The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes’ coverage of abducted children in Japan has been raised in US Congress before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.
The Committee is investigating the lack of resources for parents and children who are victims of international parental child abduction.
In March, an investigation by this masthead and 60 Minutes revealed that Japanese police had ignored Interpol missing persons notices and courts had failed to enforce visitation orders for 82 missing Australian kids.
Michelle Bernier-Toth, the US State Department’s special adviser for children’s issues, said she had travelled to meet with foreign governments that had failed to meet their international obligations, enforce return orders or locate children.
“We owe it to the children and their families to resolve these abductions and to work to prevent them,” she said.
“It is a role I take seriously because ultimately is about children, children and families, who as you said have been the victims of and traumatised by international parental child abduction.”
Jeffery Morehouse, the executive director of Bring Abducted Children Home, said this masthead’s reporting had exposed the impact of Japan’s system on children.
“The impact from this crime on the victims is lifelong,” Morehouse told the committee.
“In last week’s article by journalist Eryk Bagshaw, who’s written multiple times on this issue, Susuma Wataya bravely shared his experience.
“He says he was beaten when he asked about his father and his last name was secretly changed, cutting him off from all future contact. ‘I lost my identity,’ he said.”
Morehouse said it was time for the US and other governments to move beyond diplomatic protests.
“The pain that this Japanese system causes children is beyond description,” he said.
The Japanese government has denied that its sole custody laws facilitate child abduction. It has announced a review of the system.