By Arudou Debito

(PREAMBLE: Parts One and Two: Stopped by cops in 1998, and what I did about it as a non-citizen) (separate website)

(Part 3: Stopped by cops in 2002 as a citizen: Background to this issue)
(Part 4: The January 6, 2003 Update)
(Part 5: The March 10, 2003 Update)
(Part 6: The March 13, 2003 Update)
(Part 7: The June 18, 2003 Report: Freedom of Information Act Voided by Human Rights Bureau)
(Part 8: August 10, 2003: After a Second Refusal from the Bureau to release info under the FOIA, I send a Letter of Protest to the Minister of Justice)

(See resultant July 8, 2003 Japan Times article on this issue at http://www.debito.org/japantimes070803.html)

Why the police are doing this in the first place? Because the National Police Agency's "Kokusaika Taisaku Iinkai" (Policymaking Committee against Internationalization), founded May 1999, is specifically designed to root out "foreign crime" as a consequence of internationalization. Opportunistic politicians are no better, especially given the 2003 Koizumi Cabinet Foreign Crime Putsch.

(Also click here to see feedback from cyberspace and two related Case Studies:
"Twelve Days of Detention", and a police investigation of shoplifting

Written and made public December 18, 2002

In November 1998, I was stopped for an ID check by Tokyo Metropolitan Police in Haneda Airport for no apparent reason. Lodging a harassment complaint, I entered into personal negotiations with Haneda authorities and the police themselves. Their express reason for being stopping me? Because I am a foreigner, they said, and therefore suspicious in a high-security area such as an airport. Also because they legally can stop me--under the Foreign Registry Law (Gaitouhou). Rather miffed, I hit the Japanese law books to find out my legal rights. Turns out what they did was indeed legal (if the cops show their ID back--see full background and letter of the law at:
I suggest you print up the law and carry it around; I do)

But it would not have been legal had I been a Japanese citizen.
Guess what. Now I am one. And...


On December 11, 2002, I was on my way to Tokyo when it happened again. (Why do these things keep happening to me?!) Exiting the Post Office (after withdrawing some money to buy presents) at Shin Chitose Airport (Hokkaido's largest air hub) at 4:50PM, I was stopped by policeman (a Mr Amano, Hokkaido Police Badge # AJ 869) and told to show my passport.

I asked him why, but he gave no reason.

Me: "Without a reason, what you have just done is illegal. The Police Execution of Duties Law (Keisatsukan Shokumu Shikkou Hou), Section 2, says (yes, I read it to him):

'A police officer is able to ask for a person's ID, but only if based on a reasonable (gouriteki) judgment of a situation where the policeman sees some strange conduct and some crime is being committed, or else he has enough reason to suspect (utagau ni tariru soutou na riyuu) that a person will commit or has committed a crime, or else it has been acknowledged that a particular person knows a crime will be committed. In these cases a police officer may stop a person for questioning.'

"So under what circumstances was I behaving suspiciously? Merely exiting a post office is insufficient reason."

The subsequent conversation with him, and also his supervisors (a Mr Taniguchi, Badge # AJ 861, and a Mr Tani, who called me on my keitai once I reached Tokyo), eventually went like this. The polices' points are in nutshell; my ripostes follow.

1) We police ask everyone. It's the holiday season, and bag snatchings are on the increase in airports.
MY RIPOSTE: You don't ask everyone for their *passport*--because Japanese hardly ever carry that sort of ID. The fact that you asked for that form of ID is specifically because you saw me as a foreigner. And I bet that is the only reason you singled me out in the first place. In any case, asking people for ID or questions about their identity without sufficient reason for suspicion of a crime is illegal.

2) We police can too ask people questions: Where are you going, where are you from? Under The Police Law (Keisatsu Hou) Section Two (yes, they quoted it), in the name of crime prevention (bouhan no tame). Otherwise, we can't do our jobs.
RIPOSTE: Perhaps you can ask simple questions, but asking people a) where they are going or b) to produce ID are two different things. Even the law says so--and that is why it exists: To stop you overdoing it. I'm sure you know the law, so why aren't you following it?

