Declaration for Maintaining Permanent Pacifism under the Constitution and Regaining Constitutionalism and Democracy
At present, Japan is experiencing a change in its status as a nation; namely, a systemic change to the Constitution of Japan.
The bills for the "Peace and Security Reform Act" and the "International Peace and Security Support Act" (collectively, the "Security-Related Acts") were approved by the Diet on September 19, 2015, and came into effect on March 29, 2016. Accordingly, Japan has been allowed to take part in the wars of other countries or in the military actions conducted by foreign military forces by exercising the right to collective self-defense.
In 1945, with deep regret for the devastation during the Asia Pacific War and in opposition to the nationalism and militarism that caused such devastation, an entirely new constitutional system was established on the individual dignity of the people with whom sovereign power resides. In the thus established Constitution, Japan "resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government," and proudly pronounced its commitment to strictly maintain a lasting peace well before other countries.
In Japan's 70-year post-war history, Article 9 of the Constitution has served a practical function as a legal norm which contains basic principles such as the prohibition of the exercise of collective self-defense and the use of force abroad in order to ensure fundamental pacifistic principles, despite this being in constant tension with practical political reality. Consequently, Japan has received a certain level of appreciation in the international community as a nation of peace.
Meanwhile, on the grounds of the increasing severity of the security environment surrounding Japan, policy changes have been introduced such as the enactment of the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, the formulation of the National Security Strategy, and the alteration of the principles banning the export of weapons. The Security-Related Acts were eventually enacted in violation of the Constitution following the then-current Cabinet’s decision in favor of the development of the Security-Related Acts that enabled a de facto constitutional amendment based on a distorted interpretation of the Constitution. The principle of Constitutionalism was thereby destroyed by the then-current Cabinet and Diet, as was the aforementioned function of Article 9 as a legal norm.
Making the situation even worse is the fact that the revised Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines anticipating the enactment of the Security-Related Acts had already been agreed upon even before the bill for the Security-Related Acts was submitted to the Diet. In addition, the bill was forced through the Diet without sufficient deliberations, regardless of the unconstitutionality of the bill as pointed out by numerous experts and the prevailing public opinion against the enactment of the bill, and even without presenting an evident underlying rationale to explain the necessity of exercising the right to collective self-defense. The entire process evidenced a total lack of respect for the function of representative democracy to be realized by the Diet which is the place where, by definition, free speech and debate should be the most respected.
Through these decisions and acts by the government, the nation as a whole has been placed in a situation where it can be anticipated that the exercise of the right to collective self-defense may come to pass under the now-enacted Security-Related Acts. Further, the information necessary to verify the validity of the government's decision will not be provided to the public under the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, and thus it will not even be possible to conduct an ex-post fact assessment of the policy. While freedom of expression is critical in order to monitor the government, the government and the ruling party officials have raised questions about the political impartiality of the media and, in the course of debate, even went so far as to suggest the shutting down of broadcasting facilities. Thus, the movement to interfere with the freedom of expression has become markedly more noticeable.
Due to these circumstances, Japan has now become a nation which is able to use force overseas, thereby losing the vital principles and achievements that we had gained as a peaceful nation under Article 9 of the Constitution in the 70 years since the end of World War II. Moreover, our fundamental status as a nation may be altered as it is affected by the changing values under the Constitution which have until now been based on the principles of individual dignity and respect for human rights.
Now, more than ever, the true values of constitutionalism, democracy, and eternal peace under the Constitution need to be appreciated and upheld. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA), which consists of attorneys who are entrusted with the mission of protecting fundamental human rights and achieving social justice, should therefore fulfill its obligation to regain and realize such values under the Constitution. Now that the Security-Related Acts have been enacted and come into force, the judiciary has a vital role in restricting the arbitrary use of power and ensuring the maintenance of the rule of law based on the principles of constitutionalism. The JFBA, sharing this important role, must also make sure to fulfill its enormous responsibility.
In the process of the enactment of the Security-Related Acts, we witnessed the public opinion broadly formed against the enactment, and also the true nature of democracy through numerous young people, mothers, scholars, intellectuals, and people from various circles and groups throughout society participating in political activities by voluntarily and proactively raising their voices, attending assemblies, and engaging in other activities. Such new trend in increasing political participation is still continuing even after the enactment of the Security-Related Acts.
Now the country is standing at an important crossroads in history. The JFBA hereby expresses its determination to hold on to the principle of permanent pacifism under the Constitution so that our constitutionalism will never again collapse, and our nation will never again walk down the path to war, and to make every effort to regain the spirit of constitutionalism and democracy, together with citizens throughout Japan.
October 7, 2016
Japan Federation of Bar Associations