WASHINGTON – Congressman James Moran (D-VA), along with two other representatives introduced House Resolution 1326, condemning Japan over its blatant disregard for human rights in the matter of parentally abducted children. For over 58 years, Japan has failed to return a single child detained unlawfully and in violation of United States courts.
A bipartisan coalition of Congressional Representatives and left-behind parents held a press conference outside of the Capitol building to promote and answer questions to American and international news organizations.
Representative Chris Smith said, “For 50 years we have seen all talk and no real action on the part of the Japanese government”.
Representative Chris Smith a year earlier lead the fight to make Brazil recognize the sovereign rights of American abducted children held in their country. Due to Rep. Chris Smith and other legislator’s hard work this past December 24, 2009, Sean Goldman was returned home to his father, David Goldman in New Jersey.
Actions speak louder than words. Representative James Moran wants to see Japan, a G7 nation, choose the honorable path and decide to return these criminally abducted children to their rightful homes. Representative Chris Smith made it clear, “this is not a custody issue”; the parents standing with him, had been granted full custody under the authority of United States law and was kidnapped by the other parent in an attempt to avoid court orders they originally agreed upon.
Under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the removal of children by any parent without the written consent of the other parent or a court order is a crime. Nearly every country that is a signer to the Hague Convention recognizes parental child stealing as a felony offense. Although Japan is not a signer to The Hague, under Japanese civil and criminal code, it is a punishable offense to steal children domestically and internationally.
Japan’s centuries old family law system is a quagmire of confusion even for domestic divorce cases. Japan has attempted to remain ignorant of Western law, by pretending not see the issues raised in their own backyard. In Japan’s view, if they have never been forced to address their own social concerns over the parent-child bond, then it doesn’t exist. In the same respect, if the sky is not blue, it’s not blue.
Due to Japan’s family law system Navy Cmdr. Paul Toland hadn't seen his daughter for more than six years. Toland’s only contact was last year when he flew 7,000 miles to see his daughter at a street intersection in Japan.
“She didn't run away, but was probably a little overwhelmed,” said Toland, “At least now she knows that her father exists.”
United States Navy veteran, Douglass Berg’s children were stolen this past August 2009. Naoko Numakami, Berg’s ex-wife told him she was going to Japan with her children only for a short vacation.
“I didn't know it would be a permanent vacation,” said Berg, “I had no idea that once my children left there was no way to get my children back – that a great country like Japan would allow such acts to happen.”
Japan has officially requested, and for years received the assistance of the United States for the return of Japanese children abducted by and held by The People’s Republic of North Korea. The United States has never refused or denied help in facilitating the return of unlawfully abducted Japanese citizens.
The majority of children abducted to Japan do have at least one Japanese parent. In the case of William Lake, a Captain in the United States Merchant Marines, neither he nor his ex-wife are of Japanese origin. Lake’s ex-wife, Nadezhda Shapovalova was granted a teaching position in Japan to teach English and her native Russian. As a result of the cancellation of the ex-wife’s US passport Shapovalova’s has lost her work visa. Despite her lack of legal status the Japanese refuse to recognize his court order granting him full custody of their daughter, Mary Victoria Lake and return her to the United States.
The nature of Lake’s case questions Japan’s need to seek qualified educators, over the sovereignty of Japan’s allies in regards to child stealing.
Dr. Christopher Savoie is an American-Japanese citizen. His children were stolen to Japan despite abduction concerns raised during his divorce proceedings and ignored by a Tennessee Family Court Judge, who had previously been the mediator for Savoie and his ex-wife, Noriko Esaki.
Former abducted child and author, Ken Connelly stated concerns over the mental and emotional welfare of these abducted children. His own abduction lasted three years and resulted in the first interstate recovery and felony conviction in the United States.
“The effects of being kidnapped by my father have left deep scars upon me and my family”, said Connelly, “Night terrors, speech difficulties, periods of insomnia, and eating difficulties began within in weeks of my kidnapping. I have learned to manage the physical symptoms of my childhood but the loss of trust in family and loved ones have remained central throughout my life. Sadly this is a common theme amongst parentally abducted children.”
The Japanese embassy issued a statement on Wednesday stating, “It is aware and sympathetic to the plight of children and families who have been affected by the unfortunate child custody issues involving Japanese and American citizens.”
Japan’s statement stated the government is considering joining the 1980 Hague convention. However, this is not the first time Japan has issued similar past statements.