I have been meaning to write something on this topic for quite a while. I first began corresponding with Randy Collins a few months ago through a mutual friend who wondered whether Collins’ story might make for a good Hot Air topic, and he told me of his son Keisuke — who was kidnapped years ago and taken out of the country. Unlike many kidnappings, everyone knows exactly where Keisuke is; he’s in Japan, with his mother Reiko. Despite having a court order granting Randy custody, Japan refuses to extradite Reiko and give Keisuke back to his father, and Randy is hardly alone in this predicament:
Several countries, including Japan, Singapore and South Korea, are not signatories to the 1980 Hague treaty on international child abduction. These countries regard parental abductions of children as a matter for family, not criminal courts.
As a result, authorities in these countries won’t extradite parents for prosecution in the U.S., forcing victim parents to battle things out via diplomatic channels or in civil courts of the country where their child is living.
Randy Collins, 49, of Anaheim Hills, is fighting to get back his son, Keisuke. The boy was 5 when his mother, Reiko, fled with him to her native Japan in June 2008 despite a court order forbidding her from leaving the country.
“Japan will not lift a finger in returning my son to his home country,” said Collins. “I cannot begin to express the deep pain, heartbreak, frustration, and sense of loss I have had to live with every day since Keisuke’s abduction.”
Earlier this year, NBC profiled another, similar case for their nightly news broadcast:
They have more stories on Japan and child abductions here. Japan has refused to sign the Hague Conventions on child custody, the only industrialized nation to balk. Japan therefore considers parental abductions a family-court matter rather than a criminal matter, even when standing court orders in the US ordered the abducting parent not to leave the country, as in Reiko Collins’ case. The US cannot get extradition in these cases, which leaves parents like Randy with no recourse whatsoever.
Congress has taken notice of this issue. Earlier, a bipartisan effort to scold on Japan for their obstruction of justice was authored by Reps. Jim Moran (D-VA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) in an attempt to pressure Tokyo into cooperation. Smith warned that sanctions might follow:
Sponsored by Rep. Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia, and Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, the resolution calls on the American government to emphasize to Japan that it is a major bilateral issue that must be resolved by joining the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
“The House condemns the abduction and retention of all minor children being held in Japan away from the United States parents in violation of their human rights and United States and international law. It calls on the government of Japan to immediately facilitate the resolution of all abduction cases, to recognize U.S. court orders governing persons subject to jurisdiction in a U.S. court, and to make immediately possible access and communication for all children for their left-behind parents,” the resolution reads.
But first, parents victimized by Japan have to fight apathy from their own State Department:
In a telephone interview with The Japan Times Thursday morning, Paul Toland, a U.S. Navy commander now living in Maryland whose daughter Erika was taken from their home at a U.S. naval housing facility in Yokohama in 2003 by her now deceased mother, said the resolution shows that Congress is getting behind the issue, although he criticized the State Department for not doing enough to push the issue.
“We’re now fighting the apathy of the Japanese government and the U.S. State Department,” Toland said.
The bill, HR 1326, is only a non-binding resolution. However, even that weak effort has ground to a halt. Four months later, the resolution remains stuck in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. These children are American citizens abducted and transported overseas in defiance of custody rulings, and Congress thus far can’t even manage a finger-wag. It’s long past time for the US government to demand accountability and cooperation from Japan, and the return of children kidnapped from their custodial parents.
Update: One commenter criticized me for repeating the 20K figure used by advocates without checking and verifying the figure. I think that’s a very fair criticism, and I have changed the subhead to “Too many,” because that at least is indisputable. I’ll try following up with Rep. Smith to see if he has some clear figures on this. I’d be leery about accepting the State figures at face value, too, though.