Request for promoting domestic and international human rights policies, with the advent of a new administration in Japan
7th September 2009
For the promoting human rights diplomacy and protecting human rights in the Asian region including Japan
In September 2009, a new administration will appear in Japan.
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), a core party of the new
administration, has already announced estimable policies such as its
emphasis on advance in domestic human rights policies as well as Asian
diplomacy in its manifesto.1 Human Rights Now 2, an international human
rights NGO based in Tokyo, presents the following recommendations to
the new Japanese administration in order to foster a new Asian centred
human rights diplomacy as well as to change domestic human rights
1. Promotion of human rights centred diplomacy
The new administration has been expected to exert diplomacy based on
principle of the United Nations centred international cooperation. In
this regard, it should present defined principle of diplomacy and what
kind of world should be aspired, and express clear-cut vision how Japan
contributes to achieve the goal. Purposes of the United Nations such as
peaceful conflict resolution, promotion of human rights, and equality
of sovereignty should be paid special attention, when it considers the
global order which it aims at. (Chapter II of the United Nations
Human Rights Now especially requests to clarify the
position of promotion and protection of human rights as a main object
of diplomacy and development assistance, and mainstream human rights.
The perspective of human rights has been placed little importance on in Japan’s
diplomacy. Japan’s diplomacy has widely varies from European countries’
one which have actively get involved in human rights issues in the
world and contributed to conclude treaties regarding human rights and
humanity 4 and one of the United States 5 which has put respect and
promotion of human rights in the centre of diplomatic purposes.
Guarantee of human rights is the cornerstone of human dignity.
There have been serious human rights violations, occurring in various parts
of the world. Women, children and those economically excluded have been
laid down in the midst of their predicament. Denial of human rights can
be causes of poverty, conflicts and terrorism, and under poverty and
conflicts, in many cases, human rights are denied.
In 2005, at the Millennium Plus Five Summit, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the time proposed that the United Nations should position peace, human rights and development as major issues which the international
community faces at the present moment, and bend its efforts to attain
all of those goals in his report.6
For the sake of the just and peaceful international community in the 21st century, it is essential to make a commitment to tackle global issues, especially oppression of human rights, conflicts, and poverty.
Human Rights Now requests
the new administration to determinately place realisation of human
rights as well as positive contribution to peaceful settlement of
conflicts and development assistance as principal pillars of
international contributions and to mainstream human rights in its
2. Promotion of human rights diplomacy in bilateral, regional and multi-lateral levels
In February 2008, Japan made a voluntary pledge including “positive
involvement in activities of the Human Rights Council”, “promotion of
dialogue, and cooperation based upon mutual understanding and respect,
and handling of large-scale systematic human rights violations”, and
“assistance to efforts for amelioration of human rights situations in
the international community based upon bilateral dialogue and technical
assistance”, however there seems its few actions taken since then.7 The
pledge should be carried out immediately. Hereafter, in bilateral,
regional and multi-lateral diplomacy, Japan should act with aims to
contribute respect and promotion of human rights, and put an end to
ongoing human rights violations, being constantly aware of human rights
situations in countries and regions concerned,
Human rights diplomacy which Human Rights Now proposes is not and should not be the one which intends to exclude certain countries based upon difference in values or instigate confrontation based upon political motives and national interests. Instead, the new diplomacy of Japan shall be a unique one based on mutual understanding and dialogue, rather than one
just copying Western human rights policies.8
(1) Investigation, analysis and publication of human rights situations, and approach to stop human rights violations
Japan shall investigate, analyse, publicly release human rights situations,
and enhance relevant knowledge, and then reflect it in its diplomatic
and aid policies. It is significant to accurately recognise ongoing
human rights violations in the world as well as their structural
causes, therefore human rights officers should be posted in at least
each embassy and carry out investigation and analysis.
Besides, Japan shall endeavour to resolve ongoing grave human rights violations by strategic work, and earnest and overt commitment to stop the
Japan shall, for instance, discuss issues regarding human rights with countries which have strong relationship with Japan, express Japan’s
interests in human rights issues, actively address those in
multi-national forums, and support efforts of governments and civil
society organisations concerned aiming at guaranteeing human rights.
(2) Contribution in bilateral and regional levels
It is hoped that the new administration considers strategies to
demonstrate its initiatives and to make concrete contributions for
promotion of human rights in bilateral and regional levels centering on
the Asian region.
In the case of prolonged grave human rights violations in Asia such as in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, the new administration shall negotiate in order to solve those violations by making the most of its position as an Asian country and involving other actors in the Asian region. It would be beneficial to draw upon Norwegian initiatives which show its presence in the world by producing significant results in mediation diplomacy in the field of conflict resolution.
(3) Contribution in multilateral level such as in the United Nations
Japan’s contribution to discuss about human rights in the United Nations such as the Human Rights Council has not been evaluated, in spite of its
seat in the Human Rights Council, except in some issues 9. It is hoped
that the new administration takes the initiative on raising an outcry
against human rights violation, on being engaged in discussion to
resolve human rights issues, and on forging resolutions in the United
Nations including the Human Rights Council.
