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Thursday, April 6, 2006
Fingerprint bill unfair, activists say
By MASAMI ITO
A bill under deliberation in the Upper House to fingerprint foreigners entering Japan, which backers say is a necessary counterterrorism measure, must be defeated at all costs because it is discriminatory and vague, human rights groups said Wednesday.
If passed, the bill will make fingerprinting and photographing mandatory for all foreigners arriving in Japan. The data collected would then be checked against a list of past deportees and those on an international wanted list. Under the bill's provisions, those determined by the Justice Ministry to be terrorists would be deported.
At a meeting of Diet members, lawyers and human rights groups, participants voiced strong opposition to the proposed revisions to the immigration law, which cleared the Lower House last week.
"With no actual definition of who terrorists are, there is a danger (of people being fingered as terrorists) through arbitrary interpretation," said lawyer Mitsuru Namba. "In other words, (the bill) could restrict people's freedom of expression and political activities."
Namba criticized the fact that the bill cleared the Lower House after only two weeks and without much debate, leaving unclear such details as how long personal data will be kept and how the Justice Ministry defines a "terrorist."
The Democratic Party of Japan submitted an alternative version of the bill stating that biometric data should be deleted once an overseas national leaves Japan or is granted permanent residency, but the DPJ draft was voted down in the Lower House Judicial Affairs Committee.
Amnesty International Japan Secretary General Makoto Teranaka slammed the bill, saying it encourages discrimination against foreigners and violates individuals' right to privacy. He claimed that if the bill is passed, Japan will become a "surveillance society."
Teranaka added the proposed legal changes give too much power to the state. "This bill will give authorities the power to (deport) a person if he or she acts suspiciously, without even committing or preparing to commit a crime."