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Human Rights Committee considers report of Japan

16 July 2014

The Human Rights Committee today completed its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Japan on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
 
Presenting the report, Takashi Okada, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the Government of Japan had been making vigorous efforts to protect and promote human rights, and the current report had been prepared in a wide consultative process, involving various Ministries and civil sector.  The Government aimed to increase the presence of women in leadership positions to 30 per cent by 2020, and would make efforts to realize a society in which all women excelled.  Major progress had been made in the elimination of discrimination against children born out of wedlock.  The entire Government was also working in a concerted manner for the prevention and eradication of trafficking in persons and the protection of victims. 
 
During the discussion, Committee Experts asked questions about gender inequality, in particular when it came to the age of marriage for boys and girls, age for sexual consent and the minimum period of time before a divorced woman could remarry.  Discussion was also held on the detention system, known as daiyō kangoku, the absence of an independent national human rights institution, treatment of patients in mental hospitals, applicability of the Covenant in Japan’s domestic legislation, treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population, non-refoulement and treatment of asylum applicants, and consequences of the Fukushima disaster.  The status and human rights of the Ainu people were also raised.  The Experts wanted to hear more about crimes that could lead to the death penalty, and the issue of the Second World War comfort women was discussed at length.
 
In concluding remarks, Nigel Rodley, Chairman of the Committee, said the State party seemed to be regularly appearing before the Committee and receiving recommendations, which were then not acted on.  Respect for human rights should not be a matter of available resources, especially if it came from a developed country like Japan; a case in example was the daiyō kangoku system.  The other recurring key issue was the one of comfort women: the Committee could not understand the distinction between women being forced into sexual slavery and them being used against their free will.  While the Committee recognized that Japan was by and large a country respecting human rights, with an active and open civil society, that did not mean that there were no serious problems adversely affecting human rights.  It was hoped that the following review of Japan’s report would not need to address all the same issues once again.
 
Osamu Yamanaka, Director, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division, Foreign Policy Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, thanked all the members of the Committee for the constructive dialogue.  The protection and promotion of human rights was a long process for every country.  The delegation had tried to respond, in good faith, to all raised questions.  The Government would continue to make efforts in that regard, and was ready for further cooperation with the international community.
 
The delegation of Japan included representatives of the Cabinet Secretariat, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gender Equality Bureau, Ministry of Justice, National Police Agency, Ministry of Education, Sports, Science and Technology, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, and the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
 
The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 17 July when it will continue its discussion on the Draft General Comment on article 9 on the right to liberty and security of person.

Report
 
The sixth periodic report of Japan can be read here (CCPR/C/JPN/6).
 
Introduction of the Report
 
TAKASHI OKADA, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the Government of Japan had been making vigorous efforts to protect and promote human rights.  A number of Ministries and agencies had engaged in the preparation of the current, sixth periodic report.  The Government had also welcomed opinions from civil society at large through the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The Government recognized the importance of dialogue with civil society with a view to promoting respect for human rights.
 
Japan was going to mobilize the power of women, which had the highest potential in Japan to lead growth, while strengthening cooperation with the international community and assistance to developing countries.  The Government would aim to increase the position of women in leadership positions to 30 per cent by 2020, and would make efforts to realize a society in which all women shined.  Efforts would continue to eliminate all forms of violence against women, in line with the act revised in 2013.
 
Following completion of a series of relevant legislative measures with the enactment of the Act on the Elimination of Discrimination against Powers with Disabilities in June 2013, Japan had in December 2013 become the 141st State party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Government was committed to further intensifying its efforts in that regard.
 
The revised Act on Mental Health and Welfare for the Mentally Disabled required the formulation of guidelines that defined the direction of mental health services, a review of the procedure of involuntary hospitalization, and additional measures by the managers of mental hospitals to facilitate the discharge of patients from hospitals.
 
Japan was facing a situation that could be described as a “low birth rate crisis”, which could affect the foundation of its social economy.  Major progress had been made in the elimination of discrimination against children born out of wedlock, particularly in the acquisition of nationality and the right of inheritance.  The revision of the Nationality Act in 2008 had abolished the marriage requirement and enabled the acquisition of Japanese nationality only by acknowledgement.
 
