Friday, April 9, 2010

Chasing Parents of Kidnapped Children Held In Japan Unite in DC During Cherry Blossom Festival Rally

Japan: The Black Hole of International Parental Child Abduction

Chasing Parents from all over the United States who have their children criminally abducted and detained in Japan have joined together under the banner of ‘Bring Abducted Children Home’ (, in an effort to raise the public’s awareness on the growing cruelty directed at defenseless, innocent U.S. children-citizens victimized by the act of international parental child abduction. The group, which consists of nearly 50 Chasing Parents and their supporters have descended on Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers and government officials in order to press for the return of their children, while also intending several formal protests and awareness campaigns in order to educate the scores of visitors celebrating Japan’s culture.

The timing of their rally could not be better: this week, Washington celebrates the Cherry Blossom Festival, where over a million visitors are expected to visit the nation’s Capitol. One of these visitors expected to visit is Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Japan has never returned a child that has been internationally parentally kidnapped and illegally detained in their country in accordance to the laws of the child’s nation of habitual residency. According to various reports, it is estimated that there are over 1,300 children who had been criminally abducted from a foreign country and presently criminally detained in Japan. In addition, in the last decade alone there were 167 child abduction cases in Japan reported to the State Department involving 230 children. This, despite an assortment of U.S. court orders and demands for these children to be returned home.

Zero abducted children returned from Japan equates to this country becoming known as the ‘Black Hole of Abduction’, and a ‘Safe Harbor’ for parental child kidnappers.

Sadly, most American citizens and for that matter, most citizens of developed and progressive-leaning countries have no idea that Japan is a safe-harbor for child abductors, none of whom face prosecution or extradition in Japan. And why would the public not know this? Isn’t Japan one of the United States’ strongest strategic partners and allies? On the surface, the answer to this question is ‘yes’. But how can a strategic partner allow for criminally abducted children to remain in their country and under the guidance and care no less, of the abducting parent?

Culturally, Japan’s courts allow for only one parent to have access and custody of a child during divorce proceedings. Tragically for the child and the parent not selected to be with their own child by the court, contact and communication is frowned upon and not approved. This approach is far different than the West, where research and common sense demonstrate that a child is best served by knowing the love of both parents.

For example, the case of Navy Commander Paul Toland and his daughter Erika's plight provides one microcosm that there is more to Japan's refusal to comply than what is commonly referred to as 'cultural differences in law'. In Commander Toland's case, his daughter Erika was abducted by the child's US Citizen mother while he was assigned in Japan on military duty. Shortly after, the mother died, and the grandmother took possession of Erika where she remains until this day, held captive in a country that has never returned a child. The US State Department tried to intervene and asked to visit Erika to check on her welfare and well-being, but the grandmother denied their request. The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked to visit Erika to check on her welfare and well-being, but again, the grandmother denied their request. In the Japanese system, where no enforcement mechanisms exist and compliance is completely voluntary, all any government agency can say is "We're sorry, we tried." Nobody can offer any remedies or solutions, because none exist. Commander Toland, who is Erika's sole legal custodian under Maryland State Law, remains with absolutely no access to his daughter. Erika has been gone now for nearly seven years. Her father Paul loves her with all of his heart.

Commander Toland commented, "I never dreamed that serving my country overseas in one of our allied nations would result in the loss of my only child. Japan is supposedly an ally of the United States, so why does the United States continue to
tolerate this behavior from Japan? How can a nation that we call an ally be guilty of such despicable human rights violations and get away with it? Our children are all we have, and every civilized society has the responsibility to ensure that their most vulnerable citizens, their children, have the opportunity to know and love their parents."

In another case that cuts through the chatter of cultural issues is the case of Captain William Lake. In Captain Lake’s case, his former spouse, who is not a Japanese citizen, abducted his daughter Mary Victoria to Japan despite an array of court orders. The abducting parent has no national ties to Japan; however, for nearly five years Japan has provided a safe harbor for the abducting parent despite having no connection to Japan. Mary Victoria will be 13 this Sunday. Her father William loves her greatly.

Christopher Savoie, who drew international media attention to the Japanese government's complicity with child kidnappers when he was wrongfully detained by Japanese police last year while attempting to retrieve his two kidnapped children stated, "I am glad that the tide is turning and that this extremely shameful aspect of Japanese culture is being exposed for what it is. People are starting to realize all of the previously closely guarded dirty secrets of Japanese society such as the popularity and legality in Japan of child pornography, legal "consensual" sex with 13 year-old children, cover-ups about killer vehicles, the ruthless killing of dolphins and the most disgusting secret of all -- that Japan officially and shamelessly supports and even assists in the kidnapping of innocent kids from countries that are supposedly their 'allies'."

‘The Hague Convention On The Civil Aspects Of International Parental Child Abduction’ offers citizens of countries that have signed the international treaty remedies that can legally order for the return of the child. Japan has not signed this treaty, despite internal and external pressure being placed on the Prime Minister and the Diet to do so.

Presently in Japan, there is heavy discussion going on internally about Japan becoming a signatory of the Hague Convention. Petitions from Japanese citizens who face international abduction and have had their own children abducted abroad have come to recognize that they have little recourse available to them for the return of their own children due to Japan’s failure to sign the international convention. In addition, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has openly said that he would like to see Japan sign the Hague Convention, but cautioned that it might be a year before the nation does so because of the slow moving Diet.
Randy Collins, the father of Keisuke Christian Collins - Abducted June 16, 2008 by Reiko Nakata stated, "Any person from Japan that makes the choice to visit or live in United States, must obey ALL laws of the US. When the Japanese parent violates U.S. laws on U.S. soil with existing court orders already in place, by illegally abducting a child to Japan, that parent MUST be extradited back to the US and the child MUST be returned to their habitual residence."

Diplomacy and dialogue are key, but with a zero return rate – ZERO – diplomacy has been too slow for every abducted child and their Chasing Parent. It is critical that the voices of caring individuals – mothers, fathers, and children of somebody – all of us – share our concern with Japan for creating a ‘Black Hole For Child Abductors’. After all – we’re talking about Japan, not some militant third world country, right?

Perhaps Tony Del Vecchio, who lost custody of his eleven-year-old daughter after protracted litigation in the Tokyo District Court, said it best, "For a foreigner divorcing a Japanese national, loss of parental rights followed by denial of access to one’s child is a fait accompli."

Peter Thomas Senese, a successful Chasing Parent and author of ‘Chasing The Cyclone’ commented, “None of these parents expected or anticipated for the abduction of their children to occur. And surely, unless you have walked in the shoes as a Chasing Parent left behind in the wake of criminal child abduction, most individuals can ever understand just how complex, painful, and costly it is to deal with abduction in an international environment. These parents and their children’s ordeal demonstrates just how difficult it is to have an abducted child returned.”

The loving Chasing Parents of children held illegally in Japan ask you to show your sign of support for their children and their efforts to bring them home. For more information, including a schedule of their activity during the coming week, please visit