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Japanese Government must address human rights issues highlighted in the UPR process, says legal body

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The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA), a FORUM-ASIA partner, has called on the Japanese Government to take concrete steps towards the resolution of human rights issues in the country as raised in the Universal Periodic Review, including use of the death penalty and various forms of discrimination.

Press release

JFBA calls upon the Japanese Government to act to respond to the concerns expressed in the process of the Universal Periodic Review of Japan by the UN Human Rights Council

(Geneva, 09 May, 2008) Today, the human rights situation in Japan was reviewed in the 2nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group (HRC/WG) on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

The HRC is in its second year after its establishment, and the UPR is an important system newly created by the HRC. The UPR, institutional building for which was finalized last year, started in operation this year. The UPR is still in the process where the HRC Member States and other UN Member States, the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), NGOs and civil society are struggling diligently, aiming for its more effective implementation. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) is a professional organization of all practicing attorneys in Japan based on compulsory membership and vested in the mission of protection of fundamental human rights and the realization of social justice. The JFBA guided by this mission has a keen interest in the practice of the UPR system, which has critical relevance to the implementation of the international human rights standards.

The JFBA contributed the report of stakeholders’ submission of information on the human rights situation in Japan to the OHCHR. In its conclusion, the JFBA requested: i) immediate implementation of all the recommendations made by the UN treaty bodies; ii) establishment of a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles; iii) ratification of all optional protocols for and acceptance of individual complaint procedures, with regard to specific human rights issues iv) abolishment of the substitute prison (Daiyo-Kangoku) system, implementation of transparency (such as video recording) of all interrogations, prohibition of prolonged interrogations; v) rectification of serious human rights violations involved in the maintenance of the death penalty system and an immediate moratorium on executions; vi) elimination of various forms of discrimination existing in Japanese society, in particular discrimination by government institutions against foreigners, women and children born out of wedlock, as well as the adoption of measures to eliminate discrimination by private persons against foreigners, Buraku minority people, Ainu, children born out of wedlock, women and persons with disabilities. Shortly before the UPR review of Japan, the JFBA organized an NGO briefing in the premises of the UN Office at Geneva (Palais des Nations) to provide an opportunity for the NGOs to present information and express their voices on the review of the human rights situations in Japan. In this briefing, the JFBA presented a documentary film about a false-accusation case produced by the JFBA. Following the JFBA presentation highlighting the points as above, other NGO participants called for an apology and compensation by the Government to the comfort women victims and enactment of the anti-discrimination law. Mr. Fernando Marino Menendez, a member of the UN Committee Against Torture, once again requested the immediate abolishment of the substitute prison system.

The HRC/WG in the review of Japan today addressed all the issues the JFBA pointed out, including, in particular, the death penalty, the substitute prison (Daiyo-Kangoku) system and the establishment of a national human rights institution, hearing questions and comments by other states. The outcome of the review, including recommendations to Japan, will be adopted in the HRC plenary in June. The review by the HRC/WG was conducted based on the National Report, the compilation of the reports including recommendations to Japan by UN treaty bodies and Special Rapporteurs and the Summary of Stakeholders’ Submission. Accordingly, the Japanese Government is to be responsive for taking steps toward the resolution of human rights issues highlighted in the UPR process and those the international community expressed concerns about. Such a positive response from the Government would meet the real objective of the UPR.

The JFBA requests the Japanese Government to publicize information widely on the current situation of human rights issues raised in the UPR review. The JFBA also strongly requests the Government to take concrete steps toward the resolution of each of those human rights issues, through comprehensive national consultation if necessary.