Opinions on the “Establishment of a New Human Rights Relief Institution (Basic Policy)” issued by the Minister, Senior Vice Minister and Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Justice
August 19, 2011Japan Federation of Bar Associations
About the Request
The minister, the senior vice minister and the parliamentary secretary of the Ministry of Justice announced, on August 2, 2011, a “Basic Policy for the Establishment of a New Human Rights Relief Institution” (hereinafter referred to as the “Basic Policy”).
The Basic Policy is a first specific step towards the establishment of a new domestic human rights institution for which the name “Human Rights Committee” is to be used. However, in order to establish a domestic human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles, with which the Basic Policy is in line, we believe that the following points shall be considered and modifications shall be made to the Basic Policy:
1. Ensuring the Independence of the Institution
- The fact that a new institution (hereinafter referred to as the “Human Rights Commission (HRC)”) is to be established as an Article 3-based Commission, (having the authority to establish rules, and being highly independent, as per the terms of the National Government Organization Act) should be strongly evaluated. However, as for the fact that the HRC will be established as an external organization of the Ministry of Justice instead of that of the Cabinet Office, we cannot help but have strong concerns over the point that the relationship between the HRC and internal organizations of the MOJ which accommodate confinement facilities and investigative organizations may not be completely separated.
- Some credit is deserved for the fact that the appointment of committee members of the HRC shall require the approval of both chambers of the Diet. However, in order to realize a situation wherein the status of the Diet at such time should not have a direct or immediate impact on such appointments, and wherein public opinion taken from a wide variety of perspectives should be taken into account regarding such appointment, certain measures should be taken such as setting up of a committee dedicated to the appointment of HRC committee members from the screening stage for candidates for such committee members.
- The majority of the secretariats of the HRC shall not be comprised of employees seconded from other state institutions who are scheduled to return to those institutions within a few years. (The number of seconded employees ought to be kept under 25 percent, and under no circumstances shall exceed 50 percent of all the secretariats of the HRC.)
- In the Basic Policy, secretariats of the HRC are to be allocated in requisite places throughout Japan, and we believe that the HRC should be designed in the direction of increasing the number of regional offices. On the other hand, the current Legal Affairs Bureaus (located in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Sendai, Sapporo and Takamatsu) and the District Legal Affairs Bureaus (total of 42 located in most of the prefectural capitals) are going to be utilized as access points for human rights aid activities, and any necessary clerical work is scheduled to be performed at those bureaus (categorized as a civil affairs bureau, which is one of the internal bureaus of the Ministry of Justice). However, if such system is to be adopted, it is predicted that it will be difficult to maintain the independence of the HRC. Therefore, we believe that necessary clerical work including paperwork should be conducted by organizations separated from the Legal Affairs Bureaus and the District Legal Affairs Bureaus.
- In order to ensure the independence of the HRC, certain measures should be adopted to establish its financial base and funding.
2. Responsibilities of the HRC
In addition to conducting human rights relief activities in response to the applications sent from victims of human rights violations, the HRC is assigned to comprehensively promote measures and policies related to human rights protection and enlightenment. The mission of the HRC further includes submission of opinions related to the domestic status of human rights to the government. Those responsibilities of the HRC, which are in line with the Paris Principles, should be highly valued. In order for the HRC to fulfill its mission, ideal organizational systems should be envisioned.
3. Targets and Methods of Human Rights Relief
- We value the fact that the HRC is to deal with issues related to violation of human rights broadly, without distinguishing between “special relief” and “general relief” and that the conciliation and arbitration are widely available. However, we believe that in addition to the above, the HRC should be able to make “recommendations,” and be able to deal with issues such as conflict between labor and management. Further, it should be clearly stated that the HRC is to redress cases of infringement of those human rights which are guaranteed by international human rights laws.
- Regarding the infringement of human rights by the media etc., the HRC should consider the best way to redress such, while monitoring the progress of voluntary actions such as the establishment of third party organizations by the media outlets themselves.
4. Civil Rights Commissioner System
The existing Civil Rights Commissioner System shall be improved so as to appoint and develop personnel with a passion for and professional expertise in the field of human rights protection activities irrespective of their nationality, and to actively promote such personnel to positions such as arbitrators for conciliations and arbitrations which are scheduled to be conducted by the HRC.