In Dialogue with Japan, Human Rights Committee Experts Welcome the Provision of Public Housing to Same Sex Couples, Raise Issues Concerning the Death Penalty and the Removal of Children from their Families
The Human Rights Committee this morning concluded its consideration of the seventh periodic report of Japan on how it implements the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, with Committee Experts welcoming the provision of public housing to same sex couples, and raising issues concerning the death penalty and the removal of children from their families.
One Committee Expert welcomed that the revised Public Housing Act removed the exclusion of same sex couples from public housing. However, discrimination in relation to public housing could continue for same sex couples, as the revised law gave discretion to local municipalities to determine who received housing. How did the State party prevent this?
A Committee Expert noted that Japan continued to carry out executions and sentence people to death, and had not set up a mandatory system of review in capital cases. What measures were in place to consider the abolition of the death penalty or reduce the number of eligible crimes; to give reasonable advance notice of the scheduled date and time of execution to death row inmates and their families; and to establish a mandatory and effective system of review in capital cases?
Another Committee Expert expressed serious concerns about reports that children could be removed from their family without a court order and without clear evidence of parental abuse. There was also allegedly a strong financial incentive for Child Guidance Centres to receive more children. What measures were in place to respond to these issues?
On the issue of the provision of housing, the delegation said that the Government had been working to eliminate discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. Measures had been implemented to prevent discrimination against them in the workplace. Since 2011, counselling services had been provided for students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex students, regarding human rights issues. Same sex couples would be allowed to access public housing in Tokyo from November 2022.
On the death penalty, the delegation said that notice of execution was given to the person on death row on the day of their execution to protect the peace of mind of the death row inmate. Death penalties were issued under a strict, three-tiered system, and were only carried out when the Minister of Justice decided that reviews of rulings were not needed. An additional mandatory review system on the death penalty was not required. Each country should decide on whether to implement the death penalty based on public opinion. Many Japanese persons supported the death penalty, and thus it was not appropriate to suspend it.
On the removal of children from their families, the delegation said that the Government had amended the Child Welfare Act and introduced a mandatory review of the removal of children. Removal was taken as a last resort measure in the best interest of the child. There had never been economic incentives for removing children from their parents.
In concluding remarks, Takao Imafuku, Deputy Director General and Deputy Assistant Minister of the Foreign Policy Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, and Head of Delegation, expressed appreciation for the comprehensive and constructive dialogue. The protection of human rights was a tireless and continuous process. The Government would continue to make efforts to promote civil and political rights in accordance with the Covenant, and would continue to engage with civil society on the issues discussed.
Photini Pazartzis, Committee Chairperson, in her concluding remarks, called on the State party to seriously consider ratifying the Committee’s Optional Protocols, and to limit the application of the death penalty to the most serious crimes only. She expressed hope that dialogue on the death penalty would continue, with a view to the progressively phasing it out. She also welcomed that there was consideration of the revision of child protection legislation, and called on the State party to consider creating comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. Ms. Pazartzis, in closing, expressed hope for a continued constructive dialogue with Japan.
The delegation of Japan was made up of representatives of the Cabinet Secretariat; Ministry of Justice; Immigration Services Agency; National Police Agency; Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare; Ministry of the Environment; Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology; International Labour and Cooperation Office; and the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Human Rights Committee’s one hundred and thirty-sixth session is being held from 10 October to 4 November. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Meeting summary releases can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed via the UN Web TV webpage.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Monday, 17 October, to begin its consideration of the second periodic report of Ethiopia (CCPR/C/ETH/2).
The Committee has before it the seventh periodic report of Japan (CCPR/C/JPN/7).
Presentation of the Report
TAKAO IMAFUKU, Deputy Director General and Deputy Assistant Minister of the Foreign Policy Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, and Head of Delegation , said that the Government recognised the importance of dialogue with civil society, and had made efforts to engage with civil society in preparing the State report.
During the reporting period, the Civil Code had been amended and the period of time during which women were barred from remarrying had been shortened. The minimum age for marriage had been set at 18 years old, the same for both men and women, from April 2022. Since July this year, employers with 301 or more regular workers were required to disclose information on gender wage differences. Japan would also hold the World Assembly for Women in December.
Japan had been undertaking efforts to protect the rights of minorities. In 2016, the Government introduced the Hate Speech Elimination Act, which aimed to eliminate unfair discriminatory speech and behaviour. The human rights bodies of the Ministry of Justice provided human rights counselling at Legal Affairs Bureaus nationwide, and counselling was available in approximately 80 languages. Furthermore, in July 2020, "Upopoy," the National Ainu Museum and Park, was opened as a national centre for revitalising and developing Ainu culture.