Recognizing that human trafficking was a serious crime and a violation of human rights, the Government had formulated an action plan to combat trafficking in 2009.  The entire Government was now working in a concerted manner for the prevention and eradication of trafficking in persons and the protection of victims.  There was an inter-ministerial liaison committee in place, whose meetings were held on a regular basis, and special measures for the protection of victims had been introduced.
 
In 2009, a major change had taken place in the criminal justice system, with the introduction of the lay judge system, under which judges selected from the general public now took part in criminal trials.  It aimed to establish a stronger public basis for the criminal justice system.  Audio-visual recording of interviews on a trial basis had been conducted in more than 90 per cent of the cases subject to lay judge rulings during 2012 and 2013.  The advisory board had been considering the concrete design of the system.
 
OSAMU YAMANAKA, Director, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division, Foreign Policy Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, proceeding to summarize Japan’s responses to the list of issues, said that treaties ratified by Japan were given precedence over domestic statues.  Direct applicability of the Covenant was decided on a case-by-case basis; the Covenant’s provisions were already contained in many domestic statutes.
 
Regarding the First Optional Protocol, Japan found individual communications to be noteworthy and would seriously consider that issue taking into consideration the positions of different sectors.
 
Laws and regulations in Japan contained provisions to prohibit any discriminatory treatment.  On gender equality, the State was committed to promoting a society in which women were emancipated and were given an opportunity to shine.  The national and local governments were cooperating with women groups on combating domestic violence.   
 
The Government believed that each State should decide on its own merits whether the death penalty should be abolished or not, with full attention given to public opinion.  The great majority of the Japanese were in favour of the death penalty for the most atrocious crimes.  The death penalty was imposed only in the most limited cases, for which it seemed unavoidable. 
 
Audio and video recordings were edited and shortened, in agreement with both parties in the case, in order to speed up the proceedings in courts.  Given the unpredictability of various criminal cases, it was difficult to predict the duration of an investigation.  Nonetheless, examinations were avoided at late night hours and for more than eight hours at a time, unless exceptional circumstances required otherwise.
 
In Japan, all citizens were allowed to practice their traditional lifestyles, use their languages and exercise their religions freely, including citizens of Okinawa.  Nonetheless, the Government of Japan recognized only the Ainu people as an indigenous people.
 
The Government of Japan had repeatedly expressed its feeling of deep remorse and deep apology over the suffering of all victims of the war both in Japan and abroad. The State had dealt with the issue of compensation pertaining to the Second World War, including the comfort women.
 
Regarding protection of victims of trafficking in persons, the number of arrests had increased from 28 in 2009 to 44 in 2012.  When a victim of trafficking applied for an extension of period of stay or change of a status of residence, permission was granted in principle after due consideration was given to her circumstances.  Police and public prosecutors underwent tailored trainings on sensitization for dealing with that problem.
 
Earlier, a child born out of wedlock who had not been acknowledged before birth but had been later acknowledged by the father, who was a Japanese citizen, might have acquired Japanese nationality through notification to the Minister of Justice, if he or she was under 20 years of age.  That provision had subsequently been removed by the Supreme Court, so currently there was no requirement for parents to be married, and a child out of wedlock would need only to be acknowledged by either the father or the mother.  Therefore, discrimination concerning the acquisition of nationality had been eliminated.
 
Efforts were being made to prohibit corporal punishment in schools, and the Ministry of Education was widely disseminating the fact that any corporal punishment was strictly prohibited under the Schools Education Act.  Promotion activities in collaboration with schools and local communities were being conducted, and a hotline for children was in place.  There had been 370 recorded cases of corporal punishment in 2012. 
 
Questions by Experts
 
An Expert noted that 2014 marked the thirty-fifth anniversary since Japan’s ratification of the Covenant.  Nonetheless, there were a number of recurrent concerns on which no steps seemed to have been taken.
 
On the direct applicability of the Covenant, could the delegation shed as much clarity as possible on the status of the Covenant by explaining which provisions were considered as self-executing?  Could some concrete examples be provided of the legislation which was a proof of domestication of the Covenant? Was the violation of the provisions of the Covenant recognized as a ground for appeal to the Supreme Court?
 
What was the current position of the State party on accession to the First Optional Protocol? What was the outcome of the study conducted on that matter? What lessons had Japan learned from more than 120 States which had acceded to the Protocol?
 
The Expert inquired about the lack of progress in the establishment of an independent national human rights institute.  As the role of such an institute seemed indispensable and crucial, what obstacles to its establishment existed in Japan?
 
