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Japan Failing to Meet Commitments Regarding Parental Abduction

SNA (Himeji) — Currently in Japan about 150,000 children lose all contact with one parent each year, according to the estimate of the Kizuna Child Parent Reunion (CPR), a non profit organization that seeks to help all children affected by this crisis. This is often due to parental abduction or alienation, which is the conscious decision made by the alienating parent to break the child-parent bond between the child and the target parent.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which was signed by Japan in 1994, has already recognized that a child has a right to access both of their parents. Article 9, Section 3, mandates: “States Parties shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests.”

Sadly, the children’s human rights enshrined in this treaty have yet to be recognized in Japan.

This year at the UN General Assembly, Canada made a formal recommendation that was accepted by Japan to work on the following: “Establish enforceable domestic child access mechanisms that would allow both parents to maintain on a regular basis personal relations and direct contact with their children in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

Recently, too, the European Union sent a complaint letter to Japan stating that many of its citizens have lost contact with their loved ones even after a court decision that grants them access. This is because the Japanese judiciary lacks any real enforcement arm for its rulings. This fact often comes as a big shock to many Japanese citizens as they are unaware of the reality of their court system.

Japan’s friends from the European Union and Canada have good reason for concern as they have watched the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction fail all too frequently for their citizens at the hands of Japanese judges. Questionable rulings have seen return orders overturned.

Many changes are required in Japanese law, and in its judiciary, before Japan can live up to its commitments to these UN conventions and to the children living in the country.

Article author Tim Terstege is himself a victim of parental abduction. The photo above shows Terstege and his son Liefie in February 2015, the most recent occasion on which they were able to meet.

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