3) Look, if we police were in America and a cop asked us for ID, we would cooperate and show. That's part of being a guest in a country.
RIPOSTE: Wrong answer. I am not a guest. I am a naturalized Japanese citizen. America's laws have nothing to do with this situation anyway when you are bound by Japanese laws.

4) We police wouldn't have known that you are not a foreigner without asking you.
: Is that meant to justify your invasion of my privacy? I am still waiting for a single reason why you singled me out for an ID check.

5) It was in the name of crime prevention.
RIPOSTE: Also still waiting for you to show any connection between me and criminals. Let's face it: The only reason you stopped me is because you saw me as a foreigner, therefore a potential criminal. That will not do. That constitutes gaijin harassment.

6) Of course it doesn't. We ask for everyone's cooperation whether they look foreign or not.
RIPOSTE: We are going around in circles. Unless I hear anything different, the only reason you stopped me is apparently because you can in the case of foreigners. If I had looked Japanese, you would not have done that because you cannot. What should I have done, and what should I do next time this happens?

7) Tell us police that you are a Japanese citizen, and we'll leave you alone.
RIPOSTE: (rare outburst of sarcasm) Yeah, I'm sure Mr Amano would have believed me on the spot.

8) The only reason you were not given a reason is because you got angry at Mr Amano. If you hadn't, I'm sure he would have given you a reason.
RIPOSTE: You're trying to blame me for not getting a reason? This conversation is going nowhere and should be drawn to a close. Put yourselves in my shoes--if you were a civilian and asked to produce ID--which legally only criminal suspects are bound to do--how would you have liked it? I have yet to receive an apology, let alone a reason for suspicion, from any of you for it. And I will continue to file formal complaints with your supervisors until I get one.


Which is what I did. On December 17, 2002, I called the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Public Information Desk (kouhouka) and asked for the Kouchou Kakari (03-3581-4321) This is the specific desk for making complaints against the Tokyo Police (if someday you want to do the same but your beef is outside of Tokyo, call Tokyo anyway and ask for the local number in your area). The very friendly desk manager gave me the number in Sapporo (Hokkaido Keisatsu Honbu Soudan Center), 011-241-9110, where someone at the desk took down all the details (dates, times, place, people talked to, what was said) and asked what would satisfy my complaint.

What do I want? A formal letter from the Hokkaido Police offering 1) an apology for stopping me for no reason, 2) an apology for causing me inconvenience ("meiwaku"--after all this, I had less than fifteen minutes to check in, pass my bags through, and buy presents), and 3) a clarification of what criteria the police would use to stop people to make sure this never happens again.

Dunno when, but I will get some sort of answer sooner or later.



Am I overreacting? Of course I don't think so. Getting singled out by police for special attention (especially in the case of potential criminal activity) is no joke in Japan. As there is no writ of Habeas Corpus in this country, if the police are so inclined, they can take you into custody for up to 22 days (the first two of those without any legal or consular counsel whatsoever). Amenities such as sustinence, sleep, space (jail cells can be very small), comfort (cf. Nagoya Prison leather restraints), or change of clothing (only three days' worth allowed at a time) are at police discretion, with tag-team interrogations until you break down and confess to something (even Diet Member Kamei Shizuka, a former public prosecutor, has come out and said Japan's death penalty should be repealed due to the omniprescence of forced confessions). There have even been confirmed reports of deaths (see related links below) while in custody in Japanese prisons. So arrest (or even the possibility of it) is a serious problem given the lack of checks and balances in police-civilian relations (which is why I decided to quote the law--that's what it's there for). See:

Couple that with the fact that the Japanese police readily admit to singling out foreigners on sight for years as potential criminals (despite the fact that the foreign crime rate is actually less than half that of the Japanese rate, and is in many cases dropping) in both their White Papers and public police notices. One quickly realizes that you can have a really rotten couple of weeks due to a bored cop and the wrong color skin.
See http://www.debito.org/TheCommunity/communityissues.html#police

The point is that nationality should not be a factor in these checkpoints. If the police were to do their jobs properly and offer reasons why when checking people's ID (say, there is a White suspect who looks like me at large for a specific crime in the the area, or because everyone is being carded as they go through the metal detector), then fine, cooperate and show. But until that reason is given, I think it is a point worth pushing.

