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Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010


Redressing rights violations

In mid-June, Justice Minister Keiko Chiba and two lieutenants at her ministry — both Diet members — disclosed in an interim report the idea of creating a new commission to redress human rights violations. The report calls for setting up a new human rights protection commission as an extra-ministerial bureau of the Cabinet Office. It is not known when the Kan administration will send a related bill to the Diet. It must do its utmost to ensure the independence of the planned body.

In 2002, the coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito submitted a bill to the Diet, which called for establishing a new human rights protection body as an extra-ministerial bureau of the Justice Ministry. The Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties strongly criticized the bill for failing to ensure the independence of the planned body. Mass media also opposed the bill because it contained restrictions on mass media's activities with a view to preventing human rights infringement by them. It fell through in 2003.

The proposal made by Ms. Chiba's team at her ministry is better than the LDP-Komeito government's bill in that a new body will be established as an extra-ministerial bureau of the Cabinet Office. Under the proposed setup, it would be difficult for the Justice Ministry, which has public prosecutors offices and immigration bureaus under its wing, to intervene. The proposal includes no restrictions on mass media. A Justice Ministry official says that foreigners will probably be allowed to serve as members of the new body.

The new body would have branch organizations in each prefecture. Since the proposal calls for utilizing existing organizations, there is the possibility that workers of the Justice Ministry's Regional Legal Affairs Bureaus and private sector members of the current local human rights protection committees will work for the branch organizations. The government should consider utilizing lawyers, members of nongovernmental organizations and scholars.

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