Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Thank God for Christopher Savoie. I always remember the American father who forced Tokyo to act on the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction which it signed in 1980 but then ignored.
“Years after Hague signing, parent who abducts still wins” (Monday, May 1, 2017) and “Parental abduction victims hold rally to push for joint custody rights” (Saturday, May 6, 2017) are the most recent additions to my thick file of Japan Times stories on this issue which I began keeping in September 2009. That is when Christopher Savoie famously, valiantly, virtuously and rightly tried to re-claim his kidnapped children from his Japanese ex-wife by seeking asylum with his youngsters inside the American Consulate in Fukuoka. “Asylum” is self-evidently the right word for it. Ultimately, he failed. The consulate turned him over to Japanese authorities, but the Fukuoka police and prosecutors dropped their case (“Fukuoka cops drop child-snatching case against Savoie,” November 14, 2009) and deported him instead. Prosecuting him would have been too shameful for Japan and cast the country in a humiliating bad light internationally. It was a textbook example of how it (sometimes) takes foreign pressure to move Japan forward.
More attention has been given to the plight of children and their alienated parents since then, but application of the Convention is not satisfactory. To make it satisfactory requires starting with acknowledging and treating the abducting parent (usually but not exclusively their Japanese mothers) as criminal kidnappers (a capital offense in some countries). Active intervention to repatriate of the children followed by the prosecution and long imprisonment of the kidnapper are not excessive suggestions.
But I could be wrong.
Published in The Japan Times on Sunday, May 21, 2017 as "Custody rights remain huge problem."
I have written many letters on this topic over the years. This is the second or third to be published. My driving point - a point which so far has faithfully been edited out - is that the Japanese State is an accomplice to kidnapping, that by failing to prosecute the (mostly) women who do this, and likewise failing to enforce the legitimate custody decisions reached by foreign courts (which it is obliged to do under the Hague Convention) the State is aiding and abetting a heinous crime and actually encouraging it by cultivating the belief in parent’s minds that if they reach these shores they are free and clear. I regularly hint that the perpetrators be charged with a capital offense not because I want them to be executed, but because I want the crime and the abducting parents to be recognized for what they are. It feels like only an extreme approach like that will succeed in this environment in educating people. But if a few Japanese ex-wives end up being hanged for international kidnapping, well …