The preamble of the Constitution stipulates that 'we desire to occupy an honored place in an international society', which reflects ardent aspiration of Japanese people to contribute to the world for happiness of mankind. Realities today, however, are far from the ideal in terms of peace, human rights and democracy which constitute the three poles of the supreme law of the nation. Let's look into the human rights in the international context as May 3 approaches, the Day of Constitution.
JAPANESE GOVERNMENT HAS NOT RATIFIED RELEVANT HUMAN RIGHTS CONVENTIONS
Article 11 of the constitution boasts that 'the people shall not be prevented from enjoying any of the fundamental human rights. These fundamental human rights guaranteed to the people by this Constitution shall be conferred upon the people of this and future generations as eternal and inviolate rights'.
The state of Japan, however, has not legislated or not ratified relevant conventions in order to reach the goals. Violation of the human rights are found everywhere in the country. People face problems on the human right as they are infringed by the state power on the daily basis.
Japan in the Underdeveloped Stage
After the WWII an international framework was established to defend the human rights when the United Nations was founded. The mechanism was set up on the ground that 'the human rights could not be guaranteed by the efforts of individual nations' when sincerely reviewed was the tragic fate of Jewish people during the war brought by the Nazis. That has led to adoptions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by the UN General Assembly, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and etc.
The Covenant stipulates the individual complaints mechanism, in which a person can submit complaints against the state regarding alleged human rights violations to the UN supervisory bodies if he/she fails to obtain recuperation after he/she has exhausted all domestic remedies in the nation where the violation occurred.
The mechanism is specified in the ICCPR, the convention to eliminate discrimination against women, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment and the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. But the Japanese government has not yet ratified any of the optional protocols of the conventions. Japan does not have the complaints mechanism.
Under these circumstances Japan is a single country of the G8 nations and only one of the two, together with Israel, of the OECD nations, that has not yet commit in the individual complaints procedure, in fact, though 164 countries in the world have ratified the ICCPR and out of which 111 have ratified the optional protocols.
Japan ratified the ICCPR in 1979 and therefore an individual can use almost all the articles of the Covenant in the civil, administrative and criminal courts. However, public workers like officials in the police and criminal facilities and judges as well as citizens do not know about the provisions, which, consequently, are rarely applied in the actual litigations.
The Japan Foundation of Bar Associations explains about the fact: as people cannot access to the individual complaints mechanism they do not know well about the ICCPR.
In South Korea, for example, where people have the individual complaints mechanism, the international advisory body has ordered the Seoul Government to compensate and advised to prevent another occurrence, concerning a case on an artistic work. The painter was convicted as 'profiteering act' in the country, and then the case was submitted to the UN body, the Committee on Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which ruled that the decision constituted violation of freedom of expression.
Under these circumstances the UN complaint mechanism processed in total 1819 cases worldwide from its commencement till 2008, out of which 512 cases have been acknowledged as violation of the human rights. The Committee on ICCPR, having advised to take remedies, subsequently monitors what has been done for better in compliance with the advice.
Government Must Implement Election Pledge
The Democratic Party of Japan, which became a government two and a half years ago, had pledged to ratify the optional protocols of ICCPR in the Manifesto and people expected that the complaints mechanism would be made a reality.
But the process has not yet advanced. In order that the human right situation in Japan may achieve the international norm it is necessary to introduce the individual complaints mechanism as soon as possible.
April 24, 2012