Protection of Human Rights
As the Attorney Act sets forth in Article 1, "an attorney is entrusted with a mission to protect fundamental human rights and to realize social justice". Protection of fundamental human rights is one of the most important missions of both the JFBA and individual attorneys. The results achieved through these activities in turn strengthen the public and social foundations of the JFBA and help it earn greater trust.
The JFBA undertakes human rights activities by establishing a number of committees to cover various themes and aspects of human rights including the Human Rights Protection Committee, the core committee composed of attorneys nominated by local bar associations. These committees work in collaboration with local bar associations.
The Human Rights Protection Committee categorizes human rights issues into seven areas and conducts study and research in each area. It also provides specific individual relief services when requests are received from the general public. Below is an outline of the human rights relief system. Victims and relevant parties file requests for human rights relief with the Human Rights Protection Committee when human rights have been infringed or when there is the threat of infringement. Upon receiving the complaint, the Committee establishes a case committee and charges it with investigating the facts of the specific case as necessary and determining whether there is a human rights violation. If this committee determines that an infringement of human rights has taken place, it refers the matter to the Board for decision, and the JFBA issues a warning, recommendation, or request to the infringing institution or organization seeking the elimination and rectification of the infringement. These warnings may be issued to a wide range of both government and private institutions and organizations, including investigative agencies such as the police and public prosecutors, prisons or detention centers, as well as psychiatric hospitals and other facilities. These warnings or recommendations do not have legal binding effect, but they do have strong social influence because they are the result of strict and fair procedures conducted by a legal professional organization that, through many years and cases, has established its trustworthiness with the general public. They are seen, therefore, as leading directly to the relief and rectification of infringements upon human rights. Another important activity of the Human Rights Protection Committee is the relief of people declared guilty through faulty court proceedings when they are in fact innocent. The Retrial Committee, working under the Human Rights Protection Committee, seeks relief in these miscarriages of justice and has indeed proven innocence in more than a dozen retrials.
In addition, the JFBA expands its activities through various committees working on specific issues, including: 1) attainment of children's rights, including issues of child abuse and prevention of delinquency, 2) realization of a gender-equal society in which both men and women can participate fully, dealing with various issues concerning the equality of men and women in the areas of labor, education, welfare, etc., 3) realization of the rights of the elderly and disabled, 4) assistance for crime victims, 5) environmental issues such as preservation of the natural environment, prevention of global warming, waste management and antipollution, and other measures striving for the attainment of a resource-recycling society, 6) research of illegal business practices or large-scale cases of consumer victimization, aiming at the prevention and relief of consumer victimization and consumer protection, and 7) labor and poverty issues.
Activities by these committees have resulted in many governmental policies and legislation including: legal amendments to reinforce controls on money lenders, establishment of an agency and a committee to comprehensively deal with consumer affairs, realization of daily-life counseling services for the needy and unemployed, and promotion of institutional reforms in order to protect the rights of persons with disabilities such as amendments of domestic laws necessary for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.