Especially these days, with civil liberties in Japan are arguably in retreat thanks to law enforcement. With the Japanese Police policies being enacted to treat "internationalization" and its effects as a social bane, I think it behooves people like us (who live in Japan and stand out as extranationals) to know a little more about our legal rights, and to at least lodge a formal complaint when one feels they have been violated.

Arudou Debito

1) Amnesty International on Japanese Prison Conditions.

2) Amnesty International on deaths in Japanese prison custody

3) Japan's National Police Agency White Paper on their "Kokusaika Taisaku Iinkai", a committee founded in May 1999 in response to "internationalization", specifically for the prevention of "foreign crime" (See Chapter Two)
http://www.npa.go.jp/kokusai2/h12/contents.htm (Japanese)
or see text excerpt below in Japanese.

4) More on the imaging down and erosion of civil liberties for "foreigners":


By Arudou Debito
(Made public January 6, 2003)


You may remember an email I sent out last December 18 (archived above) discussing a little incident with the police at Chitose Airport. Stopping me for exiting a post office while wearing a white skin, they asked for my passport. Even though under Japanese law, asking for ID like this is an honor reserved for those under criminal suspicion, the police never gave me any reason for questioning me in particular (except the fact, which they wouldn't admit, that they can stop and check foreigners--only--whenever they want). But for kakure Japanese citizens like myself, this instant checkpoint is an illegal activity (under the Shokumu Shikkou Law). Filing a complaint for gaijin harassment with the Hokkaido Police HQ Soudan Center, I was told that somebody would get back to me fairly soon with an explanation.

On December 27 at 11:50AM, that explanation came. A Mr Koga, the Chitose Keisatsusho Koutsuu Tantou Jichou (0123-42-0110), called me on my cellphone and offered the following:

a) Your treatment by Officer Amano was perfectly legal (in fact, he used the word "touzen", meaning "a matter of course") under Police Law Article Two, in the name of "crime prevention" (even though, as I discussed in my Dec 18 report, asking a person a simple question and asking for a person's ID are legally two different things).
b) Asking people questions in security zones like airports is something we police ask everybody's cooperation on (as if everyone carries "passports", right?). No, we don't stop every single person. Criteria is decided on a "case-by-case" basis.
c) In your case, Officer Amano probably thought you were a foreigner. (Aha)
d) No, we police have done nothing wrong, so there will be no apology, especially not a written one. This is how we do things, so TS.


Well, I called back the Hokkaido Police HQ Soudan Center. The person in charge took down this tete-a-tete anew and said that he would pass it on to pertinent parties all over again. When I said I was unconfident my complaint would be taken seriously anymore, he shrugged and indicated that that was all he could do. So I said:

"Well, as the police fall under the Ministry of Justice, I think I should inform the MoJ's Bureau of Human Rights (Jinken Yougobu) about this."

Center Cop: "Yep, you could do that."

"And I think I should tell my Japanese friends about this." (NB: Report going out in Japanese today)

Center Cop: "Yep, you could do that, too."

"So once this gets known a bit more about, I hope that the Chitose Cops will take their job and the concerns of the citizens they are sworn to protect a bit more seriously. I'm sure as a fellow cop, you don't want to turn the heat up on your brethren in Chitose. But having complaints about police handled by police creates obvious disadvantages to the complainant. Thanks for your time."

Center Cop: "Just doing my job."

Okay, now we take it to the next step. I have already called, and will be going to the Sapporo Branch of the Jinken Yougobu on January 8 to hand in a report. More on things as they develop.


