By the Ambassadors of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, and the Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Japan
October 22, 2010
We, the Ambassadors to Japan of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, and the United States, and the Chargé d’affaires a.i. of the Delegation of the European Union to Japan, the Deputy Heads of Mission of Spain, and the United Kingdom, and the Political Counselor of France, called on Japan’s Minister of Justice today to express our concerns over the increase of international parental abduction cases involving Japan that affect our nationals as well as Japanese citizens, and to urge Japan to ratify the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“the Convention”).
The Convention seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention across international borders, which can be a tragedy for all concerned. The Convention further establishes procedures to ensure the prompt return of children to the State of their habitual residence when wrongfully removed or retained, and secures protection for rights of access of both parents to their children. Under the Convention, a State is not bound to order the return of a child if it is established that there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation. To date, 82 countries have acceded to the Convention, including the twelve countries which jointly carried out today’s demarche.
Japan is the only G-7 nation that has not signed the Convention. Currently the left-behind parents of children abducted to or from Japan have little hope of having their children returned and encounter great difficulties in obtaining access to their children and exercising their parental rights and responsibilities.
In our meeting with Japan’s Minister of Justice H.E. Mr. Minoru Yanagida, we reiterated that we place the highest priority on the welfare of children who have been the victims of international parental child abduction, and stressed that children should grow up with access to both parents. We signaled our encouragement at positive initiatives by the Government of Japan, such as participation in symposiums in Tokyo and collaboration between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while at the same time repeating calls for Japan to ratify the Convention, which would also benefit left-behind parents who are Japanese nationals. We also urged Japan to identify and implement interim measures to enable parents who are separated from their children to maintain contact with them and ensure visitation rights, and to establish a framework for resolution of current child abduction cases.
Japan is an important friend and partner for each of our countries, and we share many values. We believe this can and should serve as the basis for developing solutions now to all cases of parental child abduction in Japan. As we did when we met with Justice Minister Chiba in October 2009 and with Foreign Minister Okada in January 2010, we have extended an offer to Minister Yanagida to continue to work closely and in a positive manner with the Japanese government on this critical issue.