On March 31, 2014, a delegation of parents from BAC Home, along with Congressman Smith, met with senior Embassy of Japan officials at their embassy in Washington, DC to discuss Japan’s intentions to address the preexisting cases of American children currently being held. Victimized parents needed assurances that we all would efficiently and effectively be able to see and hear from our own children again.
We had simple questions:
- Is Japan going to address those preexisting cases of kidnapped American children?
- Are the judges handling cases going to be properly educated on Hague Abduction Convention guidelines or are they merely going to be an extension of the Japanese Family Court?
Actions by the court in this case include:
- A request by Henrik Teton for interim access to his children under The Hague was ignored by the court;
- The judge walked out of the room when the father, who was representing himself, asked questions of the court;
- Father was denied use of his own translator and was forced to use a court appointed translator with no ability to ensure the translations were accurate;
- The judge refused to provide his name, thereby making accountability of his rulings impossible; and
- The judge ruled that no observers, including embassy officials, were allowed to witness the court proceedings.
In its first year as a member of The Hague, the Japanese government has not provided information as stated in its own procedures manual provided to a Parent of Kidnapped Child when their Hague case has been accepted by the JCA. I can say from firsthand experience how true this is.
The manual states:
“The Central Authority is currently working toward identifying the whereabouts of the child and the person who lives together with the child based on the information provided in the application documents. We will promptly inform you when we have successfully identified their whereabouts.
Please note that even after identification of the whereabouts of the child and the person who lives with the child, we will not be able to disclose to you any information (e.g. address, contact point, etc.) except for the name of the person who lives together with the child.”
As one of the first U.S. cases accepted by the JCA, I received an email from the State Department in October 2014 which came from the JCA with the above verbiage. A month later I received another email from the State Department via the JCA stating they have indentified the location but no one at the location has responded to a communication sent to the address. Just two weeks later I received my final email informing me that “The person living with the child has not responded by the deadline set by the JCA, you are free to file a petition in the court through legal representation.” This has raised many questions and concerns for which no one from State Department or the Japanese Ministry of Foreign has yet to answer for.
- “Identifying” an address is not the same as “Verifying” my son lives at the identified address. As far as anyone knows it could be a rental property.
- Why is the JCA setting a deadline, especially when it has been a little over one month? There is nothing in The Hague Convention which sets any deadline.
- If the JCA is not getting a response from the person living with the child after numerous attempts why not send someone to the “identified” address and knock on the door to get verifiable proof that my son is there?
- How can I proceed with a lawyer when I have no verifiable proof the person living at the address is my ex?
- If I do proceed with a lawyer, can a court case be started without the abducting parent being notified?
- What if the abducting parent is notified but refuses to participate?
- Are there repercussions in place against the abducting parent if he/she doesn’t show up in court?
- Even if by some miracle a non-Japanese person wins in a Japanese court, does the Japanese court have any mechanisms in place to enforce such a ruling?
While dozens of parents and thousands of family and friends continue to wait to see if Japan is going to live up to its obligation and responsibility as a member of The Hague Abduction Convention to return our abducted children, Japan has used its membership to The Hague to seek and obtain the return of at least three Japanese children abducted to other countries; one of which is from the United States.
Since 1994 over 400 American children have been kidnapped to Japan. As of today there has not been a single case in which any of our children have been returned to their habitual residence in the United States with assistance of the Japanese government nor has there been a precedent setting case in which a Japanese court has ruled in favor of a non-Japanese parent of a kidnapped child to Japan that forced their return to the United States. Furthermore none of the parents who have filed Article 21 motions a year ago are known to have had any contact or communication with their kidnapped child.
On March 25th of this year, a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, chaired by Congressman Smith, held a hearing on international parental child abduction in which Congressman Smith stated Japan was “breathtakingly unresponsive” in its behavior on the child abduction issue. Japan’s actions, or inactions, are speaking volumes. It is time for the U.S. State Department to take the steps granted it by the Goldman Act of 2014 to seek and enforce sanctions in the strongest possible terms against Japan for its continued noncompliance in returning abducted children. Japan does not need more time to begin to live up to its responsibility as a Hague country. Japan has used the same amount of time for its own advantage to seek and obtain children abducted from Japan and therefore knows all too well the procedures and guidelines of The Hague Convention to return abducted children.
On April 1, 2015, the anniversary of Japan signing on as a member of The Hague Abduction Convention, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia at the Pacific, Daniel Russell, speaking at the University of Washington’ Jackson School on International Affairs, was asked by BAC Home Executive Director Jeffery Morehouse what he was planning to do on his upcoming trip to Japan to secure the return of his son, who he has full custody orders in the United States as well as Japan, and the 400 American kidnapped American children, the Assistant Secretary responded “I can tell and understand that this is an emotional issue that, a personal issue for you.” He went on to say, “our consular unit and Embassy in Japan is committed working with all American citizens to try to see justice done.” He finished his reply with “I am not familiar with any particular case.” As you can see, Assistant Secretary Russel never answered the question. What is he going to do about our children? How can he when he is, “not familiar with any particular case.” When former Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell held this position, he knew many of our cases. He raised our issue with his counterparts in Japan at every opportunity. We knew that he was working hard on our issue. By dodging the question Assistant Secretary Russel is either not nearly as familiar with the issue of International Parental Child Abduction with Japan as he should be or he is playing “Politics” with our children before his crucial meeting in Japan on other “Matters”. Neither is acceptable.
Managing Director, Bring Abducted Children Home
Father of Keisuke Christian Collins
Kidnapped to Japan June 16, 2008