The Penal Code was amended in 2017 to allow prosecution without a complaint by the victim. This would reduce the burden on victims and lead to more effective responses to sexual crimes. During the fiscal year 2021, audio visual recordings were made for approximately 94 per cent of in-custody questioning conducted by the public prosecutors.
To ensure proper operation of the Technical Intern Training Programme, on-site inspections were conducted at relevant organizations. In fiscal year 2021, more than 28,000 such on-site inspections were carried out. The Government would continue to carefully discuss how to properly implement this programme to ensure that trainees were received appropriately.
The Government granted refugee status or status on humanitarian grounds for 654 persons in 2021, more than triple the 2014 number. Hardly any of the applicants were kept in detention, even if they did not have residential status. Almost 2,000 evacuees from Ukraine had been accepted as of the end of September 2022. Japan was trying to avoid detention in deportation proceedings as much as possible, and to ensure that detention duration was kept as short as possible. As of the end of 2021, among persons to whom a written order of detention or deportation had been issued, the ratio of those detained by the Immigration Services Agency was less than two per cent. In addition, the average detention period for those who were subject to deportation proceedings in 2021 was approximately 80 days. The Government was considering amending the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act to legally define alternatives to detention and to further improve the treatment of detainees.
Last year, a Special Advisor to the Prime Minister for International Human Rights Affairs was appointed to promote efforts related to human rights. The Government would continue to make efforts to ensure that civil and political rights were respected and secured.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked about concrete measures to implement and review the implementation of the Committee’s previous concluding observations. The State party had provided only one example of a Supreme Court ruling that referred to the Covenant. What were some other examples of its application in both judicial and non-judicial settings? What training on the Covenant was provided for lawyers, judges and prosecutors?
The Supreme Court had found the provision of the Family Register Act requiring indication of whether children were legitimate or illegitimate was not unconstitutional. The Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2019 had suggested that the term “illegitimate child” be totally abolished. Did the State party intend to revise this legislation and adopt measures to prevent discrimination against all children and their mothers?
The Committee was seriously concerned about reports that children could be removed from their family without a court order and without clear evidence of parental abuse. There was also allegedly a strong financial incentive for Child Guidance Centres to receive more children. Further, the Committee was concerned about reports of parental child abductions in Japan. What measures were in place to respond to these issues?
What was the State party’s current position on accession to the Optional Protocol providing for an individual communication procedure?
The Committee was concerned about the proposed deletion of article 97 of the Constitution, which upheld the inviolability of fundamental human rights, as part of proposed constitutional revisions. Was this proposal still being discussed?
Another Committee Expert asked about progress in establishing an independent national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.
The Expert took note of the 2015 Supreme Court decision that the six months period in which women could not remarry following divorce was unconstitutional, and the revision of the Civil Code to shorten the period of remarrying to 100 days. Was the State party considering completely abolishing this waiting period?
Had there been any progress on amending the article of the Civil Code that compelled women to adopt the same surname as their husband? The Expert called for information on women’s representation in the various levels of Government, as well as in the judiciary, diplomatic service and in academia, including of minority women such as buraku, Ainu, and zainichi Korean women.
The Committee was concerned about reports of over 30,000 people who remained displaced due to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, subsisting without sources of livelihood, compensation, or housing assistance, and that they continued to be forced to live in unsafe areas. Was the State party reviewing the high radiation exposure threshold for the designation of evacuation areas? What measures were in place to ensure all internally displaced persons had access to the necessary support? There was reportedly a high prevalence of thyroid cancer in children since the Fukushima accident. What measures were being taken to protect the right to life of people affected by the radiation?
One Committee Expert asked why the State party had not taken steps to adopt comprehensive legislation to address all forms of discrimination, as previously recommended by the Committee. Social harassment and stigmatisation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons still persisted in the State party, including discrimination of such persons in accessing essential services.
The Expert welcomed that the revised Public Housing Act removed the exclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex couples from public housing. However, discrimination in relation to public housing could still continue for same sex-couples, as the revised law gave discretion to local municipalities to determine who received housing. How did the State party prevent local municipalities from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, and prevent discrimination in general against this group?
The Family Registration Act required that birth registers specified whether children were “legitimate” or “illegitimate”. Why was this?