While Japan’s legislation provided that all people were equal before the law, it also read that “unreasonable discrimination” was prohibited.  The Committee had already asked the State to define what constituted “unreasonable discrimination”, but no reply had been provided thus far.  Was Japan planning to adopt a comprehensive national anti-discrimination law, which would prohibit all kinds of discrimination?  Were there plans to have a statutory organ to deal with discrimination?
 
Another Expert said that the prevalence of domestic violence remained high in Japan, while the number of convicted perpetrators was very small.  It took about two weeks for a woman to receive a protective order.  Could the delegation provide information about protection from violence for persons in same sex or dating relationships, who were not protected under the existing act?
 
The Japanese Daiyō kangoku detention system went against human rights principles and had no comparison in the world.  Under the Daiyō kangoku system, detention cells were found in police stations and were used as legal substitutes for detention centres, or prisons, and allowed 23 days of detention before charges were brought.  Multiple human rights treaty bodies had expressed their concern over that issue. 
 
The discriminatory minimum age of marriage between men and women still remained in place.  The limitation for women not to remarry within six months of a divorce was also still applicable.
 
Was it true that persons could be sent to mental hospitals involuntarily just with the view of preserving their family reputation? While Japan was starting to expand services outside of hospitals, thousands of patients remained in hospitals because they had nowhere else to go.
 
The Expert regretted that Japan opted not to ratify the Second Optional Protocol, or at least adopt a moratorium on the death penalty, in the year of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Protocol.  There seemed to be an inappropriate level of secrecy surrounding the execution of the death penalty in Japan.  Was the State party executing prisoners while their requests for pardon were still pending? Why did the State not respect the confidentiality of meetings between death row inmates and their lawyers?
 
Another Expert asked about the lack of success of Japan to fully integrate women in employment and promote them to senior positions.  Could more information be provided on the actual gap in wages between men and women? Had the Government never conducted a survey on the conditions of employment of minority women in Japan?
 
There seemed to be hundreds of racist demonstrations and speeches in Japan in 2013, mostly in Korean neighbourhoods. Was racist and hate speech not punishable as such, but only if it led to physical attacks?
 
The Expert asked for more information on audio and visual recordings of confession interrogations, and interrogations of witnesses. Could more light be shed on the supervisory mechanism in that regard?  Was there a common practice in Japan to handcuff persons who were being interrogated?
 
Had the State party given consideration to earlier recommendations to investigate allegations of torture of detainees and prisoners?
 
The issue of gender and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights was raised by an Expert, who wondered if the label “gender disorder”, used in Japan, was derogatory.  Were transgender persons recognized by law, and was there a law prohibiting discrimination on the ground of gender identity and sexual orientation? What were the number of investigations into harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons?
 
Had the State party made any provisions for non-citizens who had contributed to the national pension system?  How many non-citizens, in particular Koreans, received pension benefits and how much did they receive?


An Expert asked about measures taken by the Government to prevent reported abuse in psychiatric hospitals.  Were enough resources invested in providing community-based alternatives?
 
Was the surveillance by the police in the context of the fight against terrorism still ongoing?  Had people, mostly Muslims whose data had been breached, been given any reparations?
 
Response by the Delegation
 
On Japan’s legal framework, the Constitution read that Japan needed to comply with the international treaties it accepted.  Such treaties preceded domestic law and could be immediately applied, on a case by case basis.  In lawsuits, concerned parties could make references to the Covenant.  In 2013, for example, a court had made a decision that the law discriminating against children born out of wedlock to one foreign parent was unconstitutional.
 
There was training in place for judges on international human rights covenants and their application.  Public prosecutors also attended a number of lectures, which were aimed at providing sufficient education.
 
Answering to the question on the individual communications procedure, Japan believed that it was an effective system ensuring proper implementation of the Covenant.  The Government needed to study administrative measures in that regard, and was collecting information from several countries. 
 
On the enactment of the comprehensive prohibition of discrimination, a delegate said that the Constitution stated that treatment of all before the law was impartial.  All citizens, for example, had an equal right to obtain education in accordance with their abilities; without justifiable grounds, medical consultations or public transportation could not be denied to anyone.
 
Regarding non-nationals who were victims of domestic violence, speedy reaction by the State was necessary.  Various circumstances were taken into consideration when screening persons for residence permits.  The Government was doing its best to respond to such cases on humanitarian grounds.  Courts could issue protection orders.
 
