The U.S. State Department has recently released their
annual report on International Child Abduction. Below is our eighth post in a
series here focusing on the twelve countries classified as “demonstrating
patterns of noncompliance.” Today’s
country is Japan.
Country Summary: The
Hague Abduction Convention entered into force between the United States and
Japan in 2014. Since then Japan has made measurable progress on international
parental child abduction. The number of abductions to Japan reported to the
Department has decreased since the Convention came into force for Japan.
Despite this progress, in cases where taking parents refused to comply with
court return orders, there were no effective means to enforce the order,
resulting in a pattern of noncompliance. As a result of this failure, 22
percent of requests for the return of abducted children under the Convention
remained unresolved for more than 12 months. On average these cases were
unresolved for one year and 10 months. The Department continues to urge Japan
to resolve the 21 pre-Convention abduction cases that remained open at the end
of the year, all of which have been outstanding for many years.
Initial Inquiries: In
2017, the Department received three initial inquiries from parents regarding
possible abductions to Japan where no completed applications were submitted to
Central Authority: The
United States and the Japanese Central Authorities have a strong and productive
relationship that facilitates the resolution of abduction cases under the
Convention. The Japanese Central Authority has focused effectively on
preventing abductions, expanding mediation between parents, and promoting
voluntary returns. The average number of children reported abducted to Japan
each year has decreased by 44 percent since 2014, when the Convention came into
force in Japan.
Voluntary Resolution: The
Convention states that central authorities "shall take all appropriate
measures to secure the voluntary return of the child or to bring about an
amicable resolution of the issues." In 2017, four abduction cases were
resolved through voluntary means.
competent authorities regularly took appropriate steps to locate children after
a Convention application was filed. The average time to locate a child was 15
Judicial Authorities: The
judicial authorities of Japan routinely reached timely decisions in accordance
with the Convention. Japanese courts routinely issued orders pursuant to the
Convention for children's return.
the taking parent voluntarily complied with a return order under the
Convention, judicial decisions in Convention cases in Japan were not enforced.
There are two cases (accounting for 100 percent of the unresolved cases) that
have been pending for more than 12 months where law enforcement has failed to
enforce the return order. Japan’s inability to quickly and effectively enforce
Hague return orders appears to stem from limitations in Japanese law including requirements
that direct enforcement take place in the home and presence of the taking
parent, that the child willingly leave the taking parent, and that the child
face no risk of psychological harm. As a result, it is very difficult to
achieve enforcement of Hague return orders. In addition, the enforcement
process is excessively long. Left-behind parents who have obtained Hague return
orders can spend more than a year in follow-on legal proceedings seeking an
order to enforce the Hague order.
Access: In 2017, the U.S.
Central Authority acted on a total of 37 open access cases under the Convention
in Japan. Of these, three cases were opened in 2017. A total of 36 access cases
have been filed with the Japanese Central Authority, including two of the three
cases opened in 2017. By December 31, 2017, six cases (16 percent) have been
resolved and five cases have been closed for other reasons. Of those resolved,
one was as a result of a voluntary agreement between the parents. By December
31, 2017, 26 access cases remained open, including 23 that have been active for
more than 12 months without achieving meaningful access. The total number of Convention access cases at the
beginning of 2017 includes 14 pre-Convention abduction cases that later filed
for access under the Convention. Of these, one resolved, four closed for other
reasons, and nine remained open at the end of 2017. In addition to filing for
Hague access, these LBPs continue to seek the return of their abducted
Pre-Convention Cases: At
the end of 2017, 12 pre-Convention abduction cases remained open in Japan. In
2017, seven pre-Convention cases were resolved and one pre-Convention case was
closed for other reasons. In these cases, the parents have chosen not to file
for access under the Convention.
Recommendations: The Department will continue its engagement with relevant Japanese
authorities to address the areas of concern highlighted in this report.