Discrimination and hate speech against minorities and foreign nationals specifically targeting Chinese, burakumin, ryukyu, other indigenous groups, in particular Koreans and Japanese nationals of Korean descent, was still a major issue in the State party. The 2016 Hate Speech Elimination Act did not explicitly prohibit hate speech and incitement to discrimination, or penalise or criminalise acts of hate speech.
Japan had previously stated that it did not intend to abolish the death penalty or accede to the Second Optional Protocol, nor to limit the number of offences subject to capital punishment or to consider introducing an official moratorium on executions. It continued to carry out executions and sentence people to death. Japan had also not set up a mandatory system of review in capital cases. What measures were in place to consider the abolition of the death penalty or reduce the number of eligible crimes; to give reasonable advance notice of the scheduled date and time of execution to death row inmates and their families, and refrain from imposing solitary confinement on death row prisoners; and to establish a mandatory and effective system of review in capital cases?
Another Committee Expert asked about the impact of awareness programmes on the equal treatment of different minorities, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, in the personnel selection processes and on the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace. What measures were in place to establish a support system in schools for students belonging to sexual minorities?
Japan's Gender Identity Disorder Special Cases Act contained discriminatory provisions that forced transgender people to undergo invasive and unnecessary medical procedures, such as sterilisation and gender-confirming compulsive surgery, and to be unmarried for their gender to be legally recognised. It also described this gender identity as a “mental disorder”. Did the Government plan to revise the Act to ensure transgender people's rights to equal recognition before the law without undermining their dignity? Did the State party intend to collect disaggregated data to enable preventative actions focusing on suicides caused by discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity? What legislative developments had been made regarding same-sex marriage?
The Committee had expressed concern that the list of offences in the Anti-Conspiracy Act was too broad. Which of the offences listed in this Act were defined as “terrorist acts”? How did the State ensure that this Act did not unduly restrict the freedoms of expression, assembly and association?
One Committee Expert said that the Spousal Violence Prevention Act did not explicitly criminalise marital rape. The Committee commended the Government’s efforts to inform the public about relevant laws on domestic violence, and the support measures introduced that considered the nationalities of the victims. However, the Committee was concerned about the prevalence of cases of domestic violence, especially amongst migrant women. One particularly concerning case involved a Sri Lankan Woman who died in custody at an immigration facility in Nagoya in 2020 after seeking protection from her allegedly abusive partner. Various migrant women such as students were excluded from the social welfare system and services, including the support scheme for domestic violence victims. What measures were in place to protect migrant women from domestic violence, and support their access to social welfare systems and services?
Were there plans to criminalise marital rape? What were the findings of the survey on domestic violence, and what measures were in place to combat domestic violence? Would the State party consider revising the age of sexual consent from 13 to 18 years?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that Japan had engaged in dialogue with civil society regarding the recommendations issued by the Committee.
Japan had not signed the Optional Protocol on individual communication procedures. The Government continued to seriously consider this, taking into account opinions from various stakeholders. Issues had been raised concerning payment of compensation, among others.
There were not many lower court cases that mentioned the Covenant. This was because Japan emphasised consistency between the content of international treaties and domestic law, allowing the courts to concentrate on domestic law.
The term “hichakushutsu” was used on family registers to specify children born to a man and a woman not in marriage. There were some parties who considered the use of this term to be discriminatory. The Government would consider reviewing the use of this term in the family register.
Human rights training was provided at various stages in the careers of members of the judiciary.
The Government had amended the Child Welfare Act and introduced a mandatory review of the removal of children. Removal was taken as a last resort measure in the best interest of the child. There had never been economic incentives for removing children from their parents.
The Government had been discussing the establishment of a national human rights institute with a range of stakeholders. Various issues had been raised, and this was delaying the process.
An amendment to the Civil Code had reduced the period for women’s remarriage to 100 days. An amendment to fully abolish this provision had been drafted. The age of marriage had been raised to 18 years old.
Husbands and wives were required to adopt the same surname, but the law did not specify whether the husband or wife’s surname should be adopted. The Ministry of Justice was considering the adoption of a system allowing for different surnames for married couples. A 2021 public opinion poll had found that 42.2 per cent of people preferred implementing a system that allowed for the use of former surnames after marriage. The Government would continue to discuss the issue with civil society. The Supreme Court had determined that the current surname system was constitutional, although two of the five justices of the court had ruled otherwise. There had been changes in national sentiment concerning different surnames, but there was no need to change the Supreme Court’s decision. The different surname system should be discussed in the National Diet.