Same sex couples were not excluded from public housing; who would be granted public housing was left to local governments to decide. 
 
The bill on a new human rights relief institution had been removed from consideration when the previous Parliament had been dissolved.  Discussions were taking place concerning the scope of authority of such a body.
 
The minimum age for marriage was decided on the basis of the maturity levels of boys and girls.  The marriage of youngsters who were not able to live a married life should be prohibited.
 
Explaining the prohibition period after divorce, the delegation stated that new-born children of a woman who was pregnant at the time of her divorce might have difficulties identifying with their father if the mother remarried immediately after.
 
The detention of suspects in police detention facilities was very convenient, allowing families to visit the suspect and the lawyer to regularly visit the suspect.  It was not realistic to prohibit the use of detention facilities in police stations.  Detainees could appeal to a public detention commission.  Detained suspects were always immediately advised that they could choose a lawyer for their defence.  If a person could not afford a lawyer, a court would appoint one.
 
A delegate said that under the present framework, when there were violations of prisoners’ human rights, appropriate actions were taken.
 
The delegation reiterated that there should be no discrimination against children born out of wedlock.
 
On the definition of “reasonable discrimination”, the Supreme Court was in charge of prohibiting discrimination unless there were rational grounds for it.
 
Answering questions on hate speech, a delegate said that there were some types of hate speeches which would not fall into the free speech category.  The Government was continuously working on awareness raising activities. 
 
Regarding the question of the death penalty, only essential information on it should be released to the general public following the execution.   There were 19 crimes which could be punished by the death penalty, including insurrections, instigation to foreign aggression, arson of inhabited buildings, overturning of trains, pollution of water supplies by poison, homicide, robbery or rape causing death, illegal use of explosives, murder as a result of dual, abduction of aircraft leading to death, killing of hostages, organized murder, and piracy leading to death. 
 
External doctors often provided estimates of the state of health of those sentenced to death.  If a person was found to suffer from lunacy, the sentence could be suspended.  The State made sure that it took all appropriate measures.  Ten meetings of the study group on pros and cons of the death penalty had taken place, after which its mandate had been terminated.  The conclusion of the study group had been that it was not appropriate to come to a conclusion at that stage.
 
On rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, it was explained that the Government was consulting with non-governmental organizations, and investigations were quickly started if there were indications of violations against anyone on the grounds of gender identity disorder.  Mental health welfare centres provided special counselling for those people.  Very detailed, fine treatment was provided for youth in such situations.   In 2008, the rule had been amended so that a person requesting legal change of gender should not have any underage children at that time.
 
Detention was put in place under strict prescribed conditions, and the period of 23 days was not considered as long.
 
Very aggressive evidence collection measures were not carried out in the criminal procedures in Japan.  Audio-visual recordings of interrogations were being done on a trial basis in cases with lay judges, and could move to full scale following further legal discussions.  Witness interrogations were also recorded.  Recording all of the cases was a point of concern, both material and personal.  Investigations could be suspended if certain violations of the process were acknowledged.  Handcuffing of suspects during investigations should be avoided.
 
On national pensions for foreigners, it was stated that a person would need to have participated in the pension system for a certain period, particularly between 1961 and 1981.  Those who had worked over 35 years would thus be included in the pension scheme.  The Government did not have data on the nationality of pensioners, as it did not ask for the declaration of their nationality.
 
Pregnancy or giving birth was one of the reasons that many women left the workforce.  Nonetheless, the law prohibited disadvantageous treatment of such women by employers.  If a company did not comply with regulations, its name would be published, for the purpose of “naming and shaming”.  There were very few women who had knowledge and skills to take managerial positions. 
 
Answering questions on mental welfare, a delegate said that managers of psychiatric hospitals were obliged to discharge patients should they so request.  There was a rigorous procedure for the hospitalization of mental patients.  Community-based, home-like treatment was also an option in lieu of hospitals at an appropriate stage.  There was a law in place on the prevention of abuse of disabled persons.
 
There were efforts in place to increase the number of women candidates in elections and companies.  The Prime Minister himself had spoken to private companies about increasing the number of women on company boards.  Japan’s revitalization strategy included guidelines for a more active participation of women.
 
With regard to domestic violence, the delegation said that counselling services were provided at spouse violence consultation centres and women consultation offices.  The average period for a hearing to issue a protection order and the subsequent procedure took up to 10 days.  


