One that totally flew under our radar:
On April 11, the US State Department released their 2010 Human Rights Report for Japan, detailing human rights conditions on everything from the right to collective bargaining to institutionalized hazing. While Japan is hardly a major violator like, say, friendly neighbours China and North Korea, it is surprising (and in some cases, unfortunately, not so surprising) to see some of the areas where the country falls short of ideal.
As brought to our attention via Polaris Project:
“Child prostitution is illegal, with a penalty of imprisonment with labor for up to three years or a fine of up to one million yen ($12,150) for offenders, including the intermediary and the person involved in solicitation. However, the practice of enjo-kosai (compensated dating) and easy facilitation by means of online dating, social networking, and delivery health (call girl or escort service) sites made de facto domestic child-sex tourism a problem.
“The country continued to be an international hub for the production and trafficking of child pornography. The distribution of child pornography is illegal; the penalty is imprisonment with labor for not more than three years or a fine not exceeding three million yen ($36,460). … The law does not criminalize the simple possession of child pornography, which often depicts the brutal sexual abuse of small children. While this continues to hamper police efforts to effectively enforce existing child pornography laws and fully participate in international law enforcement in this area, child pornography investigations increased 40 percent in 2009 to 935 cases. New measures announced in July included instructing Internet service providers to voluntarily block Internet access to child pornography, increased cooperation with foreign law enforcement agencies, and boosting resources for investigations … But children’s advocates criticized the measure to block access, noting that it does not require Internet service and cellular data providers to block the images and, in fact, the law prohibits providers from censuring any user access.
“The new measures also do not address the unfettered availability of sexually explicit cartoons, comics, and video games. While the NPA maintained that no link has been established between these animated images and child victimization, other experts suggested the situation harms children by creating a culture that appears to accept sexual abuse of children.”
This one is hardly a revelation, as any long-time JSRC reader would know. Other highlights:
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
“The government continued to deny death-row inmates and their families information about the date of execution. Families of condemned prisoners were notified of the execution after the fact.”
“An NGO reported that prisoners facing the death penalty were sometimes kept in solitary confinement for decades and concluded that a number of these prisoners had become mentally ill as a result but that requests for mental health records of death-row inmates were summarily denied.”
“According to NGOs, the majority of indicted detainees confessed while in police custody. Safeguards exist so that suspects cannot be compelled to confess to a crime or be convicted when a confession is the only evidence. In 2009 the National Public Safety Commission issued regulations prohibiting police from touching suspects (unless unavoidable), exerting force, threatening them, keeping them in fixed postures for long periods, verbally abusing them, or offering them favors in return for a confession. Defense counsel is not allowed to be present during interrogations.
“NGOs asserted that the new rules were not adequately enforced and that prisoners continued to be subjected to interrogation sessions of eight to 12 hours in length, during which detainees were handcuffed to a chair for the entire period and aggressive questioning techniques were used. NGOs also stated that, although the practice is illegal, interrogators sometimes offered bail in exchange for a detained person proffering a confession.”
“The language barrier was a serious problem for foreign defendants. No guidelines exist to ensure effective communication between judges, lawyers, and non-Japanese-speaking defendants. Several foreign detainees claimed that police urged them to sign statements in Japanese that they could not understand and that were not translated adequately. No standard licensing or qualification system existed for court interpreters, and trials proceeded even if no translation or interpretation was provided, despite the government’s claims that trials cannot proceed unless translation or interpreting is provided.”
Protection of Refugees
“The UN CAT, NGOs, and lawyers criticized the indefinite and often long period of detention between the rejection of an application for asylum and deportation. The UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants expressed concern about the policy of detaining asylum seekers and other irregular migrants for prolonged periods, in some cases for as long as three years.”
“Refugees faced the same patterns of discrimination that other foreigners did: reduced access to housing, education, and employment. Except for those who met the conditions stated above, persons whose refugee status was pending or on appeal did not have the legal right to work or receive social welfare, rendering them completely dependent on overcrowded government shelters, illegal employment not subject to labor law oversight, or NGO assistance.”
Official Corruption and Government Transparency
“Independent academic experts stated that ties between politicians, bureaucrats, and businessmen were close and that corruption remained a concern. During the first half of the year, the NPA reported arrests in 20 cases of bribery and four cases of bid rigging. There were regular media reports of investigations into financial and accounting irregularities involving high-profile politicians and government officials, including a decision by a civilian panel requiring that prosecutors indict former DPJ secretary general Ichiro Ozawa.”
Persons With Disabilities
“According to NGOs there were an estimated 20,000 homeless persons who could not receive old-age pensions, disability pensions, and livelihood protection allowances because they were considered to be without residence. NGOs reported that, due to inadequate protection by the social safety net and the social stigma against homelessness, a significant number of elderly citizens and homeless individuals committed petty crimes to obtain the food and shelter provided by life in prison. Surveys showed that persons with mental disabilities may have accounted for up to 60 percent of the repeat-offender population in some prisons. Surveys also showed a significant percentage of repeat offenders were homeless persons who were not receiving social services. Police and prison authorities were particularly slow providing treatment of mental illness and had no protocol for offering psychiatric therapy.”
And the list goes on. Despite these infringements, Japan received positive remarks on things like “Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life”, “Internet Freedom”, and “Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”. According to the report, anti-Semitism was absolutely no problem in Japan as of last year, meaning Jake is safe in Japan from Jew haters.
Jake–Mazel tov, Sarah-cham! Wow, that’s a depressing read. I wonder if freedom from being recklessly exposed to nuclear radiation by a criminally negligent power company that rhymes with KEPCO is also a human right? Because if it is, wow, our human rights have all been violated.