Discrimination against certain groups was considered as defamation and potentially as a threat or assault under the Penal Code. Punishing discrimination needed to be done cautiously. Many awareness raising activities were taking place to deepen understanding of the rights of minority groups.
Notice of execution was given to the person on death row on the day of their execution to protect the peace of mind of the death row inmate. Persons sentenced to death were visited by prison officials and were able to access counselling so that they did not feel a sense of isolation.
A request for retrial was not grounds to suspend executions. However, executions were not carried out automatically. The Minister of Justice carefully considered each case and whether there were grounds to consider a retrial. Executions were suspended if there was reason to believe that the inmate was criminally insane.
Fukushima Prefecture believed that the higher level of thyroid cancer was not an effect of the higher level of radiation. The prefecture had been implementing a health monitoring survey to examine and protect the health conditions of the people of Fukushima. Fukushima Prefecture had also established a fund to support the health of its citizens. Policies had been developed to support access to housing, employment placement, and mental health of affected persons. Health examinations had been provided for pregnant women and infants. The Government had been conducting activities to decontaminate the affected area.
Respecting foreigners’ human rights was a priority issue for the Government. Human rights bodies had created 30,000 posters and 180,000 leaflets on preventing hate speech, distributing them in a variety of public locations. As part of this campaign, messages were also distributed on social media and the Internet by the Ministry of Justice, which had garnered 57 million impressions. Human rights awareness raising activities were also conducted at sports events.
Consultation was offered for persons who suffered from human rights abuses through hotlines available in various languages. The human rights bodies had been working to address online hate speech, requesting Internet service providers to delete content that violated the Hate Speech Elimination Act. The Act intentionally did not criminalise hate speech. Instead, it aimed to raise awareness on hate speech and prevent it. Respect for cultural diversity was also promoted by the Government. In 2021, there had been 59 cases of human rights violations received by human rights bodies.
There had been 20 demonstrations by right-wing groups in 2021 that were considered to be discriminatory. Five people had been arrested for inciting violence at these demonstrations. The police conducted appropriate investigations of all incidents of discrimination occurring at demonstrations.
The Government did not tolerate any form of domestic violence or sexual and gender-based violence. An unlawful act between married couples could be considered a crime and could be prosecuted. If a husband raped his wife, he was subject to criminal procedure and could be indicted. Police made appropriate arrests based on the victim’s wishes. The Government acted quickly to protect the victim and initiate judicial proceedings. Domestic violence incidents had been declining for the last two years. Police officers had been educated regarding domestic violence.
Regarding the case involving the Sri Lankan woman, the officers in charge did not have sufficient knowledge regarding how to handle domestic violence victims. After this case, all relevant officers were instructed to fully comply with guidelines on domestic violence, which had been revised to respond to cases appropriately and promptly.
Immigration service agencies engaged in stabilisation of legal status of foreign persons. When victims lost their residential status due to domestic violence, they were provided with special protections. Immigration officers were provided with training on domestic violence, and case studies had been conducted on domestic violence.
Measures had been implemented to prevent discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in the workplace. Training was provided for business owners on sexual harassment, including on harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. Leaflets had been prepared to raise awareness on workplace discrimination. Since February 2018, the Government had been notifying the public about medical, nursing care, disability welfare and other services available, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.
Human rights education was promoted in schools. Since 2011, counselling services had been provided for students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex students, regarding human rights issues. Schools had been encouraged to enhance support of such students. Awareness campaigns were also conducted in schools on these persons’ rights. Training programmes on gender identity were conducted for teachers.
The Government had been working to eliminate discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. The revised Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 2020 also strengthened measures on businesses to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.
The Supreme Court had ruled that legislation on change of gender status was constitutional. The Government considered that this legislation was in line with the Covenant. The Government would continue to pay close attention to trends in similar legislation in other countries.
The Supreme Court had yet to issue a decision regarding the constitutionality of legislation that recognised only marriage between different sexes.
Penal institutions paid attention to gender issues, the delegation said. Body check-ups were conducted by officers of the same gender identified by the inmate, and haircuts were carried out based on the gender that inmates identified themselves.
As of August 2022, there were 1,013 claims for compensation made under the Former Eugenic Protection Act. The Government was raising awareness about the lump-sum grants’ scheme through braille leaflets and online advertisements.
Hospitalisation was typically voluntary in Japan, but involuntary hospitalisations took place when the person involved could harm themselves or others. If physicians believed that there was a risk of harm, involuntary hospitalisation was used. Once involuntary hospitalisation was no longer needed, hospitals were required to release the person.
