Buraku Issue is covered by the CERD, UN Committee concludes

Kenzo Tomonaga

Director, Buraku Liberation andHuman Rights Research Institute

CERD= International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

The Japanese Government's Report was considered in March

On March 8 and 9 at the Palais Wilson in Geneva, the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Committee) considered the initial and second periodic report of the Japanese government. The Committee adopted the concluding observations, which include 21 items of recommendations on March 20.

In part of the "concerns and recommendations" of the concluding observations, the Buraku issue was clearly mentioned in three different paragraphs. First, Paragraph 7 says:

The state party is recommended to provide in its next report full details on the composition of population [...], in particular, information on economic and social indicators reflecting the situation of all minorities covered by the scope of the Convention, including the Korean minority, Burakumin and Okinawa communities.

What' s inside?

□ Concluding observation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

National Convention of the BLL

□ NGO Report on the CERD

Secondly, Paragraph 8 writes:

[T]he Committee considers, contrary to the State party, that the term "descent" has its own meaning and is not to be confused with race or ethnic or national origin. The Committee therefore recommends the State party to ensure the protection against discrimination and the full enjoyment of the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights contained in article 5 of the Convention of all groups, including the Burakumin community.

Thirdly, in Paragraph 23, the Committee requests the Japanese government " to provide in its next report further information on the impact of " three laws relevant to this Convention. One of them is "the Law Concerning Special Government Financial Measures for Regional Improvement Special Projects and envisaged strategies to eliminate discrimination against Burakumin after the law ceases to apply, i.e. in 2002."

Notwithstanding the Buraku Liberation League and other organisations' contention that the Buraku issue was within the scope of the Convention at the time of accession, the Japanese government has persisted in its interpretation that the Buraku issue is outside the scope of the Convention. The government considers that the scope of the Convention is limited to racial or ethnic discrimination. Accordingly, the initial and second report by the government excludes the Buraku issue. However, it is obvious that this interpretation of the government was totally rejected by the recommendations of the Committee.

Apart from the Buraku issue, the situations of Ainu people, the Korean minority, foreign residents and the Okinawa community are considered in the concluding observations. In addition to the Committee expressed its concern about reactions towards remarks with discriminatory character made by high-level public officials. This concern was apparently the result of remarks made by Mr. Ishihara, the Governor of Tokyo, April 2000.* 1 The Committee also points out the necessity to facilitate the realisation of provisions in the Convention in a domestic legal system.

The NGO report *2, in which problems of the government's report are pointed out, was submitted to the Committee prior to the examination. IMADR-JC took a pivotal role in making the NGO report. The report presents the opinion of Buraku Liberation League, which recognises that the Buraku issue should be covered by this Convention. Nichibenren (Japan Bar Association) also indicates in its own report to the Committee that this Convention encompasses the Buraku issue.

Mr. Kumisaka, President of Buraku Liberation League, and I visited Geneva and actively met with members f the Committee and staff of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the purpose of urging them to take the Buraku issue into consideration while they examine the government's report.

Mr. Kumisaka, President of Buraku Liberation League, comments as follows:

" It is a great result that the Committee articulated that the Buraku issue is within the scope of this Convention in its recommendations. I would like to thank members of the Committee, especially Mr. Valencia Rodriguez. I am willing to use the recommendations in order to urge the Japanese government and the national parliament to implement this Convention domestically. In particular, I would like to seek enactment of Anti-discrimination Act and establishment of an effective institution of remedy for victims of human rights violations."

*1 More about the discriminatory remarks by Tokyo Governor, Ishihara and the Concluding Observations,for example, see the articles on The Japan Times On-line (http://www.japantimes.co.jp)dated March 10 and 23, 2001.

* 2 "Collective Report among Japan Based NGOS on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination" was made by the NGOCommittee for the Reporting on the ICERD. If you are interested in the report, please contact : imadrjc@ff.iij4u.or.jp(3 USD plus postage)