countries in innumerable ways, ranging from vibrant political and economic relations, to the people-to-people ties of which international marriages are emblematic. All our governments continue to stand ready to assist Japan in its consideration of the Hague Convention, with a view to helping parents and children affected by this painful issue.