Questions by Experts
 
An Expert asked about abductions, involuntary confinement and “deprogramming” of members of Jehovah’s Witness and other churches by their own family members.  What would the State party do on that matter?
 
How did the State party ensure that restrictions of freedom of expression did not go beyond those prescribed by article 19.3 of the Covenant? 
 
Standards for classification seemed unclear, especially having in mind high penalties in place for the disclosure of classified information.   What were the safeguards to ensure that the prosecution of persons not abiding by the relevant act took place only when necessary?
 
The issue of minorities was raised by the Expert, who inquired about the failure of the Government to recognize the people of Okinawa.  What special positive measures were planned in order to protect special life styles of the ethnic minority groups?
 
Another Expert stressed that the delegation’s argument on why divorced women should not be allowed to remarry within six months was very weak, given that they now lived in the age of DNA technologies, where paternity of a child could be easily established.
 
The Expert understood that Japanese laws prohibited non-refoulement, but there were no legal procedures in which persons could be heard.  The lack of appeal mechanisms for asylum seekers was also raised and a court process seemed like the only available option.  Was there a new law in force which would increase the protection of asylum seekers and postpone the departure of individuals before the risk for them was established?  What was done to prevent ill-treatment of those set to be deported?
 
Numerous reports had criticized Japan for not accepting responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Second World War.  Japan believed that it was not appropriate to bring up the issue of comfort women in the current issue, but did not inform about measures taken to provide those women with full and effective redress.   An Expert said that it was high time to replace the euphemism “comfort women” with “enforced sex slaves”.  What remedies were available in Japan for those victims, and how many judicial claims had been brought to Japanese courts and with which result?
 
The Expert commended the amendment of the Nationality Act, but noted that the registration of children born out of wedlock was still cumbersome.  What obstacles remained and prevented that issue from being resolved?  How about children of migrants?
 
Another Expert asked if the Government was planning to promote the self-executing character of all rights under the Covenant.   While the accession to the First Optional Protocol would make the Covenant more visible and enhance the protection of human rights at the domestic level, what would the timeframe for it be?
 
Which obstacles existed for the establishment of a national human rights institution
 
What definition of trafficking was the 2009 Action Plan based on? 
 
The Expert expressed shock at the high number of deaths of foreign technical trainees in the industrial training programme, which was harshly criticized by civil society and United Nations experts.  Was the State party planning to replace the present programme with an employment programme and do more to protect the right of migrant workers?
 
 
Another Expert asked why the State objected to having legislation on prohibiting sexual harassment
 
Was the State committed to curbing hate speech amounting to incitement?
 
Were persons who went voluntarily for interrogations at police stations, and those in Daiyō kangoku detention allowed to meet their lawyers as soon as possible, including at the commencement of interrogations?
 
A question was asked on why the State did not take faster action on the minimum age of consent for sexual relations.
 
Returning to the issue of the death penalty, an Expert asked about the criteria of criminal policy which led Japan to maintain it for 19 offences, including betrayal of the State.
 
The issue of the follow-up to the Fukushima disaster was raised by another Expert.  What had been the causes of disaster-related deaths?  Did they include cancers?  Would those evacuated be forced to return to contaminated areas?
 
Response by the Delegation
 
Regarding the law on specially designated secrets, every citizen could formally request disclosure of administrative documents.  The right to hold opinion and freedom of expression was not breached, but under certain conditions, information of a particularly confidential nature would need to be preserved for national security reasons.  That legislation was similar to those of other countries.
 
The non-refoulement principle was incorporated in Japanese policies, a delegate explained.  A refugee would not be deported if there was a threat to his life or well-being.  Continuous, hands-on training was provided for officers, including on deportation.  A subcommittee was in place for granting refugee status
 
The technical engineering training system was used to transfer knowledge and technology to developing countries.  If there were any human rights or labour rights infringements, the Ministry of Labour would issue sentences and suspend the acceptance of trainees in those companies.  Based on the existing reports, further revisions of the system would be undertaken.
 
With regard to the Ainu people in Okinawa, nationally owned land was used to provide and secure lands necessary to pass on Ainu culture and way of living.  The Ainu people were recognized as having their separate culture and language, and those rights were not denied.  No other group enjoyed such recognition by the Government.  The Ainu language was one of the languages that UNESCO had designated as being at threat of distinction.
 
