NGO Report in Response to the First and Second Report
Prepared by the Government of Japan Concerning CERD

Buraku Liberation League (BLL)
Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute

(Continuation from BLN No.121)

6. Article 6 (Remedies for Victims of Racial Discrimination)

* The Sayama Case demonstrates the reality of remedial measures made through court proceedings in Japan. The defence lawyers lodged a protest after the second request for a retrial was dismissed. The lawyers have faced problems such as the non-disclosure of evidence and the lack of investigation of facts that should have been investigated by the prosecutor. Since the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that the Japanese Government should ensure that its laws and legal practises enable the defence to have access to all relevant material, all evidence should be immediately disclosed to the defence lawyers. (Data 15)

* As an alternative means of dispute resolution, the Human Rights Protection Service is available at the Civil Liberties Bureau in the Ministry of Justice. However, it has not proven to be very effective. It is urged that a sufficiently effective human rights commission based on the Paris Principles be established. (Data 16-1, 16-2*)

* Since May 2000, the Policy Office of Regional Improvement of the Management and Coordination Agency has been responsible for planning, implementing and coordinating comprehensive programs for the improvement of Buraku communities. In this way, the Government has had a function within the cabinet to address the Buraku problem. Along with the impending expiration of the "Law Regarding the Special Fiscal Measures for the Government for Regional Improvement Projects" at the end of March 2002, the Policy Office is also to be dissolved. Buraku discrimination, however, still exists. It is urged that an office be created within the cabinet that will function in coordinating and planning measures for Buraku communities, such as in the Cabinet Office, which was reorganized in January 2001, until Buraku discrimination is genuinely resolved.

7. Article 7 (Effective Measures in the Fields of Education and Culture to Combat Discrimination)

* Of all the 47 prefectures in Japan, only 23 have established and introduced Dowa Education in schools. Dowa Education refers to educational programs that aim at eliminating Buraku discrimination. It is urged that all prefectures across the nation introduce Dowa Education.

* Of all the 576 universities and colleges, only 228 (39.6%) have established a Chair of Dowa Education. All universities and colleges should provide lectures on Dowa Education. (Data 17)

* Based on the Law on the Promotion of Human Rights Education and Human Rights Awareness-Raising that were enacted in December 2000, all prefectural governments are urged to implement Dowa Education programs, and all universities and colleges are urged to provide lectures on Dowa Education.

Data 15

Discrimination and the right to a fair trial

In 1963 a high-school girl was kidnapped and killed in Sayama City, Saitama Prefecture, Japan. This murder case, which is called the "Sayama Case" after the place of the killing, led to the arrest of Mr. Kazuo Ishikawa, who belongs to the Buraku people or Burakumin, a group who still face serious discrimination. Mr. Ishikawa was first arrested on a minor charge by the police who had been hunting for a criminal in a matter involving prejudice against Burakumin, allegedly forced to falsely confess to murder in the Sayama Case after a long interrogation and examination in a substitute prison (Daiyo Kangoku), and convicted. For over 37 years, Mr. Ishikawa has called for a retrial of the case, claiming his innocence.

Nearly 13 years have passed since Mr. Ishikawa's defence counsel filed a plea for retrial with the Tokyo District High Court and demanded the interrogation of particularly important unsworn witnesses and legal advisers and a fact-finding investigation. In the Sayama Case, an examination of the evidence has not been done for almost 25 years. Mr. Ishikawa's defence counsel has also demanded the full disclosure of all evidence possessed by the prosecutors. Despite the continuous negotiations with the prosecutors, however, the evidence has yet to be disclosed, though the Prosecutors Office has admitted the possession of a large volume of evidential materials and items. Even disclosure of the list of all evidence, which the defence counsel demands as a first step, has not yet been made.

The prosecutors argue that some of the evidence relates to the privacy of the persons involved, and that making it public would put at risk citizens' cooperation with police investigations in the future. However, we believe that after 37 years, disclosure of such items cannot be considered an obstacle to police investigation and, besides, they would not be used outside the court. The principle of the retrial system, "giving relief to the innocent", should be respected. Moreover, as the prosecutors have an obligation to find out the truth, they should disclose all evidence possessed by them on their own initiative. Without disclosure of the list of all the evidence, the defence counsel is deprived of any effective means of knowing their contents and cannot identify the items to be disclosed. It is unfair and an injustice.

The Human Rights Committee, having examined the fourth periodic report of Japan (CCPR/C/115/Add.3 and Corr.1) in October 1998, recommended, among other things, that Japan should ensure "that its law and practice enable the defence to have access to all relevant material in order that the right of defence is not hampered" (CCPR/C/79/Add.102, para.26). It is noteworthy that during the consideration of Japan's report, a question was raised by a member of the Committee as to how Japan's legal system guarantees access to evidence unknown to defence lawyers, and the Sayama Case was specifically mentioned as a case in point.

Responding to the recommendation of the Human Rights Committee, several Japanese legal experts and law practitioners are now discussing how the guarantee of disclosure of evidence should be promoted. In parliament, government leaders are being questioned in this regard. To guarantee the disclosure of evidence for the defence is indeed one of the major issues in the current legal reform of criminal proceedings in Japan.

Encouraged by the Committee's recommendation, the defence counsel for Mr. Ishikawa has filed an appeal with the Tokyo High Prosecutors Office, in which it particularly demands the disclosure of evidence that may not be deemed as infringing on anyone's privacy. In Japan, submission of new evidence is the prerequisite for a retrial.

The Japanese Government, as a State party to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, should be urged to take immediate action to ensure that Mr. Ishikawa is guaranteed a fair trial and that all evidence is disclosed, in compliance with article 14.3 (b) of the Covenant which stipulates that everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be entitled to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his/her defence.

The Tokyo High Court, in spite of the public opinion calling for a retrial, dismissed the appeal for a retrial on 8th July 1999.

The Tokyo High Court should immediately start a retrial on the basis of the stipulation of Article 6 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, on effective protection and remedies, through the competent national tribunals and other State institutions,0 against racial discrimination.

(Editor's note) This NGO report was made in February, 2001. As the first article of this News reports, the Tokyo High Court dismissed the second appeal for retrial on January, 2002.)

Data 16-1

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

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 1 (Data16-2*), 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 form 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.

(Note 3) 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.

(Note 4) "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.

( Kenzo Tomonaga)


Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute

Data 17

Number of Universities that have Classes on the Dowa Issue

Survey by the Ministry of Education, 1997

National University Public University Private University Total
56/98 30/53 142/425 228/576
57.80% 56.60% 33.40% 39.60%

The supplementary data referred to by "*" has been omitted due to a lack of space