What a way to start a new year. More to come.

Arudou Debito
January 6, 2002


By Arudou Debito
(Made public March 10, 2003)

You might remember a little incident I had with the police at Chitose Airport last December, when a cop demanded to see my passport as I was coming out of the post office. Since under Japanese law (Shokumu Shikkou hou) this activity is illegal without probable cause (soutou na riyuu), the only reason the cop did this was because he thought I was a foreigner--which makes this a case of racial profiling. Lodging complaints with the Chitose Airport police, the Hokkaido police (twice), and the Ministry of Justice Human Rights Bureau (Jinken Yougo bu), I was given predictable excuses (the cop couldn't have known I was a Japanese without asking my ID, as if that justifies the intrusion; the Human Rights Bureau has no power to enforce laws, only advise changes in behavior, etc.). I was also steered by the latter towards the Public Safety Committee (Kouan Iinkai--a division of Japan's secret police, who spy on undesirable elements in Japanese society, such as Aum Shinrikyou and sundry foreigners, particularly the Russians and Chinese). I sent them my report as well.

I received an answer from the Kouan Iinkai this morning. Results of their survey: The cop was within his rights to ask questions about a person's livelihood (shokumu shitsumon). As I was a Japanese citizen, my right not to answer was in their view suitably upheld. No apology for the unjustified intrusion was necessary, as they were just doing their job.

Hum. Goes to show, you can't expect cops to police themselves. And given the revelations in a recent court decision (the Okegawa Case, where a woman being stalked had her repeated pleas for help ignored by police; when she was ultimately killed by her stalkers, the police falsified documents to make it seem like she didn't ask for help properly. The court forced the police to pay her parents 5,200,000 yen for negligence, and Japan now has a Anti-Stalker Law now to make sure this doesn't happen again), I am not confident in the police's ability to abide by the public duties they are entrusted in, especially when they can so freely bend the laws.

What next? Short of a lawsuit (and I'm already involved in one of those), I don't know. But I do have a couple of reporters interested in this story...

Skip to the letter I got from the Kouan Iinkai in Japanese at

Arudou Debito


By Arudou Debito
(Made public March 13, 2003)

I wrote in my News Update of March 10 about receiving a letter from Japan's "Public Safety Committee" (Kouan Iinkai) Hokkkaido, re being stopped last December by police in Chitose Airport. (http://www.debito.org/policeapology.html) I was asked for my passport for no other apparent reason than the fact I look foreign--which happens to be illegal if you are a citizen.

The Kouan letter, in essence, said the police were within their rights to ask people anyone for ID, and indicated that no further explanations or apologies were necessary.

Well, three months later, I've done all I can, so it's time to draw this particular issue to a close.

Today I called the Bureau of Human Rights (Jinken Yougobu--whom I talked with on Jan 6 and 8 for a few hours) to find out where to send the Kouan Letter, for the sake of keeping their files complete (011-709-2488). Getting Mr Tashiro, whom I met before, I asked about their investigation of my case. They had said, according to my notes and a report I put out soon afterwards on my Japanese lists (http://www.debito.org/chitosecopcheckpoint.html), that they would research the legalities involved and get back to me.

Now, more than two months later, Mr Tashiro was denying he ever said any such thing. Instead, he said:
1) We at the BOHR have no power but those of "enlightening" (keihatsu) possible violators of human rights. We cannot force them to accede to your requests [which were a) an apology for stopping me for no apparent reason, b) a clarification of what that reason was, c) some indication of how police would enforce the laws from now on].

2) We did in fact call in a Mr Torizuka from the Kansatsukan Shitsu (which appears to be Japan's version of Internal Affairs) to explain your report and advise them to be more careful in future. He said he understood. That was all that happened. No, we did not get his namecard.

3) We did not get back to you because we are not at liberty to release a report about this meeting. Yes, we know you are the person who raised the issue in writing with us, but our internal directives state that for privacy's sake we cannot on our own release details even to the aggreived.