Training programmes were provided for medical staff in institutions regarding the human rights of patients. The Government was enhancing measures to prevent the abuse of persons with disabilities in institutions.
The World Assembly for Women promoted gender equality and women’s empowerment. This year’s Assembly would promote women’s participation in every sector of society.
Death penalties were issued under a strict, three-tiered system. Death penalties were only carried out when the Minister of Justice decided that reviews of ruling were not needed. An additional mandatory review system on the death penalty was not required. Death penalties were issued only for atrocious crimes such as homicide. Each country should decide on whether to implement the death penalty based on public opinion. Many Japanese persons supported the death penalty, and thus it was not appropriate to suspend it.
The Legislative Council of the Ministry of Justice was currently considering raising the age of consent for sexual intercourse.
Follow-Up Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert said that there were reports of foreign women disappearing in Japan. It seemed that there were overlapping competencies between the police and prosecution in this regard. Who investigated such cases of disappearance?
Another Committee Expert asked if there was training for members of the judiciary about their obligation to refer to the Covenant. Was the State party planning to engage in monitoring of Child Guidance Centres’ actions, and provide appropriate compensation to children wrongfully taken from their parents? The Expert called for more information on parental abduction of children in Japan.
One Committee Expert asked about the number of court rulings that supported the Child Guidance Centres’ views, compared to those that supported parents’ views. What “treatments” were provided to transgender persons in prisons? Did this include supplying them with hormones?
A Committee Expert said that the bill on the national human rights institute had been withdrawn from the Diet. What were the issues and matters under review that were delaying the process of establishing this institution? The Expert called for more information on the percentage of women in decision-making positions, and the percentage of minority women.
Another Committee Expert expressed surprise regarding the responses on the death penalty. It did not seem that refusing to tell the inmate when the execution would be carried out would give the inmate peace of mind. Also, it seemed that several cases of death penalties did not involve direct homicide. Would the State party consider limiting the offenses for which the death penalty was issued? How did the State party determine whether hate speech should be considered a crime?
One Committee Expert called for disaggregated data on compensation paid to the victims of eugenic surgery.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that third-party evaluations of Child Guidance Centres were conducted. If temporary protection was imposed against the wishes of parents, a judicial review was conducted. The opinions of the guardians were included in the report that the Child Guidance Centre submitted to the court. It was also possible to appeal the decision of courts.
The Government had been subject to lawsuits regarding compensation issued to victims of eugenic surgery. It had issued an apology to all persons who received the eugenic surgeries by the former law.
The public prosecutor conducted supplementary investigations after being passed cases from the police, including in cases of missing foreign women. The police conducted search activities in such cases in cooperation with the immigration agency.
The Government did not have data on the representation of minority women in various fields. It had set a target of 35 per cent representation of women in the House of Representatives and House of Counsellors by 2027. The House of Counsellors’ rate was currently 33 per cent. In public administration and the private sector, the Government aimed to increase the rate of representation of women in director positions to 10 and eight per cent respectively. The rate of representation in the private sector had increased over the last few years.
The Government did not plan to revise the threshold of radiation for issuing evacuation orders. Support needed to be provided to all evacuees, including minorities.
Understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in society had increased. Same sex couples would be allowed to access public housing in Tokyo from November 2022.
As of July 2022, Japan had decided to provide assistance for children of divorced parents returning to Japan or their home countries. Lawyers and legal aid had been provided to parents, and the Government promoted resolution between parents, including cost sharing. It considered that involvement with both parents was important after divorce.
Last year, there were 425 cases on whether to admit children to foster homes. Out of these cases, 335 had been approved, 15 had been dismissed, and around 75 were withdrawn. The Legal Institute trained judges on the implementation of the Covenant.
The Government believed that the restraint of expression could shrink the right to freedom of expression. This was why the Government did not criminalise hate speech. However, if hate speech acts involved defamation or physical assault, the perpetrator was prosecuted accordingly. The penalty for insult had recently been raised.
Overreliance on confession could hinder the justice system. In addition to confessions, the prosecutor collected direct and corroborating evidence. Without this evidence, indictment was not possible. Interrogations were video and audio recorded, but defendants were required to make statements at court. A review of the practice of recording interrogations was underway, but it was too early to report on conclusions.
If juveniles did not have an attendant who was an attorney, the court could appoint one for them.
There were 19 crimes for which the death penalty could be handed down, including murder and robbery causing death. Death penalties were handed down extremely cautiously, and only issued to people who had committed atrocious crimes. Televisions were provided for death row inmates.
