If anything good is coming out of the Chris and Noriko Savoie abduction and re- (un?) abduction case, it’s that the matter of parental rights with split couples in Japan is coming to light.
The Japan’s Childrens Rights Network (CRN) has been an internet presence on this issue for some time. And their website, which I had visited out of curiousity a couple of years ago, is hopefully getting the attention it deserves while the media reports while the two spouses go at it in their war of nerves.
As a nonpracticing lawyer, I do take an interest in these legal issues. You hear it commonly said that parents can abduct their children into Japan and shut the other parent out “because Japan hasn’t signed the 1980 Hague Convention on international custody disputes!” I think this is the one that sent Elian Gonzalez back to Cuba in the early 1990’s, if you remember that one.
CBS had Amy Savoie (new Mrs. Savoie) on the Early Show yesterday, talking about how Christopher is sitting in the Japanese jail cell. CBS sent a reporter to visit Chris, and to try and interview Noriko, who’s possibly in hiding.
Japan does not have a habeas corpus rule. I don’t know where MacArthur was on that one. But then again, he was a military man.
The rule here is that the police can hold a suspect for 23 days (three weeks and change—imagine that!) while prosecutors figure out whether and why to charge the suspect.
I’m curious to see what the charge will be. As the CBS report points out, they’ve already held him for a week. So you can imagine that they are combing through the penal code to find something to give Japan (since now it’s this international thing) some leverage in the situation.
“American Dad in Japan Jail” is not a good headline for Japan.
As I pointed out, Chris Savoie created a lot of shades of gray by taking the J-citizenship and basically plotting how and where he got the divorce. After I first wrote about it, news sources said that Noriko Savoie also took American citizenship (which makes two people now with apparent passports of convenience.)
The problem the Japanese have is that whatever they want to charge Chris with is going to implicate all Japanese marital disputes. And if they try some citizenship charge, like take away his Japanese citizenship, then, what happens to Noriko? She gets to keep hers, because she’s the “real” Japanese?
So this is where I’m hoping that groups like the Japan’s CRN can get a foothold in the news spin and point out that there are over 100 custody situations just like the Savoies. Many that have gone on for years and years. And just ask Japan what they think about it.
Sure, an easy solution would be “to have Japan finally sign the Hague Convention on child abductions!” But this is also silly, because for close to 30 years, Japan hasn’t.
The point I can’t figure out is why no one has then promoted the idea of negotiating a bilateral treaty between Japan and America or any country that wants to press the issue.
Japan ignores treaty terms as it is. But at least with ones where Japan is at the table as if it is not “part of the gang”, the national chauvinism that wafts into so many international situations would not be so strong. None of this “BOO HOO, OUR SOVEREIGNTY! OUR SOVEREIGNTY!” any time Japan has to concede a point or lose something to, basically, a foreigner.
The difficulty the CRN has is similar to Chris Savoie’s. Trying to work within Japan will get them little. Trying the gai-atsu route (foreign pressure) starts up this adolescent’s game of “OUR SOVEREIGNTY! OUR SOVEREIGNTY!”. And then that becomes the excuse not to move on things.
If CRN emphasizes that the Hague Treaty on that matter hasn’t been ratified here, well, the response will be about the 57 different niggling points that the Japanese don’t like. Plus, this is gai-atsu, so that’s going to be this big issue.
Congressman Chris Smith (Republican NJ-4th) is taking a more forceful approach. But the problem there will be that the sweet honey of trans Pacific trade flows in both directions. And some of that money turns into lobbyist bribes in Washington. So Congressman Smith’s bill is basically just moral support.
Japan often finds the innovative solutions. But sometimes the innovative solution is elsewhere. Like the idea of joint custody in a divorce. All these different people say it’s better for the kids. You don’t want to look at it that there are “just” 100 contested custody situations between America and here, so it’s not significant to change a past practice. Because each of the 100 is its own tragedy that really could use some better resolution.