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Universal Periodic Review

Second session meeting highlights

9 May 2008 (afternoon)
For use of information media; not an official record

The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Japan this morning, during which 42 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

This morning, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on the Republic of Korea, following the review of the country on Wednesday, 7 May.

Presenting the national report of Japan was YOSHITAKA AKIMOTO, Ambassador in charge of human rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, who expressed the hope of his country that the Universal Periodic Review will function as a mechanism that can contribute to the improvement of human rights situations in every country and Japan was ready to extend its support in that regard. Japan had ratified most of the major human rights instruments and fulfilled the obligations set out in these instruments. Moreover, Japan was lending its support to the treaty bodies’ reform for the purpose of establishing even more effective monitoring systems within treaty bodies. Japan strongly supported the value of the rule of law and was making efforts to promote and realize such value in the international community. It was recalled that Japan became a State party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court last October.

Responding to questions submitted in advance, the head of delegation noted that Japan had always been willing to cooperate with the Special Procedures of the United Nations human rights system. As to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, Japan was now studying the relationship between the provisions of the protocol and its domestic legislation. Concerning the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the Convention on Jurisdiction, Japan regarded them as effective tools for the promotion and protection of children’s rights and welfare, although Japan not ratified them. The State would continue to study the possible conclusion of the two conventions. Japan firmly maintained a democratic political system and had been pursuing the policy of protecting and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms. In particular, Japan attached great importance to human rights education, based on the conviction that in order for all people to enjoy human rights and live contented lives. Concerning the existence of national human rights organizations in Japan, in March 2002 the Ministry of Justice submitted the Human Rights Bill to establish a new Human Rights Commission which would function as an independent administrative commission and would create a new human rights redress system. The deliberation of the Bill was not completed because of the dissolution of the lower house in October 2003, and the Ministry of Justice continued to review the Bill.

As to the elimination of racial discrimination, the Government of Japan had been striving to realize a society without any form of racial or ethnic discrimination based on the principles of its Constitution and the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, to which it became party in 1979. The Government also pursued the strict implementation of relevant domestic laws and promoted activities for raising public awareness. Concerning discrimination of women, based on the Basic Law for a Gender-equal Society, the Cabinet adopted the Second Basic Plan for Gender Equality in December 2005. The plan defined the necessary measures to promote policies to form a gender-equal society in a comprehensive and well-planned manner. Regarding Japan’s marriageable age, in February 1996, the Legislative Council of the Minister of Justice submitted an outline of a Bill to Revise Part of the Civil Code suggesting that a marriageable age should be 18 years of age for both men and women. As to the treatment of detainees, Japan has been making active efforts to improve its criminal justice proceedings, through the enactment of a law in 2005 and another law in 2006 to completely revise the legislations governing the treatment of sentenced inmates, and the treatment of pre-sentenced inmates, respectively.

Concerning the police detention system, in Japan, except in cases of being caught in the act of a crime, a suspect cannot be arrested without warrants, he added. The police detention facilities treated detainees with due consideration to their human rights and regardless of the type of crime committed, detainees could have consultations with their lawyer at any time. With regard to the treatment of inmates in penal institutions, Japan did its utmost to conduct appropriate treatment, in full respect of human rights, in accordance with new legislation which defined the rights and obligations of inmates and also regulated the requirements and procedures to restrict inmates’ behavior and lifestyle. As to the issue of prison over-crowding, Japan was trying to settle this issue by constructing new penal institutions to expand the total capacity. On questions raised concerning the death penalty, Japan considered that the issue of the continuing application of the death penalty should be studied carefully based on domestic public opinion, the crime situation, and the criminal policy of the country concerned, and the decision on this issue should be made by each country of its own accord. It was noted that the majority of Japanese people considered the death penalty to be unavoidable in cases of extremely vicious crimes, and the Government believed that the application of the death penalty was unavoidable in such cases. Therefore the abolition of the death penalty in Japan was inappropriate; nor was Japan considering a moratorium on executions or abolishing the death penalty.

During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included efforts to combat trafficking in persons; human rights training and awareness campaigns; the Basic Plan for the Promotion of Human Rights Education and Encouragement; the creation of research and training institutes for judges and civil servants in the area of human rights; the elaboration of the Basic Plan for Gender Equality; the innovative measures taken by Japan for the protection of human rights in the context of their violations on the Internet; efforts to eliminate discrimination against people afflicted with leprosy; the high level of standards established for the protection of vulnerable groups, in particular children, the elderly and people with disabilities; and human rights counseling offices for foreigners.

Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to measures put in place to address the demand factor in cases of trafficking of human beings, especially women for commercial sexual exploitation purposes; efforts to respond to the recommendations of the international community and various human rights institutions with regard to Japan’s military sexual slavery practices during the Second World War; steps to address the issue of entertainment visas provided to women as expressed by CEDAW and the issue of violence against women and girls; concrete steps the Government’s Gender Equality Bureau was taking in order to promote non-discrimination and a gender-free society; the main steps taken in the promotion and fulfillment of the rights of the child and women; efforts to alert the number of child prostitution, child pornography, and acts including children using Internet dating services; and the intention of Japan to implement the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child to eliminate any discrimination against children born out of wedlock.