Hormone treatment may be given to transgender inmates if physicians believed that it was necessary.
Individual laws had been enacted for various human rights themes, including the rights of persons with disabilities, Ainu and buraku people.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked about measures taken to abolish the substitute detention system. Were alternatives to detention duly considered during pre-indictment detention? Under what criteria was pre-indictment detention imposed? The Expert said that it was commendable that various measures had been introduced to prevent interrogations from being conducted for long hours or using illegal techniques. Had steps been taken to ensure that defence counsel was available from the moment of arrest and present during all interrogations? Had time limits for the duration of interrogation been set? Did an independent complaints mechanism investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment?
The Expert asked about measures taken to prevent the forcible return of intern trainees and low-paid labour, to expand the prohibition of forced training, and to provide safeguards protecting whistle blowers from reprisals? What measures were in place to increase the number of inspections of employers of trainees, to ensure that appropriate resources were provided to facilitate the programme, and to establish an independent complaints mechanism? How many complaints were submitted by trainees annually? How had inspections helped in combatting the violations of the rights of technical interns?
The Committee had received reports that the current Broadcasting Act and Radio Act granted sweeping powers to the Government to suspend broadcasters’ operations. Had such powers been enacted? What had been done to respond to criticism of these Acts and establish an independent oversight mechanism? How was whistle blowing regarding unethical behaviour in connection with the designation of information protected?
Another Committee Expert said that the Committee appreciated the progress made in terms of supporting women, but hoped for more progress in the future. The Expert also called for more support to be provided to persons exposed to radiation in Fukushima.
The Expert said that the total number of prisoners in solitary confinement had decreased over the last four years, a positive development. However, the number of prisoners in solitary confinement for more than 10 years had increased from 21 to 32 from 2012 to 2016, including 12 in prison for persons with mental disabilities. How did the State party ensure that solitary confinement was imposed as a measure of last resort? Why had the number of people in prolonged solitary confinement increased?
Healthcare in prisons remained inadequate. For example, an inmate in Gifu detention centre went blind due to lack of medical treatment to his diabetic condition. What steps had been taken to improve healthcare in prisons and address the chronic shortage of medical staff in penitentiary institutions? Was contact with lawyers and presence of guards during meetings restricted?
What measures had been implemented to combat trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation and forced labour; enhance victim identification procedures; provide specialised training to the relevant officers; ensure conduct of thorough investigation, prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators; and ensure effective victim protection and support measures?
Official documents leaked from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department contained personal and financial information about Muslims in Japan labelled as suspect terrorists. What measures were in place to prevent the surveillance of Muslims living in Japan, and to safeguard against this kind of unlawful surveillance?
The amended Personal Information Protection Law allowed for the exceptional use and provision of personal information by administrative organs, allowing sharing of such information by authorities and the private sector. The Personal Information Protection Committee, which supervised the issue of personal information, could not conduct on the spot inspections or issue orders to administrative organs. How could this Committee be strengthened? Was the use of surveillance cameras and online surveillance regulated by law?
Another Committee Expert said that the terms of the 2015 agreement regarding “comfort women” had been questioned by victims and organizations that supported them due to lack of transparency and its non-inclusiveness of the victims. The agreement did not offer a full Government apology. Would the State party consider revisiting the agreement to ensure that the surviving victims and their families were provided with adequate redress? The State party had so far not attempted to bring to justice any alleged perpetrator of acts against comfort women. Would it be willing to impartially investigate such acts? The State party had removed references to the issue of comfort women in textbooks. Would it add references in textbooks and condemn attempts to defame victims or deny that the events occurred?
Unjustifiable and disproportionate restrictions were reportedly carried out against protests and demonstrations by law enforcement authorities in Japan. There had been several instances of arrests of a number of persons protesting the construction of bases in Okinawa. How were such restrictions justifiable?
There was a total restriction of the right to vote for sentenced prisoners in Japan. Why was this restriction still in place, and were there plans to revise the law? The right to vote was also not provided to foreign nationals, including permanent residents. Was the State party considering granting the right to vote to foreign permanent residents?
Another Committee Expert said that 484 teachers had been sanctioned in Tokyo for merely sitting quietly during the singing of the national anthem. How were such sanctions compatible with the Covenant? Such teachers should have to right to conscientious objection.
One Committee Expert asked why parents were not permitted to make claims directly to courts in child protection cases.
