The Japan Times “ U.S. may up child custody pressure”

Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010

U.S. may up child custody pressure

The Associated Press

NEW YORK ― Japan and India are among America’s key allies. Yet to scores of embittered parents across the U.S., they are outlaw states when it comes to the wrenching phenomenon of “international child abduction.”

News photo
Left behind: Christopher Savoie is photographed with his son, Isaac, and daughter, Rebecca, at a park near their home in Franklin, Tenn., in June 2009. COURTESY OF CHRISTOPHER SAVOIE/AP

The frustrations of these “left-behind” parents run deep. They seethe over Japan’s and India’s noncompliance with U.S. court orders regarding children taken by the other parent to the far side of the world, and many also fault top U.S. leaders for reluctance to ratchet up the pressure for change.

“If they really made it an issue to solve these cases, I believe they could be resolved tomorrow. . . . They don’t have the will,” said Christopher Savoie of Tennessee.

Savoie was arrested in Fukuoka last year and spent 18 days in custody after a failed attempt to reclaim two children taken from Tennessee by his ex-wife in violation of a U.S. court order.

More than 80 nations have signed an accord aimed at curtailing such incidents, but only a handful of Asian countries are among them. Of the continent’s nonsignatories, Japan and India pose the biggest problem for the U.S. ― accounting for more than 300 cases, involving more than 400 children, opened by the State Department since 1994.

The State Department says it cares deeply about international parental child abductions, and a surge is expected.

The department’s special adviser on children’s issues, Susan Jacobs, and its top official for Asia, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, have raised the topic on multiple occasions.

Campbell used the word “kidnapping” in protesting the many cases in Japan where mothers living overseas with foreign husbands returned home with their children and kept the fathers from having contact with them.

“This is a hard job ― we don’t get as many successes as we want,” said Stefanie Eye, chief of the State Department’s Eastern Hemisphere abductions division. “We want every child in the right place.”

Yet many of the parents feel current U.S. efforts are inadequate, as does their most vocal champion in Congress, Republican Rep. Chris Smith.

After Republicans take control of the House in January, Smith hopes to become chairman of a subcommittee with oversight of human rights issues and use that post to push a bill that would toughen the U.S. approach to child abductions.

The bill would establish the Office on International Child Abductions within the State Department, and create a mechanism for imposing sanctions on uncooperative countries.

“We need the full weight of the federal government behind each and every one of these left-behind parents,” Smith said. “My bill doesn’t guarantee success, but it guarantees their cases will not be ignored. . . . We’re not going to quit until it’s law.”

Smith wrote to President Barack Obama on Nov. 10 ― prior to Obama’s recent Asia trip ― urging him to step up pressure on Japan to resolve the pending cases. Simply encouraging Japan to join the Hague Convention isn’t sufficient, Smith said, because it wouldn’t be retroactive and thus wouldn’t help parents like Christopher Savoie.

Savoie, 39, remains unable to see his kids, now 10 and 8, and says he has only faint hopes of reuniting anytime soon. He said he was told by a State Department official that child abduction was a secondary issue compared with U.S. security and economic ties with Japan.

“We just give up and wave the white flag and kowtow to Japanese citizens committing crimes on U.S. soil,” Savoie said. “Because we want Toyota and Nissan to do well, and we want our bases there, we’re willing to sacrifice these children.”

Another frustrated father is Michael Elias, 26, a former marine who served in Iraq and now works as a sheriff’s deputy in New Jersey.

According to his testimony to Congress, Elias obtained a court order in October 2008 awarding him joint custody of his two children amid the breakup of his marriage to a woman he had met in Japan. He said the woman flew to Tokyo with the children two months later, in defiance of the order, and he has been unable to see them or speak to them by phone even though he has now been awarded full custody by a U.S. court.

Elias ― whose son is 3 and daughter almost 5 ― has attended several informational meetings convened by the State Department for left-behind parents.

“Every meeting I’ve ever been to, everybody tells me they’re working better, but I don’t see any progress at all,” he said.

Both Elias and Savoie have sought help from Smith, who in September helped push a resolution through the House of Representatives urging Japan to sign the Hague Convention and return abducted American children.

“Americans are fed up with our friend and ally Japan,” Smith said at the time.

In response, the Japanese Embassy in Washington said Japan is making “sincere efforts to deal with this issue from the standpoint that the welfare of the child should be of the utmost importance.”

Many times previously, Japan has said it would consider signing the Hague Convention, but it also has expressed concern that doing so might leave some Japanese women and their children vulnerable to abusive foreign husbands.

Stefanie Eye said that in Japan, unlike many Western countries, it’s accepted practice that only one parent ― usually the mother ― has custody of a child after a divorce. That leaves many fathers, including foreigners, unable to see their children until they are grown up because of lack of visitation rights.

“Part of what we’re doing is offering the Hague country perspective of why it’s important for children to have access to both parents,” Eye said.

The State Department says it knows of no cases where a child taken from the U.S. to Japan by one parent has been ordered by a Japanese court to return to the U.S.

There has been some progress elsewhere in Asia, Eye said. She cited an announcement by Singapore that it will sign the Hague Convention and a preliminary indication by South Korea that it will do likewise.

“We’re seeing a lot of movement,” she said. “We’re waiting for someone to stand out and be a leader.”

