Buraku Liberation News, Sep 1998 issue (No.104)

A Critique Based on the Present State of Discrimination Against Buraku People (2)

by Kenzo Tomonaga
Director, BLHRRI

This is the second part of the counter report to the Forth Periodic Report by the Government of Japan under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) regarding discrimination against Buraku people.

On 14 June 1997, the Japanese Government submitted the Report to the UN Human Rights Committee, in accordance with the ICCPR. In reaction to the Report, the Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute has made a counter-report from the view point of non-governmental organizations and experts in Japan.

III. There are No Effective Remedy Institutions for Victims of Human Rights Violations.

The third problem is that despite continuing occurrences of discrimination against Buraku people, at present there is neither a legal system to regulate Buraku discrimination nor effective remedy institutions.

I would like to explain about the absence of remedy institutions by referring to Graph , based on the fact-finding surveys conducted in 1993.

First, I would like to explain a little about this graph. During the survey, Buraku people were asked if they had experienced discrimination. One-third of Buraku people responded yes. This graph shows the results of responses given to a multiple choice question asking how people reacted when they were discriminated against.

We can see several important points from this data. First, 46.6% of Buraku people answered that they simply endured it with silence. This suggests that the incidents of Buraku discrimination reported in newspapers, on television and in newsletters published by Buraku liberation organizations

reflect only the tip of the iceberg.

Why is it that about half of the Buraku people decided to keep silent when they experienced discrimination? We have to guess the answer to this question because it was not asked during the surveys. It is probably because they fear that protesting directly to the person who committed the discriminatory act would result in an acknowledgement that they are Buraku people and thereby could make them potential targets for further discrimination in the future. Thus, analyzing this data, we can see how deep-rooted discrimination continues to exist.

The second problem which must be pointed out is that only 0.6% of people answered that they consulted with Civil Liberties Commissioners. Under the present legal system, human rights violations, including Buraku discrimination, are to be taken to the District Legal Affairs Bureaus or the Civil Liberties Commissioners.

However, these systems have not been effective in dealing with discrimination against Buraku people. There are several reasons for this.

First, with respect to the District Legal Affairs Bureaus, about 200 staff are assigned to handle human rights issues in the offices. However, this number is not sufficient. Nor do the staff workers have expertise in human rights. For example, a public officer, who used to be a registrar until yesterday, is suddenly assigned by a government order to become a staff member handling human rights issues the next day.

There is also a system of Civil Liberties Commissioners, which serve voluntarily to assist the staff handling human rights issues at District Legal Affairs offices. Civil Liberties Commissioners are recommended to the Ministry of Justice by mayor upon approval by the local Diet. Commissioners are formally appointed by the commission of the Justice Minister. There are about 13,000 Commissioners nationwide. However, there are some problems with this system as well.

The most serious problem is that most of the Commissioners are not experts on human rights. Also, Commissioners tend to be senior citizens, and only Japanese nationals are eligible (foreign residents are excluded). Moreover, Civil Liberties Commissioners sometimes are the cause of discrimination against Buraku people.

In addition, staff handling human rights issues in the District Legal Affairs Bureaus and Civil Liberties Commissioners can only collect information given voluntarily when investigating a possible human rights violation. Even when a party is found to have violated another's human rights, the only course of action available is to urge that human rights be respected in the future. No effective course of action is available, even for those guilty of vicious human rights violations.

Many of the problems mentioned above regarding the present system of human rights protection were already pointed out in the report of the Dowa Policy Council in 1965(3).

Furthermore, the Recommendation of the Consultative Council on Regional Improvement Measures on 17 May 1996, pointed out that "In order to take prompt and effective measures, including the fact-finding surveys and remedial measures for the victims, in response to all forms of human rights violations, a study should be conducted to establish a system to provide remedies for the victims, suitable for the twenty-first century and in line with the international mainstream, by reviewing the present system of human rights protection."

With respect to the "international mainstream", the UN has recommended establishing and strengthening the national human rights institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights. The Paris Principles were adopted as a link to it. In this document the importance of the independence, level of expertise, specialization, and plurality of structure of National Human Rights Institutions are stressed(4). However, the present system of human rights protection in Japan has problems on each level.

IV. The Enactment of the Law of Promotion of Measures for Human Rights Protection is Not Mentioned.

The next problem is that there is no precise reference in the report about the achievements of several organizations and individuals working to eliminate Buraku discrimination and other kinds of human rights abuses.

