La Cour Suprême du Japon juge illégal le non retour d’un enfant

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La Cour Suprême du Japon a rendu un arrêt jugeant illégal le refus d’une mère de faire retourner son enfant dans le pays duquel elle l’a soustrait (les États-Unis) sans autorisation du père.
Article en anglais :

Mother’s refusal to return child to U.S. ruled ‘illegal restraint’

By GEN OKAMOTO/ Staff Writer

March 16, 2018 at 16:35 JST

A Japanese mother in Japan who is refusing to return her child to the Japanese father in the United States is « illegally restraining » the child under the Hague Convention on international child abductions, the Supreme Court ruled March 15.

It is the first such ruling by a Japanese court based on the convention, which came into effect in Japan in 2014.

The decision was made in a writ of habeas corpus filed by the father of a child abducted from the United States by the child’s mother.

The mother is refusing to return the child to the United States despite an order from a Japanese family court to do so.

The Supreme Court also sent the case back to the Nagoya High Court for a retrial.

Under the convention, if a child under 16 is taken outside of a country where it lives without the other parent’s consent, in principle, it should be returned to the nation where it was a resident.

Since the treaty came into effect in Japan in 2014, there have been a series of cases in which parents in Japan have refused to return children snatched from overseas despite family court orders, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The Supreme Court decision could affect the handling of such cases.

The mother gave birth to the child in the United States in 2004 and returned to Japan with her child in 2016 without the consent of the child’s father, according to the Supreme Court.

The father demanded the return of the child, and the Japanese family court granted his appeal, but both mother and child refused to accept the decision.

In a subsequent lawsuit, the Nagoya High Court ruled that the mother keeping the child was not “illegal restraint.”

But the Supreme Court judgment pointed out first of all that, generally speaking, a child abducted from abroad has no choice but to face up to life in a different environment where another language is spoken.

Then the presiding justice suggested that careful consideration over whether the child can gain sufficient information about what the future holds, or is subjugated to unfair psychological influence from the abductor parent, are necessary to make a judgment.

And, if there was a situation in which the child was unable to make a free-will decision, then inhibiting the return of the child may be an act of illegal restraint.

The Supreme Court decided that in this case the child was “illegally restrained” by the mother as the child was unable to gain objective information as the child was only 11 at the time of arrival in Japan and was under unfair psychological influence from the mother.

The First Petty Bench concluded that the case needs to be retried at the Nagoya High Court.

Fate of child abductions bill in Diet uncertain Fate of child abductions bill in Diet uncertain : an article of The Japan Times

By MASAMI ITO Staff writer
Copyright : Japan Times Source :

The government finally submitted legislation to the Diet last month for joining the Hague Convention on international child abductions but its passage appears far from certain.

Western allies have long pressured Japan to join the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and are watching closely to see whether Tokyo lives up to an earlier promise to ratify it.

But the prospects of this happening in the near future already appear bleak because lawmakers are preoccupied with just one issue — Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s plan to hike the consumption tax.

Although Noda’s administration has decided to push for signing the Hague Convention, lawmakers in both the ruling and opposition camps have serious reservations and the bill’s passage is in doubt. According to the Lower House secretariat, a bill was submitted to the Diet in early March but has not even been referred to a committee for deliberation yet.

Lawmakers opposed to the treaty argue that joining it may result in children being forcibly returned to an abusive environment, since many Japanese mothers have cited domestic violence as a reason for fleeing their overseas domiciles and taking their children to Japan.

But abandoned spouses, who end up with little or no access to their children, have been urging Japan to take action.

At a seminar about the Hague Convention on Monday, Kazuyuki Hamada, a parliamentary secretary at the Foreign Ministry, admitted it’s possible the bill may not be approved by the end of the Diet’s current session.

Hamada, however, confirmed that the ministry is treating the issue as its top priority and will do everything in its power to ensure the bill’s passage.

« The political maneuvering is not easy because we are surrounded by so many (competing) political agendas, » Hamada said. « (Given) these agendas, we are not 100 percent certain we can ratify the Hague Convention by the end of this Diet session.

« But we are determined to push it forward because the issue is hugely relevant to the values of not only of our country, but also those of the international community, » he said.

Kirsten, an American mother who attended the seminar and asked that her last name be withheld, recounted how her former Japanese spouse abducted her 14-year-old son, in Japan. Although the case technically does not fall under the Hague Convention, many former partners in the nations, whether they are Japanese or foreigners, experience difficulty getting access to their children after they divorce of break up.

Kirsten said she was granted legal guardianship of her son after she separated from her husband, but the boy never returned from a visit to his father in 2007. Her former husband held their son for more than a year before the courts acknowledged he should be returned to his mother.

« I used to respect my dad and looked forward to seeing him on the weekends with my sister. But one time I went to my dad’s without my sister and was told that I would no longer be able to see my mother. I was really shocked, » said Kirsten’s son, who wished to remain anonymous.

The boy said he spent that year with his father looking forward to the postcards that his mother regularly sent him.

« I was very confused about the decisions my dad made. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be with my mother, » he said.

