Petitions MEPs sound alarm over Japanese parental child abduction  

Press Releases 
  • Concerns over Japanese non-compliance with international rules on child protection and best interest of the child  
  • Japanese custody law does not allow shared custody and prevents meaningful contact with the non-custodial parent 

The Petitions Committee is concerned over parental child abduction in Japan and the reluctance of the Japanese authorities to comply with international law.

In a draft motion for a resolution adopted on Tuesday with 33 votes in favour and none against, the Petitions Committee expresses concerns over children’s wellbeing as a result of parental child abduction in Japan and urges Japanese authorities to enforce international rules on child protection.

The resolution comes as a result of a high number of petitions from EU citizens addressing concerns over the lack of enforcement of court decisions in Japan to return children to their country of habitual residence, provided under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Petitions highlight the lack of provisions under Japanese law for shared custody and prevention of children to maintain meaningful contacts with non-Japanese parents, and the harmful effect this could have on the welfare of the child.

Enforcing international law

The Petitions Committee urges Japanese authorities to follow international recommendations and to introduce changes to their legal system by putting in place rules on shared custody, so that their domestic laws align with their international commitments, namely the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRD). As a strategic partner, Japan should also enhance cooperation with the EU and improve the enforcement of domestic and foreign court decisions on the return of the child and on access and visiting rights granted to the left-behind parents.

MEPs underline that safeguarding the child’s best interest must be the primary concern of authorities and urge for the swift handling of abduction cases to avoid long-term adverse consequences for the child and the future relationship with the non-custodial parent.

Support for families

Due to the cross-border nature of these legal disputes, the Petition Committee insists that all child protection systems have transnational mechanisms in place. They propose the development of citizen-friendly European information support for parents in cross-border disputes and recommend member states make available reliable information on family law and children’s rights in third-countries like Japan.

The Council should enhance cooperation between the different national child abduction alert systems with cross-border implications and work with the Commission to set up alert mechanisms on missing children.The text also calls for more international cooperation among member states and with third-countries to implement international legislation on child protection and urges member states to inform their citizens about the risk of child abduction in Japan and the behaviour of Japanese authorities.

International relations

MEPs welcome the Commission’s commitment to raise the issue at every possible forum, including the Joint Committee of the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement. In order to further increase pressure on Japanese authorities, they also urge the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell to include Japan’s international obligations under the 1980 Hague Convention and UNCRC on the agenda of future meetings organised in the context of EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement.

Background information

The issue of Japanese parental child abductions gained international attention when French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte raised their concerns with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a G7 summit in 2019, while EU Ambassadors also addressed a joint letter on the matter to the Japanese Minister of Justice. A formal complaint was also launched last year to the UN Human Rights Council by left-behinds parents, arguing that Japan was violating the UNCRC and the Hague Convention.

Parliament’s Committee on Petitions has received a significant number of appeals in the past years on Japanese parental child abduction and visiting rights where one of the parents is an EU citizen. Following the examination of a series of petitions on parental child abduction in Japan at its meeting on 19 February, the committee addressed a letter to the Japanese Mission to the EU urging its authorities to comply with the national and international legislation concerning children’s rights and the civil aspects of international child abduction.