Hi Blog. Here we have some preliminary reports coming out of Geneva regarding the UN CERD Committee’s review of Japan’s human rights record vis-a-vis racial discrimination. We have the GOJ claiming no “rampant discrimination”, and stressing that we still need no law against RD for the same old reasons. This despite the rampant discrimination that NGOs are pointing out in independent reports. Read on. And if people find other articles with interesting tacks (the second Kyodo version in the JT below feels decidedly muted), please include whole text with link in the Comments Section below. Thanks. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Japan disputes racism allegations at U.N. panel
Feb 25 2010 The Associated Press
GENEVA, Feb. 25 (AP) – (Kyodo)—Japan does not need laws to combat racial discrimination, a Japanese official said Thursday as Japan’s racism record was examined by the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“Punitive legislation on racial discrimination may hamper legitimate discourse,” Mitsuko Shino of the Japanese Foreign Ministry told a session in Geneva. “And I don’t think the situation in Japan is one of rampant discrimination, so we will not be examining this now.”
The review, the first since 2001, is a required procedure for countries signatory to the 1965 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Japan ratified in December 1995.
It is conducted by a committee composed of 18 legal experts who act in their professional capacity.
Fourteen Japanese government officials from five ministries, headed by Ambassador in charge of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Hideaki Ueda, spent the morning answering questions about Japanese legislation and practices to fight racism and protect minority rights.
The committee was critical of the lack of antidiscrimination legislation in Japan, and the treatment of Japanese minorities and its large Korean and Chinese communities.
Prior to the start of the review on Wednesday, Japanese nongovernmental organizations presented to the committee issues they wanted raised.
They showed a video of a group of Japanese nationalist protesters waving flags and protesting in front of a North Korean school in Kyoto Prefecture, shouting phrases such as “This is a North Korean spy training center!”
An official of Japan’s Justice Ministry said such behavior could be explained as a reaction to “intermittent nuclear and missile tests” by North Korea, although any consequent human right violations were investigated.
Many committee members asked questions about the Okinawan population, some groups of which are fighting to obtain recognition as an indigenous population.
“There is no clear definition of an indigenous people, even in the U.N. declaration,” Ueda said. “But Okinawan people are Japanese, and their language is the Japanese language,” he said.
Concerns were also expressed by committee members about the treatment of descendants of people in discriminated communities called “buraku.”
Committee members admitted they had difficulty understanding whether they were a caste, or a separate ethnic group.
“What makes them different from the average Japanese?” committee member Jose Augusto Lindgren Alves asked.
“There are no differences at all, they are like us, we are the same,” Ueda answered.
Other questions raised included educational opportunities for students of non-Japanese schools, and reports that some individuals had to change their last name to a pre-approved Kanji when obtaining Japanese citizenship.
Foreign schools in Japan get tax credits and subsidies, a delegate from the Education Ministry said, and students from many, especially Korean, schools had access to Japanese universities.
Counselors are available for foreign students joining Japanese schools, the delegate added.
On the name-change allegation, “in order not to create inconvenience in their social life, it would be better to pick an easier to use character,” a member of the Justice Ministry said. “But you can also use hiragana and katakana.”
After the review, Ralph Hosoki of the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, one of the NGOs, told Kyodo News, “The government only regurgitates what’s already in place…There is no imaginative dialogue to work towards concrete changes.”
In concluding remarks, committee member Patrick Thornberry said, “A lot of the responses are that you do not need legislation…My concern is that your information…may not be proper to make such a conclusion.”
The Japan Times, Friday, Feb. 26, 2010
Japan faces U.N. racism criticism
GENEVA (Kyodo) Japan’s record on racism has improved, but there is still room for progress, according to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“We heard today much that is good and positive, but I think a deepened engagement would be welcomed and necessary,” Patrick Thornberry, the member of the committee responsible for Japan’s review, said Wednesday.
The review, the first for Japan since 2001, is required of signatory countries to the 1965 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Japan ratified in December 1995.
Fourteen Japanese officials from five ministries, headed by Ambassador in Charge of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Hideaki Ueda, flew from Japan to field questions and comments from the committee of 18 legal experts.
Thornberry particularly criticized Japan’s lack of laws to combat hate speech, saying “in international law, freedom of expression is not unlimited.”
The convention commits states to fight racial discrimination by taking such steps as restricting racist speech and criminalizing membership in racist organizations. Japan has expressed reservations about some of the provisions, which it says go against its commitment to freedom of expression and assembly.
Prior to the review, Japanese nongovernmental organizations presented various examples they say highlight the need for legislative action to fight racism in their country.
“There seems to have been little progress since 2001,” when the last review was held, committee member Regis de Gouttes said. “There is no new legislation, even though in 2001 the committee said prohibiting hate speech is compatible with freedom of expression.”
