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Statement on Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee


The United Nations Human Rights Committee (the Committee) reviewed the fifth periodic report concerning the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the Covenant) submitted by Japan at its meetings held on October 15 and 16, 2008, and issued its concluding observations on October 31, 2008.


The concluding observations made detailed evaluation and recommendations for 34 issues. The Committee cited certain improvements as positive aspects during these ten years since the last review; including the establishment of the Basic Plan for Gender Equality, certain improvements in eliminating employment discrimination against women and violence against women and children, and the accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. (paragraphs 3, 4)


On the other hand, the Committee expressed concerns for specific major human rights issues listed in the annex and made concrete recommendations for them. These recommendations include the use of video recording devices during the entire duration of interrogations, the abolition of the substitute detention (daiyo-kangoku) system, giving consideration to the abolition of the death penalty and, in the meantime, improving the death penalty system, and the repeal of any unreasonable restrictions on the freedom of expression, such as the prohibition of door-to-door canvassing during pre-election campaigns.


Especially, the following three institutional recommendations to improve the human rights situation in Japan are notable.


First, the Committee recommended the ratification of the first Optional Protocol to the Covenant. The individual complaint procedures set by the Optional Protocol is a very important system which enables the application of international human rights law to individual cases seeking human rights relief. However the Government has not ratified the Optional Protocol yet. The Committee urged the Government to ratify it stating that the individual complaint system is not a fourth instance of appeal and that it is precluded from reviewing the application and interpretation of domestic legislation by national courts and thus does not affect the independence of the Japanese judiciary. (paragraph 8)


Second, the Committee recommended that Japan establish an effective national human rights institution independent from the Government, with an independent authority for investigation and inspection, and with independent financial and human resources. A human rights committee to be created by the bill concerning human rights protection submitted by the Government during the Diet session in 2002 does not meet the Paris Principles (General Assembly resolution in 1993) which is the international standard for national human rights institutions. Asian countries including the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Indonesia, and the Philippines have already established a national human rights institution and Japan should immediately review the governmental bill and establish an appropriate body. (paragraph 9)


Third, the Committee recommended human rights law training for judges, public prosecutors, and attorneys. This issue was pointed out at the forth review of the Committee as well. However, it has not been sufficiently implemented though some training programs are being provided. During this review, the Committee members expressed their concerns that Japanese courts and investigation authorities misunderstood the Covenant in many aspects and pointed out problems including the restrictions on the grounds of "public welfare". The concluding observations recommended that Japan ensure the application and interpretation of the Covenant to form part of the professional training for judges, including those of the lower courts, prosecutors, and attorneys. (paragraphs 7 and 10)


In the second paragraph of the concluding observations, the Committee urged the Government to make every effort to improve the human rights situation by continuously having dialog with non-governmental organizations such as the JFBA. Considering that many of the recommendations made in the concluding observations were similar to those made by the UN Human Rights Council during its session this spring, they summed up the Japanese human rights issues which the international community has been strongly requesting Japan to reform or improve.


The JFBA urges the Government to take the Committee’s recommendations seriously and make every effort to resolve the issues. The JFBA also strives to realize the recommendations.


Makoto Miyazaki
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
October 31, 2008


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