Last May Japan succumbed to intense diplomatic pressures from numerous countries and announced its intent to ratify the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Preparations are underway, and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda aims to submit implementing legislation to the Diet in early 2012. But, mixed public opinion and resistance among members of Japan’s leading party threaten to impede or substantially delay treaty ratification. Meanwhile, Japan’s plans to ratify the Hague treaty are cold comfort to several hundred parents whose parentally kidnapped children are already in Japan; they won’t find relief because the treaty doesn’t apply retroactively. Left-behind father Paul Toland has seen his daughter only three times since her mother took their 9-month-old baby to Japan in 2003; the girl is now 9 years old. Four years after she abducted their daughter, Toland’s wife committed suicide. Instead of granting Toland custody, Japan awarded custody to the maternal grandmother. Toland told the Japan Times:
Hundreds of children have been abducted and none have ever been returned (from Japan). It’s frustrating — you know that you are in a losing battle. Signing the Hague is just a very small step — there is so much else that needs to be done. The true test will be how many children do they actually return and how well will they work with us fathers in the existing cases. If you have your own child stripped away from you, your human rights are violated. It’s not a personal issue to us, it’s a human rights issue. Every parent has the right to their child and every child has the right to know and love both parents.
Despite pressure from President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Noda has reportedly been evasive about returning already-abducted kids to their lawful custodial parents around the world. U.S. Rep. Chris Smith has proposed that Japan and the U.S. sign a memorandum of understanding addressing outstanding cases not subject to the Hague treaty.
READ MORE: Few options for left-behind parents even if Hague OK’d, Japan Times (December 29, 2011).