Calling for the Early Enactment of a Law on Remedies for Human Rights Violations

Toru Matsuoka
Secretary General, Headquarters of Buraku Liberation League

The 159th ordinary session of the Diet ended in mid June without having achieved any progress on a law concerning human rights violation remedies. The session focused on other agendas such as the Iraq War, the North Korea issue, the proposed reform of the pension system and the proposed judicial reform.

We believe that the enactment of a law on remedies for human rights violations is essential for laying down the foundations of a judicial system that supports the establishment of human rights. The BLL national convention for the liberation of Buraku and the establishment of human rights confirmed in February this year that continued efforts will be made towards the realization of a Law on Remedies for Human Rights Violations. Later, the BLL prepared Outlines of the Bill for a Law on Remedies for Human Rights Violations in an attempt to stimulate discussion of the proposed law.

The bill consists on the following four points:

  1. Creation of an independent and effective national human rights commission: This commission should be created as an extra-ministerial bureau in order to ensure its independence from the Government. Diversity and pluralism should also be secured in the selection of its commissioners and office staff, and it should have remedial, educational and advocacy functions in order to effectively promote human rights policies.
  2. Creation of prefectural human rights committees that can directly attend to human rights needs in their respective jurisdictions: These committees should belong to prefectural governors, deal with matters other than those dealt with by the national human rights committee, and provide a human rights counseling service.
  3. Drastic modification of the existing allegedly ineffective system of commissio- ners for human rights protection: Human rights counseling systems should be created under national and local human rights committees so that remedial programs for human rights violations can be implemented in their respective communities.
  4. Guarantee effectiveness in the procedures for providing remedies for human rights violations: This involves expanding human rights violation complaint criteria, incorporating human rights remedial machinery into local human rights committees, and excluding human rights violation cases involving media activities such as interviews and reporting.

Also, the bill provides clearer definitions for terms such as "human rights," "human rights violations" and "unreasonable discrimination" so that cases that constitute human rights violations can be defined more strictly. As a tentative proposal for discussion, the bill needs to be elaborated on through future discussions.

Challenges in Realizing the Early Enactment of a Law on Remedies for Human Rights Violations

* Raising public opinion

We organized a symposium to discuss the outlines of a law on remedies for human rights violations on March 9, 2004, with participation from parliament members, mass-media, local governments and NGOs. This forum was an important tool in creating public pressure for the enactment of the law.

* Monitoring the Government and political party movement

While the Government has yet to indicate its opinion with regard to proposing a renewed bill, it has not dismissed the possibility to propose it again.

Four major political parties formed a nonpartisan working group for human rights policies in April this year. As it will meet regularly, we must make concerted efforts to actively approach them.

Efforts to be made at the local level

Efforts should be made not only at the national level but also at the local level for the establishment of a legal system for remedies for human rights violations. While authorities are likely to commit human rights violations in the public sphere, violations are also likely to occur between individuals especially in daily life. It is therefore essential to establish a mechanism to quickly and effectively resolve cases at the local level. We have consistently called for the creation of effective local human rights committees that are independent from the national human rights committee.

It is obvious that the efforts to create solid and effective legislation to provide remedies for human rights violations require the active involvement of local governments and private entities. For the time being, we need to focus on the following efforts at the local level.

  1. The formation of a forum or organization of symposiums, with participation of people from different sectors, to study and examine the points of a bill for remedies for human rights violations so that the bill will be elaborated upon and momentum for its early enactment will be created.
  2. Promoting the creation of a working group in each prefectural government to discuss a remedial system for human rights violations. The Osaka Prefectural Government recently published the Report on Research on Remedial Machinery for Human Rights Violations at the Local Level, and Tottori and Fukuoka prefectures are now following its lead.
  3. A petition campaign to representatives of all sectors of society for the bill should be considered as the extraordinary session of the Diet approaches this fall.

In conclusion, we will continue our efforts to promote extensive public opinion calling for the enactment of a law, while calling for the fulfillment of government, international and political responsibility.

(This is a summary of opinions raised by Mr. Matsuoka, who was elected as a member of House of Councilors in July 2004)