Japan is located in an optimal position to orchestra voices of the
international community beyond confrontation between developed
countries and developing countries and antagonism based on religious
backgrounds. Japan is required to take the lead of the discussion from a fair point of view without wielding its national interests and political status.
3. Contribution to promotion of human rights in the Asian region
Japan should contribute to respect and promotion of human rights in neighbouring Asian countries in order to develop diplomacy in Asia. Especially, Human Rights Now proposes the following.
(1) Promotion of participation in the International Criminal Court
It is essential to prevent grave human rights violations and, when they
occur, pursue responsibility of those violations and achieve justice in
order to establish human rights and the rule of law in the Asian
region. The Japanese government should encourage Asian countries to
ratify the International Criminal Court.
(2) Demonstrating initiatives to establish a regional human rights mechanism in Asia
Asia is, in spite of ongoing grave human rights, the only one region in the
world where an intergovernmental human rights mechanism does not exist.
Japan should learn experience of other regions and display its initiatives to establish a regional human rights mechanism in the Asian region.
Although long-term strategies are required to establish it, Human Rights Now proposes to invite governmental organisations in the Asian region as
well as human rights experts and activists, and hold a conference every
year in Japan to comprehend human rights situations in each Asian country, organise related issues and promote discussion about the establishment.
(3) Hosting an office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Japan
While there are offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human
Rights in Southeast Asia such as in Bangkok and Cambodia, there is no
such office in Northeast Asia which impedes realisation of
international human rights standards in the region. Human Rights Now
requests the new administration to aggressively support the
establishment of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights in Northeast Asia especially in Japan.
4. Fulfilment of accountability
The Japanese government should announce how it recognises human rights
situations in each country and what kind of measures it implements to
ameliorate those situations, and fulfill its accountability toward
citizens in Japan as well as governments and civil societies in other countries. It is significant to show that policies implemented by the Japanese governments are based upon objective analysis of human rights
In this regard, it would be useful to research some cases, for example, every year the Norwegian government makes and publishes a comprehensive report on human rights about its own polities toward human rights in and outside the country,10 and also every year the U.S. government submits its annual report about its actions taken to promote and respect of human rights to the Congress under the Article 665 of FY 2003 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Public Law 107-228.
5. The mainstream of human rights on development assistance
(1) Strengthening the position of human rights on assistance policy
Human Rights Now thinks that Japan Official Development Assistance (ODA)
should contribute on developing the society which is based on
international human rights standard to protect human rights.
In the past, the Japanese Government had given financial assistance to countries which abused human rights. For example, Japan assisted the Philippines’s Macros administration which had involved significant human rights violations and also the Indonesia’s Suharto administration. Nowadays, Japan is still the greatest donor nation of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) member country at Organization for Economic
Co-operation and Development (OECD) for the donation to Myanmar which has been under the military government.
It is also determined in the general framework of ODA in 1992 that
non-critical and large-scale financial assistance to human rights
violation countries like before has been declining now. Moreover, as
for the revised ODA general framework in 2003, “the assistance to
developing country’s self-help which is based on good government,”
heavy assistance to those countries which “actively performing the
efforts and revolution for peace, democracy and protection of human
rights,” “the viewpoint of human security,” and “the situation of
socially vulnerable, the gap between the rich and the poor, and the
regional differences in developing country” were all declared. However,
the path to realize those matters above was not expressed clearly. It
is not commendable that ODA is contributing to the improvement of human
None of the taxpayers would like to see valuable tax has been used as economic assistance to strengthen the power of despotic states, to destroy the environment, to expand the gaps between the rich and the poor, and to promote corruption. Special assistance to human right, gender equality, protection to the weak, etc., enhancing the effect of assistance, and expressing messages of development assistance at home and abroad are instead expected by the taxpayers.
In February 2007, the OECD-DAC adopted “Action-Oriented Policy Paper on Human Rights and Development” 11 in regard to a role of development assistance. This document expresses how human rights should be taken into account to implement development assistance, showing ten principles of promotion and integration of human rights in development which includes “to create common understanding about the relationship between duty to guarantee human rights, and priority of development through dialogue”, “to specify areas to support in the field of human rights toward partner
governments”, ” to guarantee human rights in the process of nation-building”, etc.
In order to mainstream human rights in Japan’s development assistant policies, based upon those principles, enhancing respect and promotion of human rights of the most vulnerable through the assistant should be set as a priority issue in cooperation with countries concerned.
Also as a policy to enhance human rights, it should be emphasised to promote “good governance”, to develop and enhance infrastructure such as judicial system, to support to develop legal system in the field of human rights, to assist transitional justice to prevent recurrence of large-scale human rights violations and to promote reconciliation, and to support pro-human rights activities of civil society.
Human Rights Now requests the new administration to embody those assistant policies under the midterm ODA review next year.
(2) Japan should use ODA as leverage to cease human rights violations
Several recipient countries of Japanese ODA have violated human rights directly and tolerated human rights violations. The Japanese government should demand that those countries to stop human rights violations in advance to commence its financial assistance. Furthermore, the Japanese
government should give its financial assistance to those countries upon
affirming that those countries have made significant and concrete
efforts on ceasing human rights violations.