But after they were reunited, he said he was also able to gradually rebuild his relationship with his father.

Akiko Ohnogi, a psychologist who specializes in child and family counseling and has worked on many child abduction cases, stressed the importance of maintaining healthy relationships with both parents.

Such relations have « an impact on (the child’s) entire life — it’s not just something that happens during childhood and eventually goes away, » he said.

« The attachment to both parents determines how children view themselves, how they view interpersonal relationships and their general world view. »

Other panelists at the seminar included Colin P.A. Jones, a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto and an expert on international child abductions.

The seminar was jointly organized by child rights advocates John Gomez and David Hearn, who directed the movie « From the Shadows » on the theme of international and domestic parental abductions, and which is currently in postproduction. The event was supported by the Harvard Club of Japan.

One-fifth of kids deprived of contact with one parent

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Dear Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Minister of Justice Hideo Hiraoka, Minister for Foreign Affairs Koichiro Gemba, Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare Yoko Komiyama, and the government of Japan,

I pose the question: How many children in Japan cannot be with both of their parents on the Children’s Day national holiday?

In other words, how many children have lost a meaningful relationship with one of their parents?

Apparently, there may be 2.2 million children or more from 1992 to 2009, including 4,200 American dual-nationals. This has occurred as the result of divorce as well as child abduction, both international and domestic.

The estimate is based on statistics from the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) and Supreme Court of Japan. Each instance is a human rights violation, the loss of a child’s access to both parents at all times.

Many in Japan and around the world do not know this human rights problem is happening because it is masked by terminology. The issue is often described as a custody dispute in Japan — a civil matter — when in fact the world outside would refer to it as a child abduction. The scenario is institutionalized and sanctioned by every family court divorce ruling.

First, one must understand the conditions. If a parent takes a child from the other parent, this custodial interference is not illegal in Japan, so abductions are not counted. Therefore, it is difficult to know how many there have been.

We also know that after divorce only one parent retains custody, and there is no enforceable visitation. Hence, denial of access after divorce is not counted either, and can be done with impunity.

How many children in Japan are affected by this? Let’s look at MHLW divorce statistics and Supreme Court of Japan visitation rulings.

From 1992 to 2009 there were 4,358,276 divorces in Japan. There were 230,672 divorces involving one spouse who is not Japanese, and 7,449 divorces where one spouse is American. There are about 250,000 divorces per year in Japan. There is one child per divorce on average consistently throughout the time frame in question.

Half of the children of divorce in Supreme Court of Japan visitation appeal cases from 1999 to 2009 have ended up through the court process with less than 12 visits per year with their noncustodial parent. Typical visitation rulings grant children between 12 and 52 hours per year with their noncustodial parent after divorce, but in half of the cases visitation is less than the low end of that range.

These rulings show how much visitation the highest court in Japan thinks children should have. Maintaining a meaningful parent-child relationship with that much visitation is simply not feasible.

A pie chart that appeared on NHK’s « Close Up Gendai » show on Sept. 8, 2010, shows a survey in which 58 percent of respondents stated that they do not have visitation with their children after divorce in Japan. With a divorce rate at about one-third the rate of marriages and one child per marriage and divorce, multiplying the divorce rate by the percentage visitation rate indicated in the NHK survey means that about one-fifth of children in Japan do not have a relationship with both parents. The family is the fundamental unit of a society, but it is not being protected, with dire consequences.

If we multiply the number of children by 50 percent — those who have less than once a month visitation according to Supreme Court data — then we can estimate those who do not have regular visitation with their parent. From 1992 to 2009, this has affected an estimated 2.2 million children in Japan, including 115,000 children of dual nationality, and 3,825 children with one American parent.

The U.S. State Department also reports that 374 American children have been abducted from the U.S. to Japan since 1994. This makes an estimated 4,200 American children (3,825 + 374) who have lost the relationship with their American parent.

What is the meaning of Children’s Day, where families are given a holiday to celebrate their children, while the joy for many is taken away by a judicial system that has deprived 2.2 million families of a reason to rejoice?

The breeze that suspends carp streamers (koinobori) across the country on that day is a hollow promise of parenthood and the howl of a desolate childhood for those who long to be cherished by their kin.


Submissions to Hotline to Nagatacho should address issues that affect your life in Japan or be in response to government policies. Please imagine you are actually writing to a government official — be it a local school board head or the prime minister himself — to bring attention to an important matter. Send submissions of between 500 and 700 words to


Divided siblings speak out for Hague Convention  

The government of Japan asked the public to comment in October on the issue of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs being designated as the central authority responsible for the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction.

A North American mother submitted the following statements from her two children. Below is the introduction she added when she gave permission for The Japan Times to publish her children’s submissions.

The mother: These comments were written by my two children.

My son was abducted, and my daughter was left behind with me. They were separated from each other by the abduction.

The lack of real protection for these children is exactly the thing that destroys the parent-child bond. No child in this country is really « safe, » and will never be until domestic law is revamped.

The son (now 14): Since some time ago, my father and my mother have been divorced. I lived with my older sister and my North American mother.

When I was in the 4th grade, there was a time when, all of a sudden, I lived with my father.