On the Fukushima disaster, a delegate stated that the risks of radiation were communicated to the population accurately and speedily. 
 
Accession to the First Optional Protocol was being seriously considered, but no further commitment could be currently made.
 
Local public servants were trained on human rights of foreign nationals.  A dedicated foreign nationals page had been created on the webpage of the Foreign Ministry website.  A delicate balance had to be found for limiting hate speech without infringing on freedom of expression.
 
Answering questions on the establishment of a human rights institution, many pros and cons had been presented in discussions.  The resolution of the previous Diet had led to scrapping of the drafts to establish such an institution. 
 
Human rights of children born out of wedlock were respected, a delegate reiterated.
 
The minimum period of six months before a divorced woman could remarry was in line with public opinion.  DNA analysis was not possible in each situation.  The Government was considering raising the age of consent for sexual intercourse and looking at other countries’ best practices.
 
The delegation stressed that capital punishment was imposed only for the most heinous crimes.
 
When a person was detained, there were no limitations for him meeting his lawyer.  As for the time of the meeting, there were no restrictions.  In 2013, there had been 600,000 meetings between detainees and their lawyers.  However, phone calls were not permitted; staff of detention facilities would inform the lawyer on behalf of the detainee.  Shortly after arrest, suspects could appoint their lawyer. 
 
Investigations were made on reported cases of enforced victimization on religious grounds by family members.
 
A delegate explained that a lot of courts in Japan were considering different provisions of the Covenant and the recommendations of the Committee.
 
Various State agencies were working together to aggressively combat trafficking in persons.  The Palermo Convention had not yet been ratified in the Diet.  Some 356 women had been given temporary protection so far. 
 
The 1965 Japan-Korea Treaty had dealt with property rights and claims between their nationals, and those issues had been closed.  The term “sexual slaves” was not appropriate.  In 1993, an official statement had been issued by the Government of Japan on that issue, which had partly recognized the forceful nature of the use of comfort women.  The Kono statement would not be reviewed.
 
Corporal punishment was strictly restricted under the Basic School Education Act, and disciplinary actions would be applied against persons using those measures.  Hotlines were available for children to report any such occurrences.  Child guidance centres were also operational.  Abusing children at home was also strictly prohibited. 
 
Technical trainees were protected in accordance with labour standards.  In some cases, judicial dispositions were needed. 
 
National discussions on punishing sexual harassment in the workspace had not yet been developed, the delegation explained. 
 
Questions by Experts
 
An Expert asked if the State tuition programme applied to Korean schools
 
On corporal punishment, another Expert quoted a survey that 58 per cent of Japanese adults believed it was necessary, and 65 per cent admitted having physically punished their children.
 
An Expert referred to the 1926 Slavery Convention, which contained the most comprehensive definition of slavery, including sexual slavery.
 
 
How did the new legislation on State secrets change the situation hitherto, another Expert asked.
 
Concluding Remarks
 
OSAMU YAMANAKA, Director, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division, Foreign Policy Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the State party had carefully considered the Slavery Convention and did not consider comfort women as a slavery issue.  He thanked all the members of the Committee for the constructive dialogue.  The protection and promotion of human rights was a long process for every country.  Japan had tried to respond, in good faith, to all raised questions.  The Government would continue to make efforts in that regard, and was ready for further cooperation with the international community.
 
NIGEL RODLEY, Chairman of the Committee, said that there were two issues worth mentioning.  One was the repetition of the process, with the State party appearing before the Committee, receiving recommendations, which were then not acted on.  That was not the best use of resources, to say the least.  Respect for human rights should not be a matter of available resources, especially if it came from a developed country like Japan.  A case in example was the daiyō kangoku system.  All the information available to the Committee showed that the system did not seem helpful for families or lawyers.  There was only proof that the system was in place to elicit confessions from the detainees, which made it flagrantly incompatible with the Covenant.   The delegation should expect strong concluding observations on that issue.  The other recurring key issue was the one of comfort women: the Committee could not understand the distinction between women being forced into sexual slavery and them being used against their free will.  An independent international inquiry might be needed to finally clarify the matter.  The Committee did recognize that Japan was by and large a country respecting human rights, with an active and open civil society, but it did not mean that there were no serious problems adversely affecting human rights.  It was hoped that the following review of Japan’s report would not need to address all the same issues all over again.
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