The Expert noted alarming reports of suffering due to poor health conditions in immigration detention facilities and even cases of deaths. What measures were in place to prevent ill-treatment during deportations, such as the use of muzzles; prevent deaths caused by the lack of proper medical care, as in the case of Wishma Sandamali; ensure access to fair and efficient asylum procedures and protection against refoulement; and provide access to an independent appeal mechanism? How many persons had been granted refugee status after reassessment of their cases? What measures were in place to prevent the forced separation of asylum-seeking children from their parents?
People who had lost their resident status, if not detained in immigration facilities for unlimited periods, were allowed to stay in the country on “provisional release”. Such persons were barred by law from engaging in any income-generating activities, with punishments issued to employers who hired them. How would the State party address this issue? Did it intend to adopt comprehensive asylum legislation; introduce a maximum period of immigration detention; allow legal representatives to participate at all stages of the asylum procedure; and facilitate access by asylum seekers and refugees to the job market?
What measures had the State party taken to fully guarantee the rights of the Ainu and Ryukyu and eliminate social discrimination of these people; to fully guarantee rights of Okinawa communities to their traditional land and natural resources; to ensure that these communities were able to participate in the development of policies affecting them; and to facilitate education for children in their own language, including severely endangered Ryukyu languages? Did the State party plan to recognise Korean residents who had been living in Japan since colonial times and their descendants as a national or ethnic minority, and implement measures to protect their rights? Why were such persons barred from becoming public servants; students in Korean schools excluded from the high school tuition support fund programme; and elderly zainichi Koreans excluded from benefits under the National Pension Law?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that there were legal provisions protecting whistle blowers that were made public. Reprisals were not tolerated.
There were three independent oversight mechanisms for public bodies, including the Boards of Oversight in two Houses, Independent Public Records Management Secretary and Council for Protection of Information. The public could request access to Government documents. If a Government body refused requests for information, appeals could be lodged in court. Only the unauthorised disclosure of information that posed a threat to Japan’s national security by media and civil society could be punished.
Revising the substitute detention system was not realistic. Investigators did not go into detention facilities to conduct investigations. Detainees could lodge complaints regarding their treatment in detention facilities. Every factor was considered in deciding whether to detain a suspect or not. The risk of destruction of evidence was considered.
Except for unavoidable reasons, interrogation late in the evening and for long hours was avoided. Suspects could request to have access to defence counsels, and these requests needed to be considered as soon as possible. Whether or not to allow the presence of defence counsel was determined by the prosecutor or the police officer, considering factors such as the confidentiality of information discussed. State-appointed counsel could not be appointed from the time of arrest. It was not realistic to go through procedures to select a State-appointed attorney within the limited period of arrest. A monitoring system for interrogations had been established within the Prosecutor’s Office and the Police, and appropriate measures were taken in response to improper conduct.
The detention of suspects was not excessively long. Various judicial reviews were conducted regarding detention. Detention was only imposed when there was a risk of fleeing or destruction of evidence. Suspects could appeal detention orders.
The Government was working to prevent human trafficking, through measures such as thorough immigration control, and support victims of trafficking. Training on human rights was provided to officials who oversaw trafficking cases.
Penal institutions were staffed with doctors and health professionals who provided prompt medical treatment to inmates. Patients requiring specialised treatment were treated by appropriate physicians. The number of medical professionals in detention facilities had been increased to 295.
Some inmates had difficulty responding to group treatment and refused to work in factories. Such inmates were required to live and work in single rooms, but met with other inmates at least twice per month. These inmates were also provided with counselling and medical treatment. There were around 700 persons in single room confinement in 2021. Periods of isolation were three months in principle, but this period could be renewed when necessary. It was not appropriate to set a maximum number of renewals. The number, time and manner of family visits was determined by the warden of the penal institution.
The police did not engage in ethnic profiling of Muslims. In the case mentioned, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government had been ordered to pay compensation to the persons whose information was leaked, and this compensation had been paid.
Japan’s public pension system did not discriminate against anyone based on nationality, including against Korean nationals. The National Pension Act had been reformed in 1982, to abolish the nationality requirement for the system. Because of the past nationality requirement, some foreign persons had had their pension period shortened. The Supreme Court had ruled this to be constitutional.
All people, including Ainu people, were equal under the law. Ainu people could receive support benefits for traditional fishing activities. There was a special promotion act for preserving the Okinawan culture and developing infrastructure in Okinawa.
A February 1995 Supreme Court decision had determined that only Japanese nationals could assume public office. However, the Constitution did not rule out the possibility of foreign people participating in local elections. The appointment of foreign nationals to public office was permitted if they were not required to exercise public authority.
