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[Proposal] HRN calls for Japan to establish human rights legislation and ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) at the Ordinary Session of the Diet

Prime Minister         Mr. Yukio Hatoyama

Minister of Justice         Ms. Keiko Chiba

Minister for Foreign Affairs                 Mr. Katsuya Okada

Minister of State Social Affairs and Gender Equality Ms. Mizuho Fukushima

Request to the Ordinary Session of the Diet

Human Rights Now

Human Rights Now, on 1 January 2010, makes the following request to the Ordinary Session of the Diet regarding the establishment of human rights legislation and the Diet's ratification of the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.

Requests to the Diet

  1. The Ordinary Session of the Diet ratify the Optional Protocols of international human rights treaties, beginning with the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, in order to establish Individual Communications mechanisms in Japan
  2. Introduce a Bill in the Diet that will allow the full surveillance of police interviews with suspects of crimes and allow disclosure of all evidence relating to persons accused of crimes
  3. Introduce a Bill in the Diet to reform the Civil Code so as to eliminate discrimination against women and eliminate discrimination against children born out of wedlock
  4. With regard to the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution, 

Reasons for the Requests

1 Recognising the implementation of individual communication mechanisms through the ratification of the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR

Increasing the international legal avenues of review of the human rights situation in Japan through accession to the individual communications system will eliminate the gap between international standards and the actual situation of human rights in Japan. It is an extremely important step to drastically improve the human rights situation in Japan. For many years, Japan's authorities have conducted "research" on the individual complaint mechanism, away from public view, and absolutely no progress has been made on its establishment in Japan. The Coalition government is expected to show initiative and political will to change this situation.

At today's session, we request that, at the least, the Diet show recognition of the ratification of the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, a comprehensive convention on legal freedoms, and take the first steps on the road to establishing the individual communication mechanism.

2 Establishing a law in the current diet session on the surveillance of all police interviews with suspects and the disclosure of evidence against the suspect

The accuseds in the Ashikaga case, the Fukawa case, Nagami and Shibushi cases have been found to be innocent in quick succession. In those cases, human rights violations, forced confessions and investigatory authorities hiding relevant evidence came as the result of holding investigations and interviews behind closed doors. This is highly problematic.

If these problems that arise under the Criminal Procedure Law are not reformed, there is a danger that cases of false charges that are even more serious than the cases mentioned above will reoccur. Thus amendment of the Criminal Procedure Law is a matter of urgency. Further, the Human Rights Committee, in its examinations of Japan's human rights situation, has made recommendations to Japan regarding amendment of the law.

The Democratic Party of Japan, forming the majority of the Coalition government has already introduced a Bill that will oblige police to open police investigations and interviews to surveillance, and to release lists of evidence that is available to the police, and in 2009 it passed the House of Councilors. Although the Democratic Part of Japan has now become the Opposition party, there should be no obstacle to the amendments becoming law. Currently, there is discussion to the effect that   reforms should be made to investigation techniques law together with amendments to the law for open interviews and investigations. However, debate on how to prevent false charges and human rights violations have still not produced any concrete resolutions. It would therefore be not acceptable to delay amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law for the purpose of passing the amendments into law with the Investigation Techniques Law. We request that the Ordinary Session of the Diet introduce a Bill that will open police interviews and investigations, and  oblige police to make a list of evidence on a suspect public.

3 Realising amendments to the Civil Code to eliminate discrimination against women and children born out of wedlock

On 26 February 1996, the Legislative Council, a consultative body to the Minister for Justice, made a report entitled "Outline of a Bill for the Amendment of a Section of the Civil Code" which incorporated the issues of election of separate surnames of spouses, shortening the period in which people can remarry, and eliminating discrimination against children born out of wedlock in inheritance matters. However, although 13 years have passed since then, none of those recommendations for reform have been implemented.

Having a period in which only women cannot remarry after a divorce, having different ages for the age at which women and men can marry and further, maintaining the administrative system that does not allow spouses to have different surnames, violates Article 16 of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. Further, the Human Rights Council, Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women have repeatedly recommended that Japan improve the problems above, as well as improve the discrimination in inheritance for children born out of wedlock. The Japanese government, at the UN Human Rights Council's 8th session follow up to the Japan's Universal Periodic Report, undertook to "eliminate discriminatory laws against women". The Japanese government has a duty to honour it's international pledge. Further, in the summer of 2009, the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women reiterated its recommendation that the Japanese government reform all discriminatory laws against women, and requested that it do so within two years. Thus, we request that at the Diet at today's session, propose to amend the Civil Code to allow separate names for spouses, to reduce the period in which women cannot remarry, to extend the legal age for marriage for women to 18, and to eliminate discrimination against children born out of wedlock in inheritance matters.

4 Establishing a National Human Rights Institution based on the Paris Principles

The UN General Assembly adopted a Resolution on 20 December 1993 that outlined principles (Paris Principles) for the establishment of institutions independent of governments that protect human rights. Human rights institutions in all countries should follow the Paris Principles. Minister Chiba, as an external minister of the Cabinet, stated that she would seek to establish an institution that would allow victims to seek redress for human rights violations. However, in order to create an institution that adheres to the Paris Principles,  there needs to be more thorough investigation into the functions of such an institution, including policy proposal functions, and how its authority on making recommendations regarding legislation. The debate regarding the establishment of a human rights institution should be open to the public, and there should also be a thorough and adequate investigation into the scope of power given to an institution established under the Paris Principles. Once this has been done, a concrete schedule for the creation of legislation on this topic should be fixed, and preparations for that should be carried out in quickly.

5 Conclusion

Thus far, the Coalition Government has faithfully implemented policies in its manifesto, and we look forward to the realisation of significant policy change and reform with regard to the protection of human rights. In order for that to happen, there is a need for every Minister and every Ministry to demonstrate its political will and initiative. In particular, the subjects of Requests 1, 2 and 3 have already been debated exhaustively, and they are problems that can be resolved immediately. We therefore request that the Ordinary Session of the Diet resolve these problems.