At that time, I was living with my mother and went to visit my father every weekend. One weekend, I went to see my father by myself, without my sister. At that time, I was told I would never see my mother or my sister again.

From that time and for one year, against my will, I lived with my father. I thought my father was terrible, I hadn’t realized he was the devil.

After a year passed, the court case was concluded and I could once again live with my mother. However, that one year was a terrible year.

In truth, it was abduction. Despite this, the court wouldn’t move. I thought they would protect me, but instead I felt even more insecure. Family Court should protect children, but they didn’t protect me.

My father often spoke ill of my mother. On my own, I could tell what was truth and what was lies. However, in the case of abduction of a newborn or a young child, they will have no choice to believe whatever is told to them. On top of that, it might come to pass that they will never see their other parent again.

Looking at this objectively, Japan should accede the Hague. And, in regards to this, laws should be changed.

There are still so many suffering children (in Japan). Please, help them.

The daughter (now 17): Four years ago, my younger brother was abducted by our Japanese father.

Although I thought the court would soon return him, it took all of a year.

I’d always thought the courts and the police were there to protect us, but I was wrong. I was insecure and felt afraid. My North American mother was crying every day.

Even now, I don’t understand why our father took my brother away, or why he wouldn’t let me see my brother. While my brother was gone I was alone and lonely.

My mother did the best she could to provide for my life; she was strong for me. What my father did to us can never be forgiven. I didn’t want to see my mother and my brother cry.

I think Japan should sign the Hague, but more than that, Japan’s Family Court system must be revised. If things remain as they are, children cannot be protected.

La petite Elise et sa mère interpellées en Hongrie

LEMONDE.FR avec AFP | 13.04.09 | 12h43  •  Mis à jour le 13.04.09 | 14h28

C‘est la fin du suspense dans l’affaire de l’enlèvement de la petite Elise. La fillette franco-russe âgée de trois ans et demi enlevée le 20 mars à Arles (Bouches-du-Rhône), et sa mère ont été interpellées, dimanche 12 avril, en Hongrie, ont indiqué les polices française et hongroise. « Hier [dimanche] en début d’après-midi, une citoyenne russe avec une petite fille a voulu passer en voiture la frontière entre la Hongrie et l’Ukraine à Tiszabecs, » dans l’est de la Hongrie, a déclaré le porte-parole de la police locale. « Le garde frontière a vérifié la base de données Schengen et découvert que la femme était recherchée pour un acte criminel et que la jeune enfant, née en 2005, avait été portée disparue », a-t-il ajouté. « La femme a été placée en garde à vue à Nyiregyhaza, tandis que la fillette se trouve dans un foyer pour enfants. »« Nous avons informé le consul de Russie en Hongrie, qui a déjà rendu visite à la femme, ainsi que les autorités françaises et le père, qui est en route pour la Hongrie », a-t-il conclu.

Selon une source policière française, Elise et sa maman Irina Belenkaya ont été interpellées dimanche en Hongrie en vertu d’un mandat d’arrêt européen émis contre la mère de l’enfant. Le procureur de la République d’Aix-en-Provence, Olivier Rothé, a confirmé leur interpellation sans pouvoir fournir de détails dans l’immédiat. Elise, qui vivait en France, avait été enlevée par deux hommes et une femme alors qu’elle revenait de l’école avec son père, Jean-Michel André, qui avait été roué de coups. M. André avait accusé la mère de l’enfant, avec laquelle il est en instance de divorce, d’être l’auteur du rapt pour ramener Elise en Russie. A l’issue d’une rencontre au ministère de la justice pour faire le point sur les recherches, M. André avait déclaré jeudi être convaincu que sa fille se trouvait en Russie avec sa mère et s’était dit déterminé à s’y rendre.

« Le père d’Elise est parti cette nuit pour la Hongrie. Il pourrait ramener sa fille en France d’ici 48 heures », a déclaré l’avocat de M. André, Victor Gioia. Me Gioia a refusé de fournir des précisions sur le lieu précis où Elise et Irina Belenkaya ont été interpellées. Selon l’avocat, l’objectif de M. André est « d’éviter un nouveau traumatisme à la petite ». Pour le père, « l’objectif n’est pas d’entamer une guerre de tranchées avec la maman » car « il est animé par la volonté de faire en sorte que sa fille puisse avoir une vie à peu près normale ».

Le parquet d’Aix-en-Provence, au profit duquel s’était dessaisi le parquet de Tarascon (Bouches-du-Rhône) initialement saisi, avait ouvert le 24 mars une information judiciaire contre la mère de l’enfant et contre X. L’information judiciaire a été ouverte contre Irina Belenkaya pour « soustraction de mineur par ascendant » et « complicité de violences volontaires ayant entraîné une interruption temporaire de travail (ITT) de plus de huit jours aggravée par la préméditation, la réunion et l’usage d’une arme. L’information judiciaire a également été ouverte contre X pour complicité de soustraction de mineur par ascendant et violences aggravées.


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親子面会交流ネット:親権者に拒否された親たち、権利の法制化求め設立 /東京