Committee members also criticized the treatment of certain segments of society, such as the “burakumin” (descendants of Japan’s former outcast class), and the people of Okinawa.
“The ‘buraku’ situation is a form of racial discrimination,” committee member Fatimata-Binta Victoire Dah said. “It is frighteningly similar to the caste system in Africa.”
Many members of the committee, however, praised the government’s recent recognition of the Ainu as an indigenous people.
But there was also criticism of the treatment of Chinese and Korean nationals, in matters ranging from the lack of accreditation of their schools, to the necessity, at times, for them to change their names when they obtain Japanese citizenship.
The NGOs, before the review, showed the committee members a video of a group of nationalists waving flags and protesting aggressively in front of a North Korean school in Kyoto Prefecture, shouting phrases such as “This is a North Korean spy training center!”
“Why are these children guilty of what North Korea is doing?” committee member Ion Diaconu asked.
Some members of the committee also expressed concern that such schools did not receive any government funding at a time when the government is considering removing tuition fees for public high schools.
Feedback from a Debito.org Reader, who cced me in this letter yesterday to a UN official, disputing the lack of “rampant discrimination”. Forwarding:
I am writing this email in the hope that it will find Mr. Patrick
Thornberry as he is conducting a review on Japan’s Elimination of Racial
Discrimination. I read briefly of the review on the Japan Times website
I am concerned that a very important human right is not being protected
in Japan. I am referring to the child’s right to an education. In Japan,
the child’s right to an education is ensured by law. Students must
attend school as compulsory education until they graduate from junior
high school. However, this legislation is only applicable to Japanese
citizens. Non-Japanese do not have the same rights/obligations regarding
education and this violates the right of the non-Japanese to an
I direct your attention to the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989.
11 . Convention on the Rights of the Child
New York, 20 November 1989
Apparently, Japan became a signatory on 21 Sep 1990 and ratified it on
22 Apr 1994. However, practice in Japan does not appear to be in line
with the articles of the convention. Specifically article 3 and article 28.
1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and
with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of
equal opportunity, they shall, in particular:
(a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all»
(b) Encourage the development of different forms of secondary
education, including general and vocational education, make them
available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures
such as the introduction of free education and offering financial
assistance in case of need;
In Japan, education until Junior high school is compulsory for Japanese
students only. For non-Japanese it would appear that the legislation
provides compulsory primary education only. In reality, this is not
ensured. There are many families whose children are not enrolled in any
part of the Japanese education system. Some cite the language barrier as
problem with sending their children to a Japanese school. Education is
not “available to all”. This leads to some students being enrolled in
“schools” that are not required to comply with any standards. This leads
to a conflict in Article 3.
Article 3 Paragraph 3
3. States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and
facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall
conform with the standards established by competent authorities,
particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and
suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.
There are thousands of Brazilian families living and working in Shizuoka
Prefecture. Many of these families send their children to “Brazilian
schools” that do NOT conform with the standards of Japanese schools. In
fact, many of these so-called schools have no standards with which they
have to comply.
On the other hand, Japanese students have access to compulsory,
standards-compliant education until the end of junior high school.
Non-Japanese children are being discriminated against to the point that
their universal and inalienable right to a quality education is not
Enforcing compulsory education in Japan is necessary. Japan may not have
the multilingual schools that would be ideal but a standards compliant
education is better than what these children get now which is either a
non-standards compliant education or no education at all. Enforcing
compulsory education would surely see the current situation improve.
In the news article I cited at the beginning of this email there was no
mention to this issue. That leaves me with my sole question, is
eliminating hate speech really more important to the UN than children’s
AUTHOR’S NAME WITHHELD UPON REQUEST
UPDATE. RESPONSE FROM UNITED NATIONS
——- Forwarded Message ——–
From: Harumi Fuentes
Cc: Gabriella Habtom , firstname.lastname@example.org,
Subject: Re: Fw: JAPAN – U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 2010 11:10:06 +0100
Dear Mr. (anonymized),
In response to your email, the Committee is in charge of monitoring
the implementation of the Convention for all the persons under the
jurisdiction of the State party and the right to education is covered.
Please rest assured that despite what reports or news articles may
write or omit, the issue of education was addressed extensively by the
Committee. In fact, going over the summary record, I’d like to inform
you that education, including Peruvian and Brazilian schools and
miscellaneous schools, was taken up by almost all the members of the
Committee and discussed in length with the State party.
We appreciate the useful information you provided on legislation on
compulsory education for Japanese and non-nationals and thank you for
your interest in the work of the Committee.
Harumi Fuentes Furuya (Ms.)
Associate Human Rights Officer
Human Rights Council and Treaties Division
OHCHR-Palais Wilson 1-075
tel. +41-22-917 9699