For example, there is no mention that the 139th extraordinary session of the Diet adopted in December 1996 the Law of Promotion of Measures for Human Rights Protection. This law, effective for 5 years, has been in effect since March 1997. Since the Fourth Periodic Report was submitted in June 1997, there must have been ample time to include a reference to the law in the report.

The Law of the Promotion of Measures for Human Rights Protection follows the recommendations from the Consultative Council on Regional Improvement Measures released on May 1996 and June 4 pertaining to three points of the ruling coalition's Project Team on Human Rights and Discrimination Problems(5).

The Law stipulates that the government shall promote measures, including human rights education and remedial measures, in order to eliminate discrimination and human rights violations existing in Japan, as a responsibility of the state. The Law also stipulates that the government hall establish the 20-member Council for Human Rights Protection that is required to conclude a policy recommendation for the basic measures(6).

The Council for Human Rights Protection, which was established based on the Law of Promotion of Measures for Human Rights Protection, has met every month since May 1997. When the Law was adopted by the Diet, both the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors attached a resolution to the bill. According to the resolution, the Government should issue reports on human rights education within two years and reports on remedies for victims of human rights violations within five years. And it is required that the Government take necessary measures, including legal measures, toprotect human rights.

As I mentioned above, one can see the possibility of the enactment of a law for the implementation of human rights education and training, including Dowa education, in 2 years, and a law for remedying injury caused by human rights violations (including Buraku discrimination) in five years. However, In order to implement a legal system effectively, it is necessary to engage in productive dialogue in the international community, including the Human Rights Committee.

As for the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education, Headquarters for the Promotion of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education with the Prime Minister as the head has been established based on a Cabinet decision on 15 December 1995, which covered all of the local governments. On 4 July 1997 Japan's National Plan of Action for the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education was announced (7).

Headquarters for the Decade have been established not only at the national level but also at the local level of government, such as, in Osaka, Mie, Fukuoka and Shiga Prefectures. Each Headquarters has the mayor as head, and has been dealing with making a plan of action.

These activities play an important role in helping international human rights standards take root in Japan, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenants. I believe that if these activities were reported in the Periodic Report, they would be referenced internationally.

(to be continued)

Notes :

  1. For example, the report of the Dowa Policy Council pointed out the problems as follows;
    "The protection of basic human rights is considered the task of the Civil Rights Bureau, an internal section of the Justice Ministry. The Legal Affairs Bureau and its local branches, which are responsible for civil administration, manage on-the-spot jobs now. But this system should be reconsidered. It is also inadequate that officials who were formerly engaged in the management of family registers and registration are transferred to jobs related to human rights protection.
    It should also be noted that less than 200 officials are directly engaged in the protection of basic human rights and the budget is extremely low."
    "Reorganizing the human rights protection system by studying and considering the placement, organization and structure of human rights protection bodies and matters concerning civil rights commissioners, in order to promote activities of human rights protection bodies.
  2. "National Human Rights Institutions - A handbook on the establishment and Strengthening of the National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection on Human Rights" ,published by the UN, was translated into Japanese by the Minority Issue Study Group, sponsored by the BLRI.
  3. The following is the agreement on three points.
    1. A legislative measure for the promotion of education and enlightenment.
      The government will study legislative measures for the promotion of education and enlightenment based upon the report by the Consultative Council on Regional Improvement Measures and the Action Program for the UN Decade for Human Rights Education in order to eliminate the deep-rooted discrimination consciousness of citizens over the Dowa problem.
    2. A legislative measure for the remedy of victims of human rights violations. There are still quite a few human rights violations inflicted on Buraku people and there are many defects in the present system. As to the solution the government will study a new system, including a legislative measure.
    3. A legislative measure for special projects for regional Improvement.
      Based upon the report by the Consultative Council on Regional Improvement Measures, the government will seek a legislative measure by studying the remaining subjects, the financial background of local governments without damaging the achievements brought by the measures up to the present.
  4. Professor Nisuke Ando, Kyoto University, is a designated member of the Council for Human Rights Protection. He is also a member of the Human Rights Committee.
  5. Regarding an evaluation on the "National Plan of Action", several articles were published on 4 July 1997, refer to "Kaiho Kyoiku.