4) We can only give you records of the meeting if you come downtown and go to our Shomubu (General Affairs) Department, and apply in writing for it under the Freedom of Information Act. Yes, you will have to divulge personal contact details and pay a fee.

5) We cannot freely give you copies of those directives which state about keeping reports private to respect the privacy of public officials, either. Again, come downtown and fill out the forms.

6) No, I cannot rightly judge whether or not the cop stopping you was even an "inconvenience" (meiwaku). We did not consider the issue that far.

7) If you wish to send us the letter from the Kouan, feel free. But we have done all we legally can about this issue and do not intend to carry out any more "enlightenment".


Your taxes at work. I thought of calling the Ministry of Justice, Jinken Yougokyoku HQ in Tokyo (03-3580-4111) to see if these directives really did exist, and if government employees protecting human rights could really be that haphazard, but I decided to devote my time to putting out this information in Japanese (a newspaper friend of mine has expressed an interest in this story). I also decided to contact Policeman Mr Torizuka (011-251-0110) to see how enlightened he got.

Well, he was friendly. But here's what he said in nutshell:
1) Yes, I remember your case and heard your requests.

2) I understand that you felt pretty uncomfortable, but asking people questions like this is an unavoidable part of our jobs as police.

3) All you have to say is "I'm a Japanese" and the questions should stop. Uh, yeah, it does get a bit difficult if the cop doesn't believe you and asks you for ID to prove it.

4) December is a pretty crime-ridden month in Japanese airports, and we have to be on the lookout for people who fit your profile. Yes, we understand that 99% or more of all crimes are committed by Japanese.

5) But you don't look like a Japanese anyway, so all we can ask is for your cooperation and understanding. Yeah, I guess it does make naturalizing seem kinda meaningless in this case.

6) No, there are no plans to retrain fellow police officers in the intricacies of Japanese law. Yes, we do understand there is a legal difference between asking somebody a simple question and asking them for their ID. But foreigners don't have that privilege under the law, so you fall in the grey area. Yeah, there might be some problems with people in future who don't look Japanese.

7) No, there are no plans to send you a letter of apology or a clarification of policy. We said all we are going to say in the Kouan letter you received. So please cooperate as we do our jobs.


That's it, then. One thing that a person like me has to know is when to let go. For sanity's sake. There really is nothing, short of another one of those pesky lawsuits, that I can do. I've recorded, reported, and archived this case as best I can. Just let it be known that there is no effective way administratively to stop the police abusing their powers in Japan. You must go judicial branch or nothing. Be advised.

At least I reported back to you, which is something even the Bureau of Human Rights doesn't feel compelled to do.

Concluding this thread,
Arudou Debito

Hello everyone. A pet project hopefully entering its endgame (no, I didn't let this go after all):


CASE STUDY: How Japan's Ministry of Justice,
Bureau of Human Rights, shirks its work

By Arudou Debito
June 17, 2003

Whenever there is a problem involving civil or human rights in Japan, one government agency, the Bureau of Human Rights (Jinken Yougobu, hereinafter BOHR), is charged with investigating and recommending solutions to the parties involved. Source: The Japanese government, who has repeatedly claimed in its reports to the United Nations (1999 and 2001, more below), that its adminstrative organs (specifically the BOHR) offer sufficient protection and recourse to victims of discrimination. Therefore, they maintain, Japan does not need a specific anti-racial discrimination law. But as I shall show below, the BOHR, funded by our taxes, is not equal to the task. In fact, this report, a case study of Japanese police breaking laws and one person's attempt to work through the system for redress, will demonstrate that the BOHR deliberately avoids its responsibilities--to the point of twisting the law and telling lies.


