The case of an Australian father imprisoned in Tokyo after going to the apartment block of his separated in-laws to find his children he had not seen in months, has exposed a crisis faced by parents in Japan.
Sydney independent journalist Scott McIntyre, 46, was released on bail last Friday after spending six weeks in prison on charges of intrusion. On Wednesday he received a six-month sentence, suspended for three years.
“To be honest, it is incredible that he was (arrested) in the first place, for having crossed a door,” McIntyre’s mother, Laurie McIntyre, told ABC out of court.
“In Australia that would be a misdemeanor, a slap on the wrist, a fine of $ 100 will disappear. Here, they spend months in jail before having the opportunity to (explain to you) … it’s a crazy system.”
McIntyre was arrested on November 28 while trying to locate his two young children, who were taken by his Japanese mother last year after a collapse in the couple’s marriage.
“The children, who are Australian citizens, were taken from their home and school, and moved to a secret place,” explains a Change.org petition created by McIntyre’s friends. “Scott has never heard from them again, only from the lawyers of his Japanese wife. He was not even allowed to talk to his son to wish him a happy birthday.
“Scott is a dedicated father. In recent years he has been a father who stays at home. He loves his children and loves them very much. “
McIntyre moved with his family to Japan in 2015 after being fired from SBS for a controversial tweet about Anzac Day. He sued for unfair dismissal and the parties reached an out-of-court settlement in 2016.
Addressing reporters after his sentencing hearing, McIntyre said that while his court case was over, he was no closer to reuniting with his daughter and son, who were now 11 and 9 respectively.
“I haven’t seen my children for almost 250 days,” he said.
“They were taken in May of last year without my permission, without my consent and it is my opinion that they continue to suffer parental alienation.”
McIntyre is not the only Australian with missing children in Japan.
Child recovery specialist Colin Chapman said The Sydney Morning Herald The country is known as a “black hole”, with up to 20 taken from Australia to Japan without consent each year.
Lawyers and legal experts say that Japan effectively approves the act regardless of whether it is domestic violence, and that parents deprived of contact with their children face the threat of arrest if they try to recover or see them.
Although Japan is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction, its breach is notorious, since it does not recognize joint custody orders or enforce visitation rights.
Between 2017 and 2018, the Hague Convention received 143 requests for assistance related to children taken from Australia and taken to another country, compared to the figure of 139 from the previous year.
The statistics, available on the Australian Attorney General’s website, do not break down the number of these children in Japan, but show that almost half are missing in countries outside of New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
While these cases are generally treated by the A-G, McIntyre’s case is outside its parameters.
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Department told news.com.au today that because McIntyre’s case took place in Japan instead of Australia, “it is not a case we should deal with, but a matter of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Commerce (DFAT) “. ) “.
DFAT confirmed that it had contacted McIntyre, who is expected to remain in Japan indefinitely while fighting for access to his children.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance to an Australian man in Japan,” a spokesman said in an email.
“Due to our privacy obligations, we will not provide further comments.”
McIntyre, who came out of his sentencing hearing in a t-shirt printed with the words “Stop parental abduction of children,” is pressing the Japanese government to fulfill its obligation to comply with the Hague Convention.
“I want the police to apply this law,” he said.
“In addition, Japan has international treaties and obligations to ensure that parents and children do not separate from each other. I want Japan and the Japanese government to respect the treaties they have signed. “
McIntyre said that while it was quite difficult for foreigners in his position, the situation was worse for Japanese mothers and fathers, who were forced to suffer in silence without any legal recourse.
He said approximately 100,000 children were taken without consent and were denied access to a father in Japan.
“Most of those cases do not involve a foreign father like me; most of them involve Japanese parents who have no voice, “he said.
“What future is there for Japan if children are taken and removed from their parents without their consent? The family court routinely refuses to investigate these forced transfers.
“In my case, I went to the police and asked for their help to investigate this problem, which is covered by Japanese law and international obligations and they did nothing to support me or my children.
“And I am here as a representative of a large group of parents from France, Germany, Italy, the United States, Canada, South America and Asian nations.
“But the most important thing is that I am here as a representative of all Japanese mothers and fathers whose children have been taken away.” All we want is a joint custody system in Japan, that Japan joins the civilized and modern world in the implementation of a shared custody system because this is a problem that has been affecting Japanese, men and women (and) not discriminates by gender and career. “
McIntyre was arrested on November 28 for entering the common area of the building where his wife’s parents live at the end of October in an attempt to find their children, according to Reuters.
He testified that he had made numerous requests to the police and his wife’s lawyers, the two are going through a divorce mediation, to let him know if the children are safe, but that they were ignored.
On the day of the illegal entry, he had been worried about his children after a
The typhoon that swept the region, he said.
It was not clear why McIntyre’s wife left him taking his daughter and son, now 11 and 7 years old. Prosecutors said in court that she had claimed McIntyre’s physical violence against her daughter, which he denied, and the material presented by the prosecution was dismissed as irrelevant for the rape charge.
It was also unclear why he was arrested more than a month after the illegal entry, or why he had been detained for so long. A previous bail request was denied because it could destroy evidence or flee the country.
Friends who visited McIntyre at the Takaido Detention Center in western Tokyo, where he languished between November 28 and January 10, described the unfortunate conditions.
“You are allowed a shower every five days,” her friend Catherine Henderson told The Herald in December.
“His cell is on 24 hours a day and he can’t wash his clothes. He receives a visit of 20 minutes a day. We take things for him like clothes and books, but they are often rejected. There is no privacy, even for the bathroom. “