Human Rights Now does not request of the deduction of assistance immediately. However, if the recipient countries have not discharge sincere effort to protect human rights or human rights violation, the Japanese government should take due consideration of suspension of assistance except humanitarian aid.
(3) Avoiding and preventing human rights violation on projects related to Japan
Human rights violations resulted from Japanese government’s assistance should be avoided. It is necessary that human rights, which include social
rights (education, medical and living, etc) should not be violated,
discrimination and persecution should not be expanded under projects in
which Japan is involved. When those countries’ express and implement human rights protection insufficiently, the Japanese government should monitor the whole process of the projects and demand honest responses from them.
6. Reception of refugees and protection for victims of human trafficking.
(1) Reception of refugees
There are numerous people who become refugees due to persecution or war not only in Asia, but also in other parts of the world. Therefore, working on improving the situation of human rights violation as well as accepting more
refugees will also be significant contribution in the field of human rights.
Japan has just started a pilot project of the resettlement for Myanmar refugees. Japan should expand this project to accept those at high risk among the vulnerable in the world and express policies of the resettlement for those. At the same time, Japan should also carry out a drastic reform to improve recognition of convention refugees.12
(2) Prevention of human trafficking, and protection and assistance for victims
There are still a large number of women and children who are forced to come to Japan as a consequence of human trafficking. As a receiving country, Japan has not a comprehensive human trafficking law and its cooperation with their home country is not sufficient, either. We should devote more
effort to establish a comprehensive human trafficking law, regional
treaties, and agreements about protecting and assisting victims of
human trafficking in the Asia region.
7. Domestic human rights policy
Human Rights Now expects the new administration to change domestic human rights policies dramatically.13
(1) Priority tasks
The manifesto of the DPJ, which will be a core party of new administration,
holds up promises such as “preventing wrongful conviction by the
video-taping of interrogation,” “ratifying Optional Protocols of major
Human Rights Treaties,” and “establishing a national human rights
commission as an affiliated agency of the Cabinet Office”.
Human Rights Now thinks the most important tasks for the new administration to tackle are the following:
1.To ratify Optional Protocols of “ICCPR and ICESCR”, “International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against
Women” and “Convention against Torture” early on to open the path of
the individual communication procedure.
2.To establish a national human rights commission which is independent from the government based upon the Paris Principles. 14
3.To realise a drastic reform of criminal justice based upon international
human rights standard including video-taping of entire custodial
interrogation and to prevent wrongful conviction.
Within above, ratifying Optional Protocol to Convention and video-taping of
interrogation are tasks which the new administration implements immediately, therefore Human Rights Now requests it to fully carry out
At the same time, even though video-taping of interrogation is the necessary measures to prevent wrongful conviction, it is not sufficient to do so. Hence, it is necessary to ascertain causes of false charge, and advance comprehensive reform of the comprehensive system, considering the international standard.
Regarding the comprehensive reform of a criminal procedure and establishment of a national human rights commission based upon the Paris Principles, an appropriate system should be built up by reference to civil society, cases from other countries and opinions from experts. Human Rights Now will provide its concrete suggestions hereafter.
(2) Implementation of the recommendations from the United Nations especially regarding to issues of the post-war reparations
Meanwhile, even though it is not written down on the above manifesto, regarding to, Human Rights Now requests the new administration to accept
recommendations made by various United Nations organisations and devote
its efforts into to improve human rights situations.
For example, the revision of discriminative provisions on Civil Law has been mentioned even though it is not written on the manifesto above. Among
those, Human Rights Now requests the government to reconsider the state
redress the violations of international human rights and humanitarian
law by Japan during the World War II, in particular issues of Comfort Women. As previously mentioned, the ICCPR, CEDAW and CAT Committees have
repeatedly made recommendations which require state to redress these
gross human rights violations.
As Japan has not yet solved post-war reparations, most Asian countries cast
serious doubt about Japanese government’s sincerity human right policy. If Japan wants to be respected as a country devoting efforts into peace and
human rights, and to place an active role, then its words have to come
with persuasiveness and trust. It is essential to face up to its own
past, formally apologize for those violations which had been done
against international human rights and humanitarian law during the
World War II, to conduct investigation and implementing reparation as
In 2005, the U.N. General Assembly adopted “Principles and Guidelines regarding reparation to victims of grave international human rights and humanitarian law violations”, which Japan co-sponsored.15 Those principles are the standard for reparation to victims of grave international human rights and humanitarian law violations. Human Rights Now requests the new administration to implement reparation based upon those principles.
At the End
In order to realize the change of human rights policies mentioned above,
it is essential to review all possible policies. In this respect, the
wisdom and information should be gathered from not only the government,
but also from civic society.
As experts with professional knowledge regarding Japan’s human rights issues and human rights activities of the United Nations as well as other countries, and also as experts of human rights situations in the world with networks of human rights NGOs and civil societies in the world especially in Asia, Human Rights Now will continue to provide proposals and contribution through communication with the government, MPs, government agencies and aid agencies in order to promote and crystallise domestic and foreign human rights policies.