On December 11, 2002, I was on my way to Tokyo when I was stopped by a Chitose Police officer outside the Shin Chitose Airport post office (i.e. not a high-security area). Demanding to see my passport, the cop gave no reason, despite several requests, except to say "I ask everybody" (which is dubious, since Japanese do not usually carry passports, let alone any ID whatsoever unless they drive). More importantly, police asking Japanese citizens personal questions like this for no appropriate reason (soutou na riyuu) is actually illegal, under the Police Execution of Duties Law(Keisatsukan Shokumu Shikkou-hou). So as a Japanese citizen, I demanded a full explanation and an apology. Request denied. Repeated demands (both verbal and written) to the officer in question, his supervisors in Chitose, the Hokkaido Police Department Headquarters, and the Hokkaido Public Safety Committee (Kouan Iinkai) were rejected as groundless. In passing, however, police admitted their reason for stopping me was because I looked foreign, making a foreign appearance sufficient grounds for criminal suspicion.

(Full background archived at http://www.debito.org/policeapology.html)

My last communication with the police, dated March 6, 2003, stated (full text, my translation):

"We hereby advise you of the results of our investigation of the Hokkaido Police, as pertains to the issue you raised with us at the Hokkaido Public Safety Committee on February 10, 2003.

"Regardless of whether matters questioned come under the Police Execution of Duties Law Article 2, police officers are permitted to ask personal questions (shokumu shitsumon) as an "optional activity" (nin'i katsudou--meaning the questioned has the option to answer), as long as there is no compulsion (kyousei) involved, in order to carry out their duties under Police Law (Keisatsu Hou) Article 2.

"As for the case you brought forth, the Chitose Police officer carried out his questioning of a personal nature without compulsion, as per the regulations above, demanding your optional cooperation. Once you told him you are a Japanese citizen, the officer determined that he would not get your optional cooperation and discontinued the questioning. Therefore we have determined that the questioning was legitimate.

"The Police Force endeavors to promote the proper enforcement of the laws and will continue to do so in future. We ask for your understanding and cooperation."

(no name or contact details included--which sounds extremely arrogant to Japanese in official correspondence)
(original in Japanese at http://www.debito.org/chitosecopcheckpoint.html#kouan)

This left an ironic aftertaste, not least because reports made by the Japanese government to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) Committee, October 2001, about police training. Regarding the CERD's scoldings about Japan's spotty human rights record, Japan said:

"9. With regard to "the Committee urges the States Parties to provide appropriate training to public officials, law enforcement officers and administrators" in paragraph 13;

"The government has been conventionally taking subjects related to human rights in the curricula of various training programs for national public officials and thoroughly educating them on various conventions related to human rights and the idea of the Constitution of Japan which declares respect for human rights.

"For police officers, the government has been providing classes related to human rights protection including respect for human rights and various human rights-related conventions at training provided for newly-employed police officers and promoted police officers at police academies. These classes are included in classes on the Constitution, a fundamental law for human rights, on ethics of duties and on social studies

"Also, since police practices are duties deeply related to human rights, education is conducted based on the purport of the various human rights-related conventions and the Constitution on every occasion such as training at the working place, aiming at execution of duties in consideration of human rights...

"As such, Japan has been educating public officials, law enforcement officers and administrators about human rights including elimination of racial discrimination, and will continue to make further efforts for enrichment of the said education in the future."

(page to this section in the report for yourself at http://www.debito.org/japanvsun.html#9)

If the Chitose Police can so diffidently say, "oh well, we thought you were foreign, so too bad", moreover justifying in writing a breach of the law without even so much as a simple, "we're sorry to have inconvenienced you", the Japanese Police Forces' education in human rights, if it is actually happening, seems quite ineffective.

So what next? I visited the BOHR in Sapporo and asked for assistance. After all, the Japanese Goverment averred in the same Oct 2001 UN report above:

"7....In addition, the Human Rights Organs [i.e. the BOHR] of the Ministry of Justice actively conduct promotional activities concerning all forms of discrimination including racial discrimination with the aim of disseminating and enhancing respect for human rights. Human rights counseling rooms are set up to accept inquiries from those who have suffered discrimination. In addition, when specifically recognizing incidents of alleged infringement of fundamental human rights, the Organs promptly investigate the incidents as human rights infringements cases, find out the fact of the infringement, and based on the results, take proper measures for the case."

