NGO Recommendations about Proposed National Human Rights Institution

The need to establish a national human rights institution (NHRI) in Japan has been a policy proposal dating back to the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) “Human Rights Protection Bill”[1] more than seven years ago. However, the initiative was scrapped due to the dissolution of the Lower House of Representatives in October 2003. Today, the potential for an NHRI is alive again.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups and human rights non-government organizations (NGOs) in Japan have been clamoring for a society that is free from all forms of discrimination. During the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Japan in 2008, the state report articulated the government’s commitment to improve the human rights situation in Japan, particularly through the establishment of an NHRI.[2] Among the recommendations of Gay Japan News in its UPR shadow report[3] was also the establishment of an independent NHRI consistent with the “Paris Principles.”[4] Japanese civil society has worked since then toward the establishment of an NHRI and gained momentum.

IGLHRC supports the work of LGBT individuals, activists and organizations by circulating information about human rights affecting LGBT communities worldwide. To this end, we are posting a recent letter from LGBT and human rights NGOs in Japan regarding the establishment of an NHRI.

In compliance with the recommendation of the UN HRC during the UPR Review of Japan [2] and in the concluding observation of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) [5], the DPJ submitted to Justice Minister, Mr. Satsuki Eda on June 9, 2011 an Interim Summary for the establishment of an NHRI.

Highlight of the Interim Summary proposal are as follows:

1.\tThe Human Rights Commission (HRC) will be established as the Commission defined under the Article 3 of the National Government Organization Law. This type of organization has the power to perform appointments of its personnel and may define rules and regulations of the agency. So is considered the best choice under the current legal structure.

2.\tThe HRC will be established under the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). The Legal Affairs Bureau (LAB) under MOJ has already conducted the human rights remedy activities. So the Bureaus should be utilized to smooth transfer into the new system.

3.\tThe regional offices will be set up as the national institutions. The LAB will be utilized as the regional access points. This enables the remedy will be conducted in the same way and at the same level, no matter where you live. The regional offices should liaise closely with HRC to address the problems in a careful manner. The personnel of the regional offices are crucial. It should be considered to hire someone from civil society and ensure the close cooperation with HRC and smooth organizational operations.

4. Civil Liberties Commissioners (the current HR Remedies System) will remain volunteers (no pay) as is and the current organizational systems will be utilized. This enables the smooth transfer into the new system. Even if they should remain volunteers, the actual expenditures would be compensated more generously. The Civil Liberties Commissioners should be limited to the Japanese national.

5. Even if you reject the investigations by HRC, the pecuniary penalty will not be imposed. There is a strong voice against the pecuniary penalty, which gives HRC the unnecessary strong power. The administration of the penalty might cause the unnecessary dispute and interrupt the remedial procedures. Even if the pecuniary penalty will not be introduced, HRC's request to investigate especially the violations by the public sector should be respected.

6. The remedial procedures for violations by the private and by the public will be the same, i.e. not differentiate the procedures

7. HRC will not have the power to join a lawsuit or file an injunction for the time being.

8.The HR violations by the media such as overeager coverage will not be addressed by HRC. The media sector itself must address these problems.

9. A clause is added to review the institution itself, its activities, its institutional positioning etc after five years have passed.

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In relation to the Paris Principles [4] that an NHRI should be independent and must conduct its mission without being directed or advised by any other government agency, LGBT groups and human rights NGOs in Japan manifested their concern regarding the need for independence of the NHRI as opposed to the proposed Interim Summary by the DPJ.

Endorsed by fifty-five NGOs, the letter was submitted to the Justice Minister, Mr. Satsuki Eda on July 29, 2011 and to Mr. Nobuo Matsuno, the secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan's Project Team on NHRI on 20 July.

Below is the tentative translated recommendation letter [6] to the Ministry of Justice and to the Democratic Party of Japan:

Re:
Establishment of NHRI in Compliance with the Paris Principles

To:
Mr. Satsuki Eda, Justice Minister
Mr. Koichiro Genba, Chairperson, DPJ Policy Affairs Research Council
Mr. Tatsuo Kawabata, Chairperson, DPJ NHRI Project Team

Major ruling party, Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) established the Project Team on Human Rights Remedy Institution within its party and discussed concrete framework of NHRI in April this year.

NHRI is the institution which UN human rights treaty bodies have repeatedly urged the Japanese government to establish to protect and promote human rights nationally. National human rights organizations of people who have experienced human rights violation and discrimination, supporters of such people, and international human rights organizations have longed for the establishment of NHRI and called for the establishment to the government.

NHRI which international community and we, organizations in Japan want is clearly designed in the Paris Principles adopted in 1993. We believe that NHRI with as many mandates and functions as stated in compliance with the Principles will be the first step toward society where all human rights are respected.

We, therefore, strongly request that you make sure to reflect the following points appropriately when the Japanese government legislate NHRI.

1. Members of NHRI should be selected to reflect diversity in society and its terms should be clearly stated. The institution should have the independent budget and independence of the institution should be secured.
2. NHRI should be granted strong mandate to deal with human rights violations by public authority.
3. NHRI should deal with all human rights set forth in the Japanese Constitution and international human rights treaties, which Japan has entered into.
4. NHRI should be guaranteed its functions and mandate to effectively urge or propose to the government regarding existing laws, bills and administrative measures.
5. Gender balance and framework to ensure participation of social minorities that are apt to be the target of discrimination should be secured in composition of members of a human rights commission to reflect diversity in civil society.

From:
Joint movement for NHRI and OPs
IMADR-JC
Support Group for People born out of Wedlock
Research-Action Institute for the Koreans in Japan
National Christian Network on Alien Registration Law Issues
Minorities and Anti-racism Law
Community Support Institute
National Group of the “Mentally-ill”

 

FOOTNOTE:

[1] Human Rights Protection Bill of Japan. Refer to link.

[2] UN HRC 5th Periodic Report, October 2008. Refer to link.

[3] Shadow Report of Gay Japan News during the UN HRC 5th Periodic Report, October 2008. This report aims to supplement the evaluation of Japan’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by highlighting human rights violations and recommend solutions to protect and promote the human rights of LGBT persons in Japan.

[4] Paris Principles. Refer to link.

[5] CEDAW 6th Periodic Report, July 2009. Refer to link.

[6] Tentative translation done by Azusa Yamashita

Photo credit:

Photo taken during the meeting between the Justice Minister and NGOs discussing the recommendation letter.
Photo source.