Joint Press Statement (International Child Abduction - Eight Nations)

January 30, 2010

By the Ambassadors of Australia, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States
Tokyo, Japan

We, the Ambassadors to Japan of Australia, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, the Charges d'Affaires a.i. of Canada and Spain and the Deputy Head of Mission of Italy, called on Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs today to submit our concerns over the increase of international parental abduction cases involving Japan and affecting our nationals, and to urge Japan to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction ("the Convention").

The Convention seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention across international borders, which can be a tragedy for all concerned. The Convention further establishes procedures to ensure the prompt return of children to the State of their habitual residence when wrongfully removed or retained. It also secures protection for rights of access to both parents to their children. To date, over 80 countries have acceded to the Convention, including the eight countries which jointly carried out today's demarche.

Japan is the only G-7 nation that has not signed the Convention. Currently the left-behind parents of children abducted to or from Japan have little hope of having their children returned and encounter great difficulties in obtaining access to their children and exercising their parental rights and responsibilities.

In our meeting with Japan's Foreign Minister Okada, we reiterated that we place the highest priority on the welfare of children who have been the victims of international parental child abduction, and stressed that the children should grow up with access to both parents. We signalled our encouragement at recent positive initiatives by the Government of Japan, such as the establishment of the Division for Issues Related to Child Custody within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the same time repeating calls for Japan to accede to the Convention, which would also benefit left-behind parents of Japanese origin. We also urged Japan to identify and implement interim measures to enable parents who are separated from their children to maintain contact with them and ensure visitation rights, and to establish a framework for resolution of current child abduction cases.

Japan is an important friend and partner for each of our countries, and we share many values. We believe this can and should serve as the basis for developing solutions now to all cases of parental child abduction in Japan. In common with our demarche to Justice Minister Chiba on October 16, 2009, we extended an offer to Foreign Minister Okada to continue to work closely and in a positive manner with the Japanese government on this critical issue.