Sounds goods on paper: Conduct an active and prompt investigation, take proper measures. But here's how their investigation went in my case:



Part seven of this saga and counting. I discussed this with one of my lawyer friends, who said, "This is quite common. You're dealing with the national bureaucracy, and they are famously cold and uncooperative. They do nothing out of the goodness of their heart, and will exploit any legal loophole, such as the FOIA's 'privacy of individuals', to cover themselves. Doctors have done the same thing to avoid giving patients their own medical records. The good news is that every time a case like this is brought before a court, thanks to the FOIA the claimant wins. You could too, if you wanted to take on another lawsuit."

The two I'm involved in now are quite enough, thanks. But the case is clear--the BOHR is not doing its job of offering redress, while law enforcement agencies are getting away with random enforcement, in violation of both domestic law and international treaty.

Yet the government claims again and again that Japan does not need an anti-racial discrimination law. As Japan's government said in its reply to the 2001 UN report mentioned above:

"5)... We do not recognize that the present situation of Japan is one in which discriminative acts cannot be effectively restrained by the existing legal system and in which explicit racial discriminative acts, which cannot be restrained by measures other than legislation, are conducted. Therefore, penalization of these acts is not considered necessary."

Even the UN doesn't believe this, issuing reports highly-critical of Japan. The Committee on the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which Japan joined in 1979) said as far back as Nov 1998, specifically about the BOHR and the Japanese police:

"9. The Committee is concerned about the lack of institutional mechanisms available for investigating violations of human rights and for providing redress to the complainants. Effective institutional mechanisms are required to ensure that the authorities do not abuse their power and that they respect the rights of individuals in practice. The Committee is of the view that the Civil Liberties Commission [i.e. the BOHR--the name is rendered differently per report] is not such a mechanism, since it is supervised by the Ministry of Justice and its powers are strictly limited to issuing recommendations. The Committee strongly recommends to the State party to set up an independent mechanism for investigating complaints of violations of human rights.

"10. More particularly, the Committee is concerned that there is no independent authority to which complaints of ill-treatment by the police and immigration officials can be addressed for investigation and redress. The Committee recommends that such an independent body or authority be set up by the State party without delay."



Without delay...? Five years later, plus non change.

Eye-opening stuff. Deserves to be more known about. The more people the better, which is why this report. I'm experiencing it as a naturalized citizen of racial difference not enjoying the equal protection of our Constitution and laws. A small case study, yes, but one that offers incontrovertible evidence that the Japanese government is ignoring UN recommendations and lying about the the state of its human-rights enforcement. Let's keep an eye on things, and hope that both domestic and international shame will force our country to keep its international promises.

Arudou Debito
June 17, 2003


The Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination reports on Japan 1999 and 2001, with answers from the Japanese government, can be found at:

The Convention on Civil and Political Rights report on Japan 1998 can be found at:


Japan's Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Human Rights (BOHR)
refuses a second time to release info via Freedom of Information Act
So I follow suggestions to write Protest Letter to Minister of Justice.

By Arudou Debito (http://www.debito.org)
August 10, 2003

This update is about the Chitose Airport Police Case.

(See resultant July 8 Japan Times article at

Nine months into the case, I received a series of letters in late June from the BOHR refusing to release any information I had requested through the Freedom of Information Act (Jouhou Koukai Hou). This would be the second time they would refuse. The same reason was given both times:

"If we were to acknowledge whether said documents existed by answering your request to release them, this would result in a violation of the 'privacy of specific individuals' coming in for consultation, as per Human Rights Consultation Guidelines Article 5, Clause 1. Therefore, under the same Guidelines Article 8, we refuse to release this information."
http://www.debito.org/chitosecopcheckpoint.html#062303 (Japanese text)

The "specific individual" being protected, BTW, is yours truly.

