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Thursday, May 18, 2006

ANTIDISCRIMINATION LAW NEEDED

Racism rapporteur repeats criticism


Staff writer

OSAKA -- The U.N. rapporteur on racism repeated Wednesday his strong criticism of the Japanese government's attitude toward combating the problem, saying the country needs an antidiscrimination law.

"Japanese human rights groups and others, in linkage with the international community, can move toward creating an antidiscrimination law which will hopefully lead to addressing the deeper causes of racism and xenophobia," said Doudou Diene, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

Meeting in the afternoon with nearly three dozen human rights representatives, including foreigners' rights activists, Diene heard about the discrimination faced by the Korean, Okinawan, and Japanese-Brazilian communities, as well as descendants of the former "buraku" outcast class, and about specific incidents of government and corporate discrimination against foreigners.

In a scathing report released in January, Diene said racism in Japan is deep and profound.

At Wednesday's meeting, he repeated the call in his report for the government to protect its ethnic and cultural minorities through legislation outlawing racism.

Diene's report pointed out that Japan is party to the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, but has not yet ratified a U.N. convention to protect migrant workers.

The January report came nearly six months after Diene, at the invitation the International Movement Against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism Japan Committee, traveled around the country meeting with representatives of the Ainu, "buraku" descendants, and Korean communities as well as foreign migrant workers.

On this current unofficial visit, also arranged by IMADR, Diene came to Okinawa on Saturday and met local government officials and residents opposed to the U.S. bases.

After speaking Monday to people living near U.S. Kadena Air Base who have filed a lawsuit about the noise near, Diene told reporters he heard the noise from F-15s taking off from Kadena and better understood the situation after talking to them.

Diene also met people living beside the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and later toured the waters off the marines' Camp Schwab near Nago, where a replacement facility will be built.

Diene was to have meetings with Foreign Ministry officials and human rights lawyers in Tokyo on Thursday.

The Diene report and his visits -- last July and this week -- have drawn a mixed reaction here.

Human rights activists have welcomed it for detailing the economic, social and political discrimination that various ethnic and cultural minorities face and for urging the government to adopt national antidiscrimination legislation.

Critics, however, have said the report is flawed because Dienef is in Japan at the behest of a group with a political agenda.

They have charged that the Japan portrayed in his report reflects only the views of IMADR and its allies, and the paper is not an objective analysis of the situation for minority groups. As of this week, the Diene report and his recommendations have been endorsed by 77 groups in Japan, including human rights organizations, religious groups and unions.

"My report does reflect certain limitations. I am only in a given country for about 10 days, and I have not been able to meet everybody I would have liked to meet," Diene said.



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