Japan’s Broadcasting Act ensured that broadcasters were independent and had the right to freedom of expression.
Japan had made sincere efforts to address the issue of comfort women. The issue had been finally and irreversibly resolved through the 2015 agreement. Based on the agreement, the Government had contributed one billion yen to the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation, and had provided financial support to 35 out of the 47 former comfort women who were alive at the time of the agreement and 64 family members of deceased comfort women. “Atonement money” had been provided through the Asian Women’s Fund to 285 former comfort women both in the Republic of Korea and in various other States. Prime Ministers had also issued signed letters of apology to victims in an official capacity. The Government of Japan considered that it was not appropriate to take up the comfort women issue in the examination of the Government report regarding the state of implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as the Covenant was not applied retroactively to any issues that occurred prior to entry into force of the Covenant with respect to Japan (1979). Textbook companies determined content based on national curriculum standards, and many textbooks mentioned comfort women.
In 2017, the Technical Intern Training Act was put into effect. To prevent the forcible return of trainees, particular reports were submitted to the ministries in advance and immigration officers confirmed with trainees whether they were returning on their own accord. The officers of the Organization for Technical Intern Training conducted checks to determine that interns were paid the same wages as Japanese employees with similar skills. On-site inspectors also conducted interviews with interns. Assault or violence against interns was subject to penal processes. A hotline was available that provided consultation for trainees in their own language. All interns received brochures with information on how to file a complaint. If there was a risk of physical harm, interns were taken into protection and supported to return to their home countries or transfer to another employer. About 28,000 inspections were conducted in 2021 by the Organization for Technical Intern Training and the number had been increasing.
The number of inspectors had been increased to over 500. There were sufficient resources for conducting periodic investigations. Some non-governmental organizations had participated in discussions on improving the programme, including the resources of the Organization for Technical Intern Training. There was an approximately 30 per cent reduction in the proportion of the number of employers’ violations from which interns should be protected that had been pointed out by the organization from 2019 to 2021. The number of native language consultation from interns had shown a steep rise from 2,700 in 2018 to 24,000 in 2021 while the number of complaints on violations issued by interns had stayed at about 100. Necessary countermeasures were taken in response to all allegations.
School instruction of the hoisting of the national flag and singing of the national anthem were based on the National Curriculum Standards, and were not against article 19 of the Constitution and article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Parents were not able to submit opinions on custody directly to courts. Third-party evaluation of child protection rulings was conducted.
There were 44 arrests in 2021 regarding human trafficking. Thirty-one persons had been convicted on trafficking charges, with punishments of up to eight years issued.
Follow-Up Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked about the number of missing foreign persons, the number of criminal investigations carried out, and whether relatives were included in investigation proceedings.
Another Committee Expert called for more information on procedures for identifying victims of forced labour, and support provided to victims of sexual abuse. The Expert also called for more information on reforms to privacy laws and legislation on surveillance.
One Committee Expert called for more information on the protesters and journalists that had been arrested.
A Committee Expert said that there had not been sufficient information on how whistle blowers were protected.
Another Committee Expert called for information on ill-treatment and deaths of asylum seekers and foreign nationals. The Expert noted that the Covenant applied retroactively to the issue of “comfort women”.
TAKAO IMAFUKU, Deputy Director General and Deputy Assistant Minister of the Foreign Policy Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, and Head of Delegation , expressed appreciation for the comprehensive and constructive dialogue. The delegation had tried to respond to questions to the best of its ability. The protection of human rights was a tireless and continuous process. The Government would continue to make efforts to promote civil and political rights in accordance with the Covenant. It would continue to engage with civil society on the issues discussed. Mr. Imafuku thanked all persons who had facilitated the dialogue.
PHOTINI PAZARTZIS, Committee Chairperson , thanked the delegation for engaging in the constructive dialogue, where developments and concerns were discussed. Ms. Pazartzis called on the State party to seriously consider ratifying the Covenant’s Optional Protocols. It was unfortunate that the position of the State party on some issues appeared to have not changed.Ms. Pazartis called on the State party to limit the application of the death penalty to the most serious crimes only. She expressed hope that dialogue on the issue would continue, with a view to the progressive phasing out of the death penalty. She also welcomed that there was consideration of the revision of child protection legislation, and called on the State party to consider creating comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. Ms. Pazartzis, in closing, expressed hope for a continued constructive dialogue with Japan.
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