Buraku Liberation News, November 1998 issue (No.105)

The UN Human Rights Committee Raised Concern Over Human Rights Situation in Japan.

The UN Human Rights Committee adopted the Concluding Observations on 5 November 1998 after reviewing the Fourth Periodic Report of the Government of Japan at its 1714th -1717th meetings held on 28 and 29 October 1998. As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Japan is required to submit a report every five years that outlines the country's policies in compliance with the covenant.

In the Observations, the Committee lamented that recommendations it made five years ago have largely not been implemented. The committee urged the Japanese Government to improve its human rights conditions, citing almost 30 issues including the absence of an independent mechanism for investigating complaints of human rights violations, the death penalty system, discrimination against Korean residents, Ainu people and Buraku people, in addition to harsh treatment of foreign detainees by immigration officials.

In reaction to the Fourth Periodic Report submitted by the Japanese Government in 1997, 23 non-governmental organizations, including the Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute as well as the Buraku Liberation League, produced the counter-reports detailing the actual performance of the government on human rights issues, prior to the Committee's meetings.

In addition, more than 50 delegates from 15 NGOs lobbied the Committee members at the UN European headquarters in a bid to influence the Committee's conclusions.

As a result, the Committee raised concern over many issues of human rights situation in Japan.

The following are the text of the Concluding Observations.

CCPR/C/79/Add. l02
Human Rights Committee
Sixty-fourth session

Concluding Observations by the Human Rights Committee


l. The Committee considered the fourth periodic report of the Government of
Japan (CCPR/C/115/Add.3 and Corr.1) at its l714th-l717th meetings (CCPR/SR.l714-1717) held on 28 and 29 October l998 and adopted the following concluding observations at its l726th and l727th meetings (CCPR/C/SR.1726-1727) held on 5 November 1998.

A. Introduction

2. The Committee expresses its appreciation of the frank and forthright replies given by the delegation to the issues raised by the Committee and the clarifications and explanations given in answer to the oral questions put by the members of the Committee. The Committee is also appreciative of the presence of the large Delegation representing various branches of the Government, which demonstrates the seriousness of the State party in meeting its obligations under the Covenant. The Committee also commends the State party for having given wide publicity to the present report and to the work of the Committee. It welcomes the large number of lawyers and non-governmental organizations present during the discussion of the report.

B. Positive aspects

3. The Committee commends the Government for its ongoing process to bring its legislation in harmony with the provisions of the Covenant. It welcomes the enactment of the Law on the Promotion of Measures for Human Rights Protection, as well as amendments to other laws such as the Equal Employment Opportunities Law, the Standard Labour Law, the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, the Penal Code, the Child Welfare Law, the Election Law and the Entertainment Business Law, and the draft bill aimed at punishing Japanese nationals involved in child prostitution and child pornography.

4. The Committee notes with satisfaction the establishment, at Cabinet-level...of the Council for the Promotion of Gender Equality, aimed at investigating and developing policies for the achievement of a gender-equal society and its adoption of "The Plan for Gender Equality 2000". The Committee also notes the measures being taken by the Human Rights organs of the Ministry of Justice to deal with the elimination of discrimination and prejudice against students of Korean schools in Japan, children born out of wedlock and children of the Ainu minority.

5. The Committee welcomes the abolition of restrictions on women's eligibility to take the national public service examination, the abolition of discriminatory compulsory retirement...and of dismissals on grounds of marriage, pregnancy or childbirth.

C. Principal subjects of concern and recommendations

6. The Committee regrets that its recommendations issued after the consideration of the third periodic report have largely not been implemented.

7. The Committee stresses that protection of human rights and human rights standards are not determined by popularity polls. It is concerned by the repeated use of popularity statistics to justify attitudes of the State party that may violate its obligations under the Covenant.

