EU envoy for the Olympics helps French folks on starvation strike over Japanese custody

Frenchman Vincent Fichot, 39, went on his third week of hunger strike during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, demanding access to his two children, who he said were kidnapped by their Japanese mother. While Fichot’s appeal was conveyed by French President Emmanuel Macron to his Japanese counterpart Yoshihide Suga, not much has changed. According to French newspaper Les Echos, Fichot has often returned to an empty house without failing in his efforts to see his children in the Japanese suburb of Setagaya, where he currently lives.

The French father’s modest house stinks of absence, devoid of decoration and glamor. He has three pieces of furniture and he is holding a single photo of his children on a chest of drawers by the entrance.

To support the cause of the former financial worker who sits outside on the street for days with no food or drink, several European diplomats protested the Japanese government on Friday for allegations of allowing the “legal kidnapping” of Fichot’s children while the father of they were separated, reported French media.

[Credit: Twitter/@EmbEspJapon]

Tokyo’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said at a Japanese press conference last week that “a civil case in Japan should be resolved by those concerned in accordance with domestic law” when he refused to discuss Fichot’s issue at length.

Fichot started a petition outside the national stadium and continued his year-long reunification battle with his children named Tsubasa and Kaédé at the age of 3 and 11 months respectively, both of whom have dual citizenship. The French father of two was lured in by the press on July 30 when he was joined by at least 10 EU diplomats who supported him. The EU questioned the legality of the state-sanctioned kidnapping of Fichot’s children by their parents, reflecting the plight of several foreign parents for whom divorce in Japan means loss of access to their children.

The foreign parent in Tokyo may be denied the right to even see their children after the divorce with the Japanese partner. One of the most developed nations in the world, Japan, does not recognize the concept of “joint custody” of children and forbids hundreds of thousands of mothers and fathers from ever seeing their children again after the court grants “sole custody” to the Japanese national . The country’s laws do not take into account the fundamental rights of children.

French media report that Fichot has lived in Japan for 15 years and has appealed to French President Macron to enter into a dialogue with the Japanese government in order to see his children. At a ceremony in which Paris is to host the next Olympic Games in 2024, Macron is said to have spoken about the “extremely tragic situation” that the Frenchman values ​​his children to reporters.

EU Ambassador Patricia Flor said in a statement on Friday in support of Fichot: “The Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that all children have the right to contact their parents, and in this case of course the French ambassador. I will support you.”

“A matter primarily for Japanese society,” Japan’s FM reminds France

Meanwhile, officials from the Japanese Ministry of Justice declined requests from French reporters to comment on Japan’s custody laws and the national divorce system. Fichot’s estranged wife, Maiko Fichot, had previously brought domestic violence charges against Fichot as a grounds for divorce and later withdrew. His wife meanwhile declined to comment: “I want my private information to be protected.” Fichot, who said he would continue his fight, has lost 30 pounds (14 kg) since his strike began on July 10. Several diplomats from France, Germany, Spain, Italy and other countries have since supported the French. Meanwhile, French Ambassador Philippe Setton said at a press conference that while France’s Macron brought the matter to Prime Minister Suga’s predecessor Shinzo Abe in 2019, “it is primarily a matter of Japanese society”.

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