Comments on the Response of the Japanese Government to the 2nd UPR against Japan of the United Nations Human Rights Council at its Regular Session
At the regular session of the United Nations (the “UN”) Human Rights Council on March 14, 2013, the Japanese government (the “Government”) represented its responses to the 174 recommendations made by other countries in the Report of the Working Group on the 2nd Universal Periodic Review (the “UPR”) on November 2, 2012.
The Government accepted to follow up on most of the recommendations on such issues as, to ratify the optional protocols regarding various treaties which stipulate individual complaint procedures and to declare its acceptance of the provisions concerning such, to establish a national human rights organization based on the Paris Principles, and to eliminate discrimination against women.
With respect to the recommendations on which the Government has agreed to follow up, the JFBA is prepared to participate in such follow-up process in a proactive manner planning a meeting with the civil society, which would be necessary in order to achieve the contents of such recommendations. In particular, regarding the individual complaint procedures and national human rights organization which the Government covenanted to review at the 1st UPR in 2008 but failed to institutionalize, the JFBA will proactively cooperate in all the way through to surmount any obstacles elucidating the causes which lead to the failure to achieve such institutionalization.
The Government did not accept to follow up on the recommendations on such issues as, to suspend or abolish the capital punishment system, to review the substitute prison system (Daiyo Kangoku), to allow a defense counsel to attend the interrogations of a suspect, and to respond sincerely to the recommendations by the international society on issues regarding “comfort women”.
These recommendations encourage the Government to address human rights issues which have yet to be resolved or undertaken, in spite of the repeated recommendations by various treaty-based bodies as well as the previous UPR. The JFBA, as pointed out in the information it provided prior to the Working Group session of the UPR, has been eagerly expected that the Government would accept these recommendations. Therefore, it is truly regrettable that the Government did not accept to follow up on such issues.
In particular, the fact that, as in the previous UPR, a number of countries expressed their concerns over the continuous execution of the capital punishment in Japan during the Working Group session on the UPR and recommended the Government to suspend execution of the capital punishment shows the common representation of view of the international community. The Government has been asserting strongly that the destiny of the capital punishment system should be judged independently by each state putting existence of the public opinion as a golden rule. However, the JFBA is concerned that such an assertion is against the purpose of the UPR system which aims at constructive dialogue among member states.
With regards to the Daiyo-Kangoku system and the attendance of a defense attorney to interrogations, the Government’s response provides the following reasons, that i) the convenience of the Daiyo-Kangoku system also provides a benefit to defense attorneys and suspects' families, and ii) a careful consideration is needed before introducing the attendance of defense attorneys because the interrogation of a suspect contributes to the fact-finding in order to collect evidences under certain time pressure. Such response by the Government leads to leave the risk of confessions to be forced during the interrogations of suspects and false accusation, and it is extremely problematic from the viewpoint of the standards of International Human Rights Law and the purpose of the UPR system, which is to achieve constructive dialogue.
We certainly understand that some of these recommendations are difficult to be accepted immediately. However, it is an issue in the future for all the countries subject to the UPR to establish a process of dialogue and discussion to achieve the recommendations, even which are difficult to be accepted, by identifying the causes of such difficulty, learning from the experiences of other countries which have overcome similar issues, and obtaining technical assistance from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other organizations.
The JFBA again requests the Government to disclose information regarding the current status of every human rights issue raised by this UPR more broadly, and to take concrete steps towards resolving such issues through exhaustive national discussions as may be necessary.
The UPR is a part of the process of a continuous dialogue, and the JFBA will continue the dialogue through this UPR, taking advantages of the opportunities such as the review of the 3rd periodic report of Japan on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the review of the 2nd periodic report of Japan regarding the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which are scheduled to be conducted this year, and further, the review of the 6th periodic report of Japan regarding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is scheduled to be conducted next year, in order to achieve the steady improvement of the human rights situation in Japan.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
March 22, 2013