Other issues pertained to the Government position on the Parliament’s initiative to promote alternatives to the death penalty by imposing life imprisonment without the possibility of release; specific measures to make progress in a public debate to reintroduce a moratorium to the death penalty; the plans to the ratify the Optional Protocols to the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the lay judge system and how lay judges were trained especially considering that they may be involved in cases where the death penalty was requested; the current living conditions of detainees including those on death row; the continuous prolonged use of solitary confinement and absence of definitive provisions for investigation of deaths in prisons, as well as concerns about medical assistance to prisoners and practice of torture in several Japanese prisons; the policies and steps taken and forward looking measures regarding the issue of torture; and the status of the reform of the 1908 Prison Law.

Additional information was sought on policies and steps taken and forward looking measures taken in combating racism and all forms of discrimination; information on cases of racial discrimination and xenophobia against minorities; indigenous people, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and foreigners; policies and steps taken and forward looking measures taken regarding the human rights of migrants; the protection the Government had put in place to ensure that abuses did not occur in immigration centres and to know whether Japan would allow international monitors to examine immigration detention centres; technical cooperation with developing counties to help them develop their legal systems; measures taken by Japan for the protection of human rights in the context of their violations on the Internet; efforts to promote the right to development; the procedures concerning the release of the Self-Defense Forces personnel and whether this change would be accompanied by specific provisions for instances of conscientious objection; whether all categories of law enforcement personnel, as ell as judges and immigration officials, were involved in the progress of human rights education; the intention of Japan to become a State party to the Convention on the rights of migrant workers; efforts to uphold the rights of elderly workers; whether Japan was ready to extend an a standing invitation to all Special Procedures in the future; and the status of establishing a national human rights commission.

A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To review the issue of the death penalty with a view to a moratorium and abolition; to respect international standards that provided safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty; to ensure that interrogation of detainees in police custody were systematically monitored and recorded and that the Code of Criminal Procedure was harmonized with the Convention against Torture; to focus more on police attention to false confession; to allow international monitors to examine immigration detention centres; to implement the recommendations of the Committee Against Torture with regard to external monitoring of police custody and that they ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; to provide legal aid for migrants who needed it; and to review the Daiyou Kangoku system, in order to ensure that Japan’s detention procedure was consistent with its obligations under human rights law.

Other recommendations included: To take concrete measures to address the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery and other violations committed in the past in other countries, including in Korea; to take measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against Koreans; to implement the recommendation of the Special Rapporteur on racism and racial discrimination; to take measures to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; to repeal all legal provisions that discriminate against women and to sign the Optional Protocol to CEDAW; to raise the age of marriage consent to 18 for both men and women; to adapt national legislation and put it in line with the principles of equality and non-discrimination; to consider establishing a legislation defining and prohibiting discrimination in all forms; and to offer a definition of discrimination in its criminal law.

Additional recommendations included: To review the land rights and other rights of the Ainu population and harmonize it with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; to increase opportunities for inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation at the local levels; to continue to take measures to reduce the incidence of violence against women and children by, among other things, ensuring that law enforcement officials received human rights, and funding recovery and counseling centers for victims of violence; To develop a mechanism to ensure the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed or retained from their habitual place of residence, and also examine the possibility of acceding to the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Abduction; and to institute mechanisms to enhance procedural guarantees for the detention of detainees.

Other recommendations included: To continue its efforts to combat trafficking in persons with special emphasis on women and children; to consider adhering to the complaints procedures of CEDAW and CERD; to set up an investigate mechanisms to register human rights complaints; to address problems faced by women belonging to minorities; to seek ways of initiating a dialogue with indigenous peoples; to continue to provide financial assistance to counties in need in order for them to improve the enjoyment of economic and social rights; to extend its support to the global efforts to the right to development; to prohibit corporal punishment on children and to promote positive and non-violent forms of discipline; to establish an independent body to review asylum applications; to finalize legislation to establish a human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles; to extend a standing invitation to the Special Procedures; and to ensure that civil society was fully involved in the follow up to the Universal Periodic Review process at the national level.

Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were the Philippines, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Malaysia, China, Canada, the United Kingdom, Egypt, France, Slovenia, Mexico, The Netherlands, Brazil, Germany, the Republic of Korea, Guatemala, Switzerland, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Italy, the Russian Federation, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Romania, Pakistan and Peru.

Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Belgium, Tunisia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Poland, Albania, Iran, the United States, Latvia, Turkey, Jordan, Argentina, Mauritania, Slovakia and Vietnam.

The 17-person delegation of Japan consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the National Policy Agency, the National Police Agency, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Japan are France, Indonesia and Djibouti.

In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on Japan can be found here.

Adoption of report on the Republic of Korea: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on the Republic of Korea are Peru, Egypt and Jordan. Introducing the report MUSA BURAZAYT (Jordan) thanked the delegation of the Republic of Korea, members of the troika and the Secretariat for its valuable contribution to country review process and drafting the report. Representing the State under review, LEE SUNG-JOO, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that through the UPR dialogue the Government of the Republic of Korea gained a sense of the aspirations of the international community with respect to the human rights situation in the Republic of Korea. The various concerns and recommendations made during the discussion would serve as a valuable source of advice to the country to uphold the highest values of human rights. The Republic of Korea fully supported the UPR process and would join other in the international community to ensure that this mechanism could offer a real improvement to the human rights on the ground.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Japan on Wednesday, 14 May.

When the UPR Working Group continues its work on Tuesday morning, 13 May, at 9:00 a.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Ukraine after which it is scheduled to adopt the report of Switzerland.

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