Then, in an odd act of kindness, the same Sapporo BOHR released statistics in a separate mailing on what kind of human rights consultations had occurred in January, 2003. http://www.debito.org/chitosecopcheckpoint.html#062703 (Japanese text)
Too bad that wasn't what I'd asked for.

The refusal letters also stated, as required by law, the following option:

"If you are dissatisfied with the portions not released to you, you may notify the Minister of Justice, under the Administrative Complaints Investigation Law (Gyousei Fufuku Shinsa Hou, No.160, 1962), within sixty days of receiving the notice of this administrative decision."

Okay, I'll bite. And believe it or not, a letter of complaint wasn't that difficult to write. A friend of mine at the Japan Civil Liberties Union directed me towards a sample "Demand for an Investigation Letter" (Shinsa Seikyuusho) (see it at http://homepage1.nifty.com/clearinghouse/toppage/howto/sinsaseikyu.html).

So off I went. You can see the complete original at http://www.debito.org/chitosecopcheckpoint.html#kougibun A select translation follows:



To Ms Moriyama Mayumi, Minister of Justice.
From Arudou Debito, Sapporo (inkan)

2. Material(s) to be investigated:

  1. Sapporo BOHR #118, Refusal to Release Info (see Reference Material #1) Dated June 23
  2. Sapporo BOHR #92, Refusal to Release Info (see Ref #2) Dated May 13
  3. Sapporo BOHR Unrelated Material Released (see Ref #3) Dated June 27

5. Reason(s) for Demanding Investigation

(1) On May 22, I asked the BOHR under the FOIA for materials entitled "Records of Contents, Answers, and Actions Taken after Consultation" (required under Human Rights Consultation Guidelines Article 6), "Human Rights Consultation Billet (Article 11), "Follow-up Report on Consultation (Article 12). (see Ref #5) I also asked on April 15 for a report and any records whatsoever on the results of my requests for "enlightenment" of the Hokkaido Police, allegedly carried out by the BOHR around February 28. (see Ref #5). A full explanation of the background to this case is enclosed as Ref #6.

(2) I received word of refusal to release said information dated June 23 and May 13, respectively.

(4) I do not agree with the administrative decision for the following reasons:

The point about "acknowledging the 'existence' of said documents" is irrelevant, as there is no question whether or not these documents "exist". As per Human Rights Consultations Guidelines, these records must exist for every consultation. Also irrelevant is the argument for "protection of specific individuals". I am that individual, and protecting a person from himself for the sake of his own privacy is not the aim of the FOIA. It is a abuse of legal interpretation. As per the abovementioned Guidelines Article 2, "The BOHR's role is to undertake citizen consultations, decide whether or not said incident is an abuse of human rights, report it to the pertinent authorities, ...offer advice and take necessary measures. The BOHR will protect people's basic human rights, as well as seek to promote and spread awareness of civil liberties." In this case, I want some evidence that the Sapporo BOHR has fulfilled this role vis-a-vis the Hokkaido Police. If it has not, this becomes a case of legal negligence. Other BOHRs (see Aomori-ken, Ref #7 (
http://www.debito.org/misawahaiseki.html#aomori)) have issued me reports on their enlightenment activities in other cases. So I wish to see the same from Sapporo.

I sent it off by registered mail this morning.

Okay, before people think I've become obsessive about this case, let me explain the method behind my madness.

Quite frankly, I want to see how this all plays out. If one follows administrative rules to the letter yet to no avail, it makes a near-watertight case to monitoring bodies (the UN, say) that Japan is not keeping its international promises to promote and protect human rights within its shores.

This might seem on the surface like a lot of work for very little joy. But as a case study of Japan's systematic forbearance of authority, there is much value in seeing this through to the end. Wait and see, shall we? I'll keep you posted.

Arudou Debito, Sapporo
August 10, 2003

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Date: Fri, 18 Oct 2002 15:28:26 +0900
From: Arudou Debito <debito@debito.org>
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