HURIGHTS OSAKA and the Osaka Bar Association jointly organized on 5 August 2011 in Osaka a symposium entitled “Child’s Best Interest and the Rights of Parents in Cross-border Child Abduction Cases.” The symposium dealt with issues that have been debated in Japan regarding the ratification of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Convention). The Japanese Cabinet announced on 20 May 2011 its decision to propose to the Diet (parliament) the enactment of a law in preparation for the ratification of the Hague Convention. Several resource persons spoke at the symposium. Ms. Mikiko Otani, a lawyer and Vice-Chair of the Working Group of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations on the Hague Convention, discussed the Hague Convention and the best interest of the child principle that should govern it. Ms. Noriko Odagiri, a clinical psychologist in Tokyo International University, discussed visitations from the child’s perspective, and problems that could arise (such as disruption by the return of the child to the country of the other parent, sense of loss, and the possibility of witnessing domestic violence). Ms. Nancy Zalusky Berg, President of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers – USA Chapter, shared some experiences in applying the Hague Convention in the U.S. She stressed Article 13(b) of the Hague Convention on the denial of request for the return of the child if “there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.” She also mentioned that there were exaggerated claims of harm and abuse to the children subject of such requests. The U.S. courts, therefore, require “undertakings” to ensure the safe return of the child. More than one hundred participants including members of the bar association, academics, psychologists, human rights workers, public officials, and officials from several Consulates in Osaka attended the symposium.
HURIGHTS OSAKA co-organized the performance of the members of the Bornfree Art School in Osaka on 13 August 2011. The Bornfree Art School is a special school created exclusively for street children, working children and freed bonded labor children. It aims to educate and develop the talents of the children through the arts, and thus put them back into the mainstream education. The Bornfree Art School (based in Bangalore, India) sees art as a therapeutic means for children from such difficult backgrounds to express themselves freely, regain the confidence and self-respect as well as to generate interest in education. The performance in Osaka (as well as in other places in Japan) focused on peace as main theme. The performance highlighted the importance of Article 19 of the 1947 Japanese Constitution that renounces war as a “sovereign right” of Japan, and linked this to the message that Mahatma Gandhi wanted to convey on the peace issue.
On 3-4 September 2011, HURIGHTS OSAKA held a meeting of educators from China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Mongolia and Taiwan to discuss the development of a Northeast Asian Human Rights Education Training Resource Material. As a teacher training resource material, it would be designed for use in teacher- training colleges or in any form of training teachers. It would include existing human rights education materials in Northeast Asia such as lesson plans, and materials on human rights concepts, pedagogies, school-rules and regulations, links with outside institutions and the local community. The project would seek the help of teachers, law professors, teacher educators, and those involved in non-formal human rights education in Northeast Asia in gathering materials and putting them together as a resource material.