Statement on the "Draft Bill on the Establishment of a Human Rights Commission"Approved by the Cabinet
On September 19, 2012, the Cabinet approved the “Draft Bill on the Establishment of a Human Rights Commission.”
The JFBA has been strongly appealing the necessity of setting up a domestic human rights institution, whose roles are to include: i) suggesting comprehensive policies on human rights, and ii) providing relief and prevention of various forms of human rights violations, namely, a) human rights violations at penal institutions or immigration institutions, and b) discrimination on the grounds of gender, disability or ethnicity occurring in various areas, regardless of it being in the public or private spheres. With the fact of there being approximately 100 countries already having domestic human rights institutions on their own, United Nations (UN) human rights institutions have been calling for the early establishment of such a domestic human rights institution in Japan in accordance with the Paris Principles adopted by the UN.
In light of such move, the fact that the Cabinet approved such draft bill in which a “Human Rights Committee” (hereinafter referred to as the “HRC”) is established, aiming to comprehensively promote human rights relief, education and policies, can be regarded as a first crucial and major step towards the establishment of domestic human rights institutions.
However, it is stated in the Bill that the HRC will be established as an external organization of the Ministry of Justice, and the clerical work of regional offices of the HRC can be delegated to the Director of the Legal Affairs Bureau and the Directors of the District Legal Affairs Bureaus. Even if the HRC is to be established as a so-called Article 3-based Commission under the National Government Organization Act, which is said to be highly independent, there is a possibility that position of secretariats who substantially support activities of only five committee members (out of which only two are regular committee members) will be assumed by the secretariats of the Legal Affairs Bureau, an internal bureau of the Ministry of Justice. If such situation arises, the independence required in line with the Paris Principles would be at risk and there would be no clear practical difference seen in the administration regarding human rights conducted by the Human Rights Bureau of the Ministry of Justice and the roles of the HRC.
As a solution to this problem, the outline of the draft Bill issued in December 2011 by the Ministry of Justice stated that secretariats (the persons in charge in each region) directly belonging to the HRC will be allocated in required places throughout Japan to perform clerical work such as investigations into cases of human rights violations committed by civil servants, and instruction and supervision of the Director of the Legal Affairs Bureau and the Directors of the District Legal Affairs Bureaus. However, such statement has been deleted from the draft Bill approved by the Cabinet today, on September 19, 2012.
In order to carry out fair investigations from an independent standpoint concerning cases of human rights violations having been committed by civil servants at penal institutions or immigration institutions, the draft Bill should clearly indicate that it will be necessary to set up a system in which secretariats (the persons in charge in each region) directly belonging to the HRC should/will have direct involvement.
Further, in order to ensure the effectiveness of investigations in cases of human rights violations committed by civil servants, the cooperation of public offices should be made an obligatory legal requirement, and in the case of public officers refusing to cooperate with such investigations, it should be possible for such matters to be made public.
To urgently realize the establishment of a human rights protection system which meets international standards, the JFBA requests the early passing of the Bill after making necessary modifications thereto, such as: i) the setting up of a system in which secretariats (the persons in charge in each region) directly belonging to the HRC will have direct involvement, and ii) the cooperation of public offices should be made obligatory to ensure the investigations by the HRC be more effective.
September 19, 2012
Japan Federation of Bar Associations