Hi Blog. Here’s what investigating countries at the United Nations are saying about Japan’s human rights record.
First, some highlights of what the GOJ itself says it’s doing about following treaties and human rights standards, then other countries respond with a surprising degree of awareness. The biggest issues seem to be the death penalty, human trafficking, and rights for women (with historical issues brought up by neighboring Asian countries), but as far as Debito.org is concerned, there is plenty of attention devoted to issues we’ve been raising all along. Even if Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene’s reports on racism in Japan are mostly being ignored by our government, they certainly are being read by members of the UN.
Do try to read parts of the UPR Report with a straight face, as that’s what our government is making a number of risible claims with. I offer links to sections on Debito.org that are at odds with the GOJ’s claims. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review
Second session, Geneva, 5 – 19 May 2008
A/HRC/WG.6/2/L.10 14 May 2008
DRAFT REPORT OF THE WORKING GROUP ON THE UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW
7. Japan attached great importance to human rights education, based on the conviction that in order for all people to enjoy human rights and live contented lives, each citizen must fulfil his or her responsibility to uphold the freedoms and rights guaranteed to them, and at the same time must correctly understand and respect other people’s human rights. It referred to initiatives taken. Regarding the human rights of foreign residents in Japan, it is responding to various needs by establishing Human Rights Counseling Offices for Foreign Nationals with interpretation services at some Legal Affairs Bureaus. It was explained that in March 2002, the Ministry of Justice submitted the Human Rights Bill to establish a new Human Rights Commission which was not completed because of the dissolution of the lower house in October 2003, and the Ministry of Justice continued to review the Bill. Japan explained, inter alia, that it has been striving to realize a society without any form of racial or ethnic discrimination and that in order to prevent such human rights violations it pursues the strict implementation of relevant domestic laws and promotes activities for raising public awareness.
8. …With regard to the police detention system, it was explained that the necessity of detention was strictly examined by the police, a prosecutor, and a judge in due order, and that a judge decides on its necessity and the placement of the detention for a maximum of 10 days. A prosecutor and a judge respectively review the necessity of the extension of the detention, and a judge order is also necessary for the extension, which cannot exceed 20 days in total. The Delegation stated that the substitute detention system was indispensable to carrying out prompt and effective investigations. At the police detention facilities, investigative officers were not allowed to control the treatment of detainees; detention operations were conducted by the detention division of the facility, which is not involved in investigations at all. The Delegation also explained that, regardless of the type of crime committed, detainees can have consultations with their lawyer at anytime and there is no official watch person during the meeting and no time limitation. Under the Penal and Detention Facilities Act, a new system has been introduced to make up a third party committee to inspect detention facilities and to state their opinions on the management of the facilities. In addition, a complaints mechanism has been developed in order to ensure the appropriate treatment of detainees…
[COUNTERARGUMENT regarding the underlined sections above:
11. On the question of civil society cooperation in the process of drafting the national report, the Delegation indicated, inter alia, that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted information on the UPR system and process on its website, and asked for opinions ofNGOs and ordinary citizens about the government report and that as a result, it received opinions from 11 NGOs and 214 ordinary citizens. Additionally, the Delegation stated that Japan
recognized that there was still room for improvement, and stated that in the international community, due to globalization and environmental changes, new challenges were being faced and that Japan will continue its contribution to achieve better results for the human rights in the international community, in close cooperation with the United Nations, regional communities, other national Governments, and civil society.
[COUNTERARGUMENT: Read what happened at one of their attempts to ask for opinions of civil society–they refused to calm right-wing agitators and brought the meeting to a close, never to open again:
QUESTIONS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES:
16. …Belgium also noted concerns about the prolonged detention in police stations’daiyo kangoku’, the high conviction rate and that several recent cases have indicated that forced confessions have been made, giving rise to regrettable judicial errors. Belgium recommended that in order to avoid the police and the judiciary putting excessive pressure on an accused person to confess: (i) there should be more systematic and intensive work to bring the risk of forced confession to the attention of the police, (ii) interrogation monitoring procedures should be reviewed, (iii) the use of prolonged police detention should be re-examined and (iv) the Criminal Code should be reviewed to ensure its conformity with article 15 of the Convention against Torture.
[MORE ON THIS: http://www.debito.org/?p=415]
18. …It also noted that the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism has requested the Japanese Government to eliminate racial discrimination and xenophobia. China hoped that the Japanese Government will seriously address those concerns and adopt effective measures to implement the recommendations of those mechanisms.
