TOKYO, Jul 30 (Reuters) – Ten European diplomats on Friday expressed their support for a Frenchman who has been on hunger strike for three weeks during the Tokyo Olympics to seek what he calls legal sanctions Protest kidnapping of his two children by his Japanese wife.
The ambassadors of the European Union in Japan met with Vincent Fichot, 39, who camps at a train station near the national stadium, a focus of the ongoing games, where temperatures regularly rise above 30 degrees Celsius (85 degrees Fahrenheit) in brooding humidity.
Fichot’s dramatic protest aims to draw attention to the plight of parents like him, who are denied custody or visits of their children in the event of a divorce. In contrast to most other countries, Japan does not recognize joint custody and children often lose contact with the non-custodial parent.
“It is a question of children’s rights, because in the Convention on the Rights of the Child it is clear that every child has the right to contact both parents, and that is why we support the parents and of course the French ambassador in this case,” said EU Ambassador Patricia Flor.
“It’s also a matter of time for the kids as they grow up, so it’s urgent,” she told reporters. “We cannot wait long for this question. We would appreciate a quick response from the Japanese authorities.”
An official from Japan’s Justice Department declined to comment on a specific case. He said a panel of experts is reviewing the country’s divorce system because “we understand that there are different views on the matter. Some people say they cannot support children and others say they cannot meet their children”.
In 2019, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said Japan generally considered it “important to the interests of children that both the father and mother can be involved in looking after the children after the divorce”.
Fichot’s estranged wife, Maiko Fichot, said of her lawyer, “As this is a personal divorce case, I want my private information to be protected … I have no intention of arguing or commenting outside of the courtroom.”
The attorney, who refused to be named, declined to make her available for an interview.
“MATERIAL FOR JAPANESE SOCIETY”
Visibly thinner than a week ago, and at one point Fichot had to sit while speaking to reporters, said he had lost 14 kg since he started fasting on July 10th. His hand was bandaged because he broke two fingers on Thursday when he passed out.
Nonetheless, he spoke vigorously for 45 minutes with the diplomats from France, Germany, Spain, Italy and other governments, nudging several with his forearms.
Fichot is demanding compensation for his children, which he believes is a violation of their rights, or apart from that, French sanctions against Japan.
A year ago, the European Parliament urged Japan to comply with international child protection rules and allow joint parental control after a number of EU citizens were denied access to their children by Japanese mothers.
Last weekend, at Fichot’s urging, French President Emmanuel Macron, who was visiting the Olympics, addressed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s custody issue “in a confidential and personal manner,” said French Ambassador Philippe Setton.
Macron did the same with Suga’s predecessor Shinzo Abe in 2019.
“This is primarily a matter for Japanese society,” said Setton. “Regardless of the dramatic and painful circumstances surrounding Mr. Fichot’s situation, we do not want to get involved in a Japanese debate.”
Fichot said he realized that France cannot interfere in the Japanese judicial system. “At least I was hoping for sanctions, but for me I stick to my motivation.”
Coverage by Pak Yiu and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Additional coverage by Lucien Libert; Writing by William Mallard, edited by William Maclean
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