For the moment, India shows no signs of being that leader. Though a national law commission recently recommended that India sign the Hague Convention, the government hasn’t signaled it will be a priority, and an External Affairs Ministry spokesman, Vishnu Prakash, said in New Delhi that he had no comment on the issue.

“This government is not really interested in ensuring the children’s rights,” said Bharati Ali, codirector of HAQ, a nongovernmental children’s rights group in India.

The State Department’s assessment is blunt.

“Once a child has been abducted to India, remedies are very few,” an official advisory says. “India does not consider international parental child abduction a crime, and the Indian courts rarely recognize U.S. custody orders, preferring to exert their own jurisdiction in rulings that tend to favor the parent who wants to keep the child in India.”

Jeremy Morley, a New York lawyer who specializes in international family law, said India is “a safe haven for child abductors” in part due to its slow-moving court system.

“An abductor has ample time to create facts on the ground in terms of getting the child sufficiently settled into life in India as to justify an Indian court in ultimately deeming that it is best to keep the child in India,” Morley writes on his website.

The California-based Rakshak Foundation has tried to help numerous Indian-American fathers entangled in cases of alleged child abduction.

Among them is Avinash Kulkarni, 45, of San Diego, who says his son was taken to India by his ex-wife in 1990 when he was 6 months old and 18 years passed before he saw him again. He said he won a civil case against his ex-wife in 2001 but made no headway with the Indian legal system in efforts to reunite with his son.

“In India, the whole concept of human rights and fairness is nonexistent compared to here,” he said. “Fighting that is a losing battle. . . . I lost my prime years trying.”

Another father, Vipin Gopal, said he has been unable to exercise custodial and visitation rights granted by courts in Connecticut after his daughter was taken to India by his ex-wife four years ago.

“Recently, during a visit to India, the Obama administration negotiated multibillion-dollar trade deals and supported a U.N. Security Council seat for India,” Gopal said. “But if we can’t negotiate with India about the basic rights of our own children, that’s where America as a nation fails.”

Rex Arul, an energy consultant from Georgia, is trying to regain custody of his 3-year-old daughter, who was taken to India in July by his wife, a corporate attorney, in the midst of wrangling over a divorce. Arul said he subsequently obtained a U.S. court order awarding him custody, but he isn’t optimistic.

“The cards are stacked against me,” he said. “The Indian courts always say the priority is the child’s best interest, but in the end it’s always rewarding the abductor.”

Even among countries that have signed the Hague Convention, noncompliance can be a problem ― as evidenced by the case of Sean Goldman, who was taken to Brazil by his mother in 2004, when he was 4. Only in December 2009, more than year after the mother died, did Brazil’s Supreme Court agree the boy should be returned to his father in New Jersey.

Despite the slow movement in Asia, Eye said she found cause for encouragement: The Foreign Ministry recently opened an office to deal with abduction issues and has been asking “good questions” about the impact if Tokyo signed the Hague Convention.

  1. 機械翻訳による簡易和訳





    ニューヨーク? アメリカの主要同盟国の中に日本とインドはあります。まだ米国中の何十人もの仲たがいした両親にとって、「国際的な子供の誘拐」のねじれ現象のこととなると、彼らは非合法な州です。

    後ろの左: クリストファー・サボアを彼の息子イサク、および娘と共に写真を撮られます、レベッカ、フランクリン、テネシー州のそれらの家の近くの公園で、6月2009日のCOURTESY OF CHRISTOPHER SAVOIE/AP通信で


    「彼らがこれらのケースを解決するために本当にそれを問題にしたなら、私は、明日それらを決議できたと信じています… それらには、意志がありません。」と、テネシーのクリストファー・サボアは言いました。









    請求書は、国務省の中に国際Child Abductionsにオフィスを設立して、非協力的な国で制裁を加えるために仕組みを作るでしょう。

    「それぞれ後ろの連邦政府の全重量とこれらの後に残している両親の皆が必要です。」と、スミスは言いました。「私の請求書は成功を保証しませんが、彼らのケースは無視されないでしょう… 私たちがそれが法になるまでやめるつもりでないのを保証します」。

















    さしあたり、インドは、そのリーダーである兆候を全く示していません。国内法令コミッションですが、最近推薦されて、ハーグ条約、政府がそれに合図していないというインドサインが優先と、External Affairs Ministryスポークスマンになるのが(ビシュニュ・プラカシュ)ニューデリーで彼が問題でノーコメントであると言いました。







    Avinash Kulkarniそれらにおける45のサンディエゴ(彼が6カ月目であり、彼が再び彼を見る前に、数1990年が経過したとき、彼の息子が彼の前妻によってインドに連れて行かれたと言う)があります。彼は、彼が2001年に前妻に対して民事事件を獲得したと言いましたが、彼の息子と再会するための取り組みにおけるインドの法的なシステムで足踏みしました。

    「インドでは、ここと比べて、人権と公正さの全体の概念が実在しません。」と、彼が言いました。「すなわち、見込みがないのに努力します… 私は主要な何年ものトライを失いました」。






    アジアでの動作緩慢にもかかわらず、Eyeは、彼女が奨励の原因を見つけたと言いました: 外務省は、最近、拉致問題に対処するためにオフィスをオープンして、日本政府がハーグ条約に調印したなら、衝撃に関する「良い質問」を尋ねています。