[MORE ON THIS: http://www.debito.org/rapporteur.html]
19. …Canada referred to studies showing that an increase in international marriages has resulted in an increase in complex divorce and custody cases and noted that there is no formal mechanism to deal with international child custody cases. It recommended that Japan develop a mechanism to ensure the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed from or prevented from returning to their habitual place of residence, and also examine the possibility of acceding to the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
…[Canada also] referred to reports which indicate the prevalent use of prolonged detention of arrested persons, including detention after they appear before a court and up to the point of indictment and recommended that Japan institute mechanisms to enhance procedural guarantees for the detention of detainees.
[MORE ON THIS: http://www.debito.org/?p=1652]
21. …[The] United Kingdom recommended that Japan implement the relevant recommendations of the Committee against Torture with regard to external monitoring of police custody and that it ratify the Optional Protocol to CAT as soon as possible. It also recommended that Japan review the Daiyo Kangoku system in order to ensure that the detention procedure is consistent with its obligations under human rights law. It also wished to know whether the Government is intending to take further measures in response to the concerns raised on these issues in other reports provided for this review. It further recommended that civil society be fully involved in the follow-up process to the UPR at the national level.
THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT RESPONDS
28. Following the interventions, Japan noted that the Government pursues the goals of ensuring equal rights and opportunities for foreigners, respecting foreigners’ culture and values, and promoting mutual understanding to realize a society in which Japanese and foreigners can live together… Japan stressed its efforts, based on its Constitution and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to realize a society where there is no discrimination due to race, ethnic groups or others and its active work towards the elimination of racial discrimination in the United Nations and other forums. The Government noted that foreigners who wish to obtain Japanese nationality are not requested to change their names to Japanese names, and stated that foreigners can decide on their names on their own after naturalization…
OTHER COUNTRIES CONTINUE
33. …Brazil recommended that Japan consider adhering to the compliant procedures of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and that it ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. It recommended that Japan consider establishing legislation defining and prohibiting discrimination in all forms and recommended that it consider a standing invitation to the special procedures.
34. …[Iran] strongly recommended that the Government adopt, as a matter of urgency, a national law against
racism, discrimination and xenophobia and set up an independent mechanism for investigating complaints ofhuman rights violations.
35. The United States of America expressed the hope that Japan’s commitment to democracy and the protection and promotion of human rights would serve as an example for others and wished to know what protections the Government has put in place to ensure that abuses do not occur in immigration detention centres. It also asked whether Japan will allow international monitors to examine the immigration detention centres and make recommendations to strengthen protections, and recommended that Japan permit international monitors to examine immigration centres.
36. …Germany also made reference to the concerns expressed by the Committee against Torture about the systematic use of the Daiyo Kangoku substitute prison system for the prolonged detention of arrested persons. It also noted that nongovernmental organizations had expressed concern regarding the non-regulation of the length of interrogations, restricted access of lawyers to their clients, and non-recording of sessions of interrogation.
40. Guatemala noted that racism and discrimination still exist in the Japanese society, indicating that the fight against all forms of discrimination and the protection of minorities, and especially vulnerable groups, required an appropriate legislative framework and therefore urged Japan to consider introducing a definition of discrimination in its criminal law. In the area ofprotection of the human rights of migrants and the fight against xenophobia, Guatemala noted the recommendation of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism in favour of abolishing the system established by the Migration Office of the Ministry of Justice, calling upon citizens to proceed to anonymous denunciations on its website, of migrants suspected of being in an irregular situation, and recommended that it be abolished because this might constitute an incitation to racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia.
[MORE ON THIS: http://www.debito.org/japantimes033004.html]
THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT RESPONDS
46. …Regarding the question on immigration detention centres, the Government noted that due attention is paid to the human rights of the detainees, and the cases where officials were accused to have committed violence mostly happened coincidently in the course of those official’s controlling the violation ofthe rules in those facilities. Detainees can submit complaints against their treatment to the Minister of Justice. Additionally, to prevent violence at penitentiary institutions, Japan provides officers with education to promote necessary human rights protection measures, and establishes complaints mechanisms and inspection committees. Medical services are provided to prisoners by doctors, and prisoners are transferred to medical prisons to receive necessary medical treatment.