8. The Committee reiterates its concern about the restrictions which can be placed on the rights guaranteed in the Covenant on the grounds of "public welfare", a concept which is vague and open-ended and which may enable restrictions exceeding those permissible under the Covenant. Following upon its previous observations, the Committee once again strongly recommends to the State party to bring its internal law in conformity with the Covenant.

9. The Committee is concerned about the lack of institutional mechanisms available for investigating violations of human rights and for giving 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 view that Civil Liberties Commission 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 complaint 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.

11. The Committee is concerned about the vagueness of the concept of "reasonable discrimination", which, in the absence of objective criteria, is incompatible with article 26 of the Covenant. The Committee finds that the arguments advanced by the State party in support of this concept are the same as had been advanced during the consideration of the third periodic report, and which the Committee had found to be unacceptable.

12. The Committee continues to be concerned about discrimination against children born out of wedlock, particularly with regard to the issues of nationality, family registers and inheritance rights. It reaffirms its position that pursuant to article 26 of the Covenant, all children are entitled to equal protection, and recommends that the State party take the necessary measures to amend its legislation, including article 900, para.4, of the Civil Code.

13. The Committee is concerned about instances of discrimination against members of the Japanese-Korean minority who are not Japanese citizens, including the non-recognition of Korean schools. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to General Comment 23(1994) which stresses that protection under Article 27 may not be restricted to citizens only.

14. The Committee is concerned about the discrimination against members of the Ainu indigenous minority in regard to language and higher education, as well as about recognition of their land rights.

15. With regard to the Dowa problem, the Committee acknowledges the acceptance by the State party of the fact that discrimination persists vis-a-vis members of the Buraku minority with regard to education, income and the system of effective remedies. The Committee recommends that the State party take measures to put an end to such discrimination.

16. The Committee is concerned that there still remain in the domestic legal order of the State party discriminatory laws against women, such as the prohibition for women to remarry within six months following the date of the dissolution or annulment of the marriage and the different age of marriage for men and women. The Committee recalls that all legal provisions that discriminate against women are incompatible with articles 2, 3 and 26 of the Covenant and should be repealed.

17. The Committee reiterates the comment made in its concluding observations at the end of the consideration of Japan's third periodic report that the Alien Registration Law, which makes it a penal offence for alien permanent residents not to carry certificates of registration at all times and imposes criminal sanctions, is incompatible with article 26 of the Covenant.It once again recommends that such discriminatory law be abolished.

18. Article 26 of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act provides that only those foreigners who leave the country, with a prior permit to reenter, are allowed to return to Japan without loosing their status of residents and the granting of such prior permit is entirely within the discretion of the Minister of Justice. Under this law, foreigners who are second or third generation permanent residents in Japan and whose life activities are based in Japan...may be deprived of their right to leave and reenter the country. The Committee is of the view that this provision is incompatible with article 12, paragraphs 2 and 4, of the Covenant. The Committee reminds that the words "one's own country" are not synonymous with "country of one's own nationality". The Committee therefore strongly urges the State party to remove the necessity to obtain a prior permit to reenter, in respect of permanent residents like persons of Korean origin born in Japan.

19. The Committee is concerned about allegations of violence and sexual harassment of persons detained pending Immigration procedures including harsh conditions of detention, the use of handcuffs and detention in isolation rooms. Persons held in Immigration detention centres may remain there for periods of time extending up to six months and, in some cases...even up to two years. The Committee recommends that the State party review the conditions of detention and, if necessary, take measures to bring the situation into compliance with articles 7 and 9 of the Covenant.

20. The Committee is gravely concerned that the number of crimes punishable by the death penalty not been reduced, as indicated by the Delegation at the consideration of Japan's third periodic report. The Committee recalls, once again, that the terms of the Covenant tend towards the abolition of the death penalty and that those States which have not already abolished the death penalty are bound to apply it only for the most serious crimes. The Committee recommends that Japan take measures towards the abolition of the death penalty and that, in the meantime, that penalty should be limited to the most serious crimes, in accordance with article 6, paragraph 2, of the Covenant.

(to be continued)