Follow-up on Warnings, Recommendations and Requests in Relation to Human Rights Redress Made by the JFBA
Since 1950, in accordance with Article 1 of the Attorney Act, the JFBA Human Rights Protection Committee (the “Committee”) has been dealing with applications for human rights redress from victims of human rights violations and related persons, conducting investigations into such cases, and issuing warnings, recommendations and requests to violators of human rights or facilities supervising such violators (“Facilities”), with the aim of eliminating human rights violations and improving the overall situation surrounding human rights. The number of warnings, etc. sent from the Committee in 2012 was nine, and the total number since 1950 amounts to more than 300.
Regarding cases in which measures such as warnings, etc. have been made by the Committee since April 2009, the Office for Human Rights Protection (the “Office”) started an investigation on the Facilities which the Committee had issued warnings, etc. to, in order to ascertain how each of the Facilities had responded to such warnings, etc. Here, we would like to report how such Facilities have been making improvements by implementing recommended measures. Furthermore, in cases where no improvement has been seen, we review the manner in which matters should be dealt with in order to achieve the contents of the recommended measures.
Courts are Evaluating Warnings, etc. Issued by the Committee as Well-Known Facts
There have been some examples of cases in the past in which warnings, etc. sent by the Committee for cases of human rights redress have led to the revision of legislation or the improvement of operations. As one example of this, the Act on Special Provisions on the Release of Obligation to Refund Money Provisionally Paid in Relation to Kanemi Oil Poisoning Case was enacted. A further example is the changes in operations in relation to the age limit for requesting the disclosure, etc. of one’s own personal information. However, as there have been some cases in which no improvement could be seen at all, even after a warning has been issued, in such cases the Committee was left with no choice but to issue repeated warnings, etc. Examples of these types of cases are (i) a human rights redress case regarding a former death-row inmate who had been acquitted at a retrial and who was not eligible to receive a pension, and (ii) a human rights redress case concerning the national review of the judges of the Supreme Court by a Japanese living overseas.
Although the JFBA’s human rights redress activities have no binding power, such activities have received certain positive evaluations from the public at large and have had a strong effect on various fields and been endorsed and earned the public trust as a result of the fair and strict procedures taken by the JFBA until it reaches a decision to take redress measures, and a recognition of the JFBA’s prior achievements in this area. Such facts have been highly rated by the courts as being well-known facts or public knowledge. This can be seen, for example, in a judgment rendered at the Tokyo District Court on May 31, 1989, and a judgment handed down at the Hiroshima High Court on October 26, 2005.
Number of Examples of Improvements after Measures have been Taken
As the JFBA has been issuing its opinions such as warnings, etc. as a result of it being in a responsible position, the JFBA should not merely ignore the situation if there has been no response to the warnings, because this would lead to there being a loss of the entire raison d’etre of the human rights redress system.
As such, the Committee launched investigations on Facilities regarding cases in which warnings etc., had been issued by the Committee since April 2009, as to what measures and responses had been taken by each of Facilities after a certain period (six months at the moment) had passed since the issuing of such warnings. The Committee has already received a number of responses from such Facilities, and there were some responses to the effect that the Facilities had taken proactive measures in response to the warnings they had received; for instance, in relation to a case in which a recommendation was made to improve the treatment of an inmate whose sentence was set to be conducted in the inmate’s cell throughout the day and night, “the internal rules of the facility were developed to provide an opportunity for such inmates who were set to stay in their cells throughout the day and night to do some exercises with other inmates.” (This situation was from a human rights redress case in relation to a case for an inmate who was set to wait for his/her work at a factory at Yokohama Prison).
Regarding a case in which the Committee recommended the Facility in question to notify applicable prison inmates that the persons to which the Act on the Transnational Transfer of Sentenced Persons are applicable can be transferred, the Facility responded by stating that “we squarely accept the recommendation from the Committee that the measures we had taken may have violated human rights, and thus, in order to prevent the recurrence of these problems…we have issued an instruction from the head of the facility.” (This situation was from a human rights redress case in relation to a Treaty on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.)
With reference to the provision of support for the traveling of visually impaired persons, the Committee recommended a Facility to revise the matters to which the provision of such support was not applicable. In response, the Facility “revised its operating procedures” and “deleted the text; ‘gambling, religious activities and political activities, etc.’ ” (This was a human rights redress case in relation to the refusal of accompaniment to a visually impaired convict.) In addition, the Committee received positive responses such as “we would like to continue reviewing the cases taking into account the discussions conducted in the Diet as well as various opinions from the parties concerned.” (This was from human rights redress cases with reference to (i) a handicapped non-Japanese resident in Japan and (ii) an elderly non-Japanese resident in Japan who were not entitled to receive a pension.)
Follow-up Necessary for Cases in which no Improvement Seen
On the other hand, the JFBA received some responses which reported that no measures had been taken in response to the warnings, etc., such as “Nothing has been improved or been dealt with at our prison.” (This was a human rights redress case concerning unjust isolation in relation to a transfer from Tokushima Prison.) Moreover, there was another response saying that “No special measures have been taken at the moment.” (This was a human rights redress case in which the fees to support school attendance were not provided.)
Of course, with reference to cases such as the above, which were discovered after the JFBA made a referral, in which no appropriate measures have been taken, the JFBA should not leave them as is, and it is necessary to seek the revision of legislation as well as the improvement of the system and operations, by exchanging views with the Facilities, etc.; working with Diet members; holding symposiums and meetings with Diet members at the Members' Office Buildings; issuing JFBA president’s statements and opinion papers, and resending warnings, etc.
Measures Considering the Public’s Eyes should be Taken
The Committee has also decided that it will place the responses it receives from the Facilities on its website. Putting such responses on the website will hopefully prompt the Facilities to take certain measures, taking into account that their actions are now in the public eye. Since the effects of its redress measures can be easily seen, the JFBA is expected to continue to make further efforts to enhance the workability of this system.
In order to avoid the system from becoming detached from the real-life situation in society, we would very much like to ask as many members as possible from both the JFBA and the general public to take an interest in the system.
The Number of Newly Received Human Rights Redress Cases and the Number of Cases in which the Committee Took Measures (i.e. issuing warnings, recommendations and requests, etc.)
|Year||The number of newly received human rights redress cases *1||The number of cases in which the Committee took measures (per year) (including the number of applications made in previous years (where the case is still continuing)) *2|
“White Paper on Attorneys 2012 (Japanese version)”
*1 The number of newly received human rights redress cases per year. The number shown within the brackets is the number of cases in which an investigation was launched by the official authority. (In accordance with rule 13-1 of the Rules Concerning the Organizational Structure of the Committee and Its Measures Taken for Cases, etc., the Committee launches investigations on whether or not there has been a human rights violation, not by an application of the human rights redress case but by its own authority.)
*2 The number of cases in which the Human Rights Protection Committee took measures (i.e. issuing warnings, recommendations and requests, etc.) per year. (The numbers include the number of applications made in previous years.)