Thursday, May 06, 2010
More Pressure on Japan & International Child Abduction
Dateline NBC will be airing a piece on the case of my client, Christopher Savoie, this Sunday, May 9 at 7:00 pm EST.
US lawmakers threaten Japan on child custody
WASHINGTON — US lawmakers threatened to punish Japan unless it worked to reunite hundreds of children with foreign parents, accusing Tokyo of violating human rights through its custody laws.
As Japan celebrated its annual Children's Day, lawmakers gathered near the US Capitol with a handful of tearful fathers who held up pictures of their half-Japanese children to whom they have no access.
Japanese courts almost never award child custody to foreign parents. Activists say thousands of Japanese have spirited children home, denying access to the foreign parents.
"For 50 years we have seen all talk and no real action on the part of the Japanese government," said Representative Christopher Smith, a Republican from New Jersey who is helping spearhead the legislation.
"American patience has run out," he said.
The legislation, which needs approval by Congress, would create a US ambassador-at-large for child abductions and spells out actions that the president can impose if a country does not cooperate.
The punishments range from a private demarche to barring US agencies from procuring or exporting goods to governments in violation.
The custody issue was thrown into focus last year when Christopher Savoie of Tennessee was detained in Japan for snatching his two children on their way to school and taking them to a US consulate.
Savoie, overcome with emotion, appeared at the Washington news conference and voiced hope his children would see him on television.
"Please always remember -- Daddy loves you," he said.
He accused Japan of hypocrisy, noting that Tokyo has campaigned for years to force North Korea to return Japanese civilians kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s to train the communist regime's spies.
"They have sought and received -- rightfully -- the support of our government," Savoie said.
"But in 58 years, Japanese parents have stolen hundreds of children from the United States and the Japanese government has refused to cooperate in the return of even one" child, he said.
Japan is the only major industrial nation that has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention that requires the return of wrongfully kept children to their country of habitual residence.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said in February he was willing to sign the Hague Convention but warned that his government needed time as parliament was unlikely to ratify it in its current session.