[NOT ALWAYS, ACCORDING TO THE VALENTINE CASE: http://www.debito.org/japantimes081407.html]
OTHER COUNTRIES CONTINUE
50. …According to the information of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, in Japan there are still cases of racial discrimination and xenophobia affecting national minorities, foreigners and migrants. Minorities are in a vulnerable economic and social situation with respect to employment, access to housing, marriage, pension coverage, access to health facilities and education and the State institutions. Russian Federation asked about steps taken to combat the manifestation of racial discrimination and xenophobia.
THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT RESPONDS
59. Japan stated that, in penal institutions, attention should be paid to helping inmates sentenced to the death penalty maintain emotional stability as well as to ensure secure custody. Inmates sentenced to death are notified of their execution on the day of the execution. Japan is concerned that inmates should become emotionally unstable and could suffer serious emotional distress if they are notified in advance of the exact date. For this reason, Japan believes that the current practice is inevitable. The Government did not have statistics on the number of death penalty sentences in 2007, and thus was unable to respond whether there was an increase since 1980 or not. With regard to calls for a moratorium on the death penalty, Japan considered that it would be very cruel to first give the expectation to the prisoners that they will not be executed, and later inform them that they will be executed. With regard to imprisonment without parole, Japan considered that this may be a cruel and problematic system that has the possibility to destroy the personal character of prisoners; therefore the introduction of such a system needs to be considered very carefully.
[COUNTERARGUMENT: Fascinating logic, not based upon any science. Not everyone agrees: http://www.debito.org/?p=1426]
…On the question of the high rate of convictions, the Government noted that this is the aggregated result of the judgements given by each court, and that the criminal procedures are based on the very thorough investigation, very restrictive indictment based on the investigation and the proper proving at the trial, thus it does not consider high conviction rates as abnormal.
[COUNTERARGUMENT: 99.9% CONVICTION RATES ARE “NOT ABNORMAL”? Again, not everyone agrees, including former NPA prosecutor and now Dietmember Kamei Shizuka: http://www.debito.org/?p=1426]
…While it acknowledged criticism against the substitute detention system, the Government noted that it makes various efforts to ensure appropriate treatment of the detainees. It also pointed out that the system does not discriminate between Japanese and foreign detainees.
[COUNTERARGUMENT: Except that foreigners cannot be released bail, and cannot be released under any circumstances even when declared innocent by a court, during the prosecution’s appeal. That’s discriminating between Japanese and foreign detainees.
…Japan also noted operations of the substitute detention system continue to be improved. On the issue of the video-recording of interrogations, the Delegation stated that statements by the suspect is important in order to elucidate the truth in investigations and that the mandating to record all interrogation sometimes can hamper relations between the investigator and the criminal, and may serve to stop the suspect from telling the truth. Japan noted that a careful consideration is needed of the introduction of such monitoring and video-taping.
[COUNTERARGUMENT: Fascinating logic, again not based upon any science. Better not videotape or the suspect might lie? That reason was made up on the fly.]
SUMMARY RECOMMENDATIONS MADE WHICH ARE RELEVANT TO DEBITO.ORG
6. Adapt national legislation to bring it into line with the principles of equality and non-discrimination. (Slovenia); Consider establishing legislation defining and prohibiting discrimination in all forms (Brazil); Consider introducing a definition of discrimination in its criminal law (Guatemala); Adopt, as a matter of urgency, a national law against racism, discrimination and xenophobia (Islamic Republic of Iran);
13. Ensure that the interrogation of detainees in police custody are systematically monitored and recorded and that the Code of Criminal Procedure is harmonized with article 15 of the Convention against Torture and article 14, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and uphold the right of defence to have access to all relevant materials (Algeria); (i) Work more systematically and intensively to bring the risk of forced confession to the attention of the police, (ii) review interrogation monitoring procedures, (iii) re-examine the use of prolonged police detention and (iv) review the Criminal Code to ensure its conformity with article 15 of the Convention against Torture, in order to avoid the police and judiciary putting excessive pressure on the accused to confess (Belgium); Institute mechanisms to enhance procedural guarantees for the detention of detainees (Canada); Review the Daiyo Kangoku system in order to ensure that the detention procedure is consistent with its obligations under human rights law and implement the Committee against Torture’s recommendation with regard to external monitoring ofpolice custody (United Kingdom);
16. Develop a mechanism to ensure the prompt return of children who have been wrongly removed from or prevented from returning to their habitual place of residence (Canada);