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World News

Two fathers demand action against Japan over parental child abduction

FILE PHOTO: A woman takes a photo of an illuminated ice sculpture at the Sapporo Snow Festival in Sapporo, northern Japan on February 7, 2007. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Two European fathers who live in Japan will urge EU lawmakers this week to increase pressure on Tokyo to tackle parental child abduction by changing a law that does not recognise joint child custody following divorce.

Frenchman Vincent Fichot and Italian Tommaso Perina will present a petition to the bloc’s legislative assembly in Brussels on Wednesday to demand action against cases of so-called parental child abduction affecting Europeans living in Japan.

The two men -- who both became estranged from their children after their Japanese wives took them without consent -- say Japan should be sanctioned for breaching its human rights obligation under the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement.

In contrast to most other countries, Japan does not recognise joint custody of children following divorce and children often lose contact with the non-custodial parent.

In what critics say is an even more egregious human rights violation, courts often grant custody to an “abducting” parent even before any legal separation, leaving the second parent with no recourse or help to see their children.

In order to initiate diplomatic actions, the French Senate on Feb. 5 unanimously adopted a non-binding resolution calling on Japan to respect its international commitments under the Hague Convention.

EU lawmaker Geoffroy Didier called on the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in a letter dated Jan. 23 to suspend the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement which is aimed at promoting shared values of “democracy, rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The plight of left-behind parents last year also prompted French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Giuseppe Conte to raise their concerns with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, while Japanese and foreign left-behind parents have also collectively launched a complaint to the U.N.’s human rights body.

Several countries including Italy and Germany have posted travel advisories for Japan, warning of the consequences of parental child abductions as Tokyo prepares to host the Olympic Games this year.

Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine and Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Helen Popper

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