Comment on the Response of the Japanese Government to the UPR by the United Nations Human Rights Council
The human rights situation in Japan was the subject of a review at the 14th meeting during the 14th session of the Working Group on the 2nd Universal Periodic Review (hereinafter referred to as the “UPR”) of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council yesterday (the afternoon of October 31, Geneva time).
The UPR is a new system conducted by the UN Human Rights Council under which the human rights situation in each of the UN member states is reviewed once every four years by the Human Rights Council in light of the requirements under the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as other human rights treaties and standards to which the countries to be reviewed are signatories. Japan first underwent the review in 2008, and this time was the second review for Japan.
1. JFBA activities for the UPR
The JFBA engaged in the following preparations before the review on the human rights situations in Japan was conducted yesterday.
(1) The JFBA contributed information such as the following to the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) in April 2012: i) a follow-up status of the Japanese government in response to the recommendations made in the previous UPR carried out in 2008, ii) a comparative review of the concluding observations at reviews conducted for each human rights treaty, and iii) reviews on measures and policies on human rights proposed and introduced by the Japanese government since the 2008 review. In addition, the JFBA pointed out the following issues: a) the resolution of human rights related issues, namely, violations of the human right to life and health, and the insufficient disclosure of information in relation to the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant Accident, b) the resolution of unreasonable restrictions to freedom of expression and freedom of religion, c) the heightening of certain problems such as longer working hours, the rising number of non-permanent employees, increasing levels of poverty and measures for welfare cases due to the global financial crisis, and d) the abolition of the system on training and technical internships for foreign workers.
(2) A pre-session was held in Geneva on August 30, 2012, where the JFBA gave a presentation to government representative sections of approximately 30 countries on issues which, the JFBA believes, should be included in recommendations.
(3) Further, the JFBA sent various documents, including its opinion papers, to foreign embassies in Japan and conducted briefings for such embassies on September 27, 2012, during which the JFBA exchanged opinions with participants from five countries.
2. Comments from Other Countries to Japan at the UPR
A total of 79 countries made comments regarding Japan at the UPR, such number being a marked increase over that regarding the previous UPR in 2008.
Comments were made on a wide variety of issues which other countries sought to be addressed, such as: i) further activities regarding eliminating discrimination against women; ii) the promotion of a nationwide discussion on the abolition of the death penalty and suspension of executions; iii) the realization of setting up a domestic human rights institution; iv) ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; v) improvement of the protection of children’s rights, including restrictions on child pornography and the prevention of sexual exploitation; vi) further work on issues surrounding human trafficking; vii) enactment of a comprehensive antidiscrimination law; and viii) solving issues in relation to “military comfort women”. Furthermore, at least six countries mentioned the abolishment of the substitute prison system (Daiyo-Kangoku) and the improvement of detention cells, issues which the JFBA has long been working on. Regarding human right infringements in relation to the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant Accident, one country especially expressed concern about the health status of affected children.
3. Future Perspectives
The results of the Review will be adopted at the 22nd regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) scheduled to be conducted between February and March 2013, as conclusions which include observations and recommendations to Japan, where the Japanese government is also scheduled to voice their opinions on such observations and recommendations. Aiming for the resolution of issues surrounding human rights which the international society has expressed concerns about through the Review, it is our opinion that only if the Japanese government is able to actively accept all the observations and recommendations, including those they failed to accept at the first UPR in 2008, and only when they take positive steps toward improvement, will Japan be able to fulfill the original purpose of the UPR.
The JFBA is hopeful that a more substantial participation of civil society will be realized and that fruitful discussions will be developed at the next UPR scheduled to be conducted four and a half years from now. In addition, the JFBA expects that the current human rights situation in Japan will be further improved through the synergistic effects of i) the UPR; a peer review process conducted by the UN member states, and ii) the concluding observations of expert reviews conducted by the UN Treaty bodies.
November 1, 2012
Japan Federation of Bar Associations