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TITLE: JAPAN HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993 DATE: JANUARY 31, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE JAPAN Japan is a parliamentary democracy based on a Constitution adopted in 1947. Sovereignty is vested in the people, and the Emperor is defined as the symbol of state. On the national level, power is divided among executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Executive power is vested in a cabinet, composed of a prime minister and ministers of state, responsible to the Diet, Japan's two-house Parliament. The Diet, elected by universal suffrage and secret ballot, designates the Prime Minister, who must be a member of that body. Nearly 70 percent of the electorate usually votes in general elections contested by numerous political parties covering a broad ideological spectrum. In the lower house general election in July 1993, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost its majority for the first time in 38 years. The Government is now formed by a non-LDP coalition of seven parties. The judicial system has several levels of courts; the Supreme Court has final authority. A well-organized and disciplined police force generally respects the human rights of the populace and is firmly under the control of the civil authorities. However, there continued to be reports of harsh treatment of some suspects in custody. The Civil Liberties Bureau in the Ministry of Justice and the Human Rights and Refugee Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs monitor problems relating to human rights practices in Japan. Japan's highly industrialized free market economy is efficient and competitive in world markets. The 1992 economic slowdown, including an increase in unemployment, continued in 1993. The Constitution states, "all of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic, or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status, or family origin." The human rights assured by the Constitution are generally secured by a just and efficient legal system. However, the "Burakumin" (a group historically treated as outcasts), the Ainu (Japan's indigenous people), women, and alien residents experience varying degrees of discrimination, some of it severe and of long standing. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing There were no known cases of political or other extrajudicial killing. b. Disappearance There were no known cases of abductions, secret arrests, clandestine detention, or hostage holding by security forces or any other organization. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment While freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment is provided for in the Constitution, reports by several Japanese bar associations and some prisoners indicate that police sometimes use physical violence, including kickings and beatings, as well as psychological intimidation, including threats and name calling, to obtain confessions from suspects in custody. In Japan confession is regarded as the first step in the rehabilitative process. Roughly 85 percent of all criminal cases going to trial include confessions, reflecting the priority that the Japanese system places on admissions of guilt. While abuse remains a problem, appellate courts have overturned several convictions in recent years on the ground that they were obtained by forced confession. In addition, civil suits have been brought against some police and prosecution officials, alleging abuse during interrogation and detention. Most of these cases are still pending. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile Freedom from arbitrary arrest or imprisonment is provided for in the Constitution and respected in practice. Japanese law provides for judicial determination of the legality of detention. Persons cannot be detained without charge, and prosecuting authorities must be prepared to demonstrate before trial that probable cause exists to detain the accused. Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, a suspect may be held in police custody for up to 72 hours with limited representation by defense counsel. This period is normally extended by a judge for up to 20 additional days for preindictment investigation. If an indictment follows, the suspect is transferred to a criminal detention facility. In practice, defendants may consult with an attorney during the preindictment period only if they can afford to hire one. Bail is rarely available. The bar association and human rights groups have criticized the practice of "substitute detention." While Japanese law stipulates that suspects should be held in "houses of detention" between arrest and sentencing, a police cell may be substituted. This provision was added to cover a shortage of detention facilities. Critics charge that allowing suspects to be detained by the same authorities that interrogate them heightens the potential for prisoner abuse and coercion. The length of time before a suspect is brought to trial depends on the nature of the crime but rarely exceeds 2 months from date of arrest; the average is 1 to 2 months. Critics charge that access to counsel is limited both in duration and frequency, although the Government denies that this is the case. The Japanese Criminal Procedure Code grants the prosecutor's office and investigating police officials the power to limit access to attorneys when deemed necessary for the sake of the investigation. This is interpreted to mean that counsel may not be present during interrogation at any time, before or after indictment. As a court-appointed attorney is not approved until after indictment, suspects must rely on their own resources to hire an attorney for counseling before indictment. Some local bar associations provide detainees with a free counseling session prior to indictment. In practice, suspects able to afford private counsel may consult with an attorney an average of two times during the detention period before indictment, sometimes without private access. Counsel is provided at government expense after indictment when the arrested person cannot afford one. Preventive detention does not exist. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The Constitution provides for the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial tribunal in all criminal cases, and this right is respected in practice. The defendant is informed of charges upon arrest and assured a public trial by an independent civilian court with defense counsel and the right to cross-examination. The Constitution assures defendants the right not to be compelled to testify against themselves as well as free and private access to counsel, although the right to such access is sometimes abridged in practice. For example, the law allows prosecutors to control access to counsel, and there are persistent allegations of coerced confessions. Defendants are also protected from the retroactive application of laws and have the right to access to incriminating evidence after a formal indictment has been made. However, Japanese law does not require full disclosure by the prosecutor, and material that will not be used in court by the prosecution may be suppressed, even if favorable to the accused. The judiciary is independent and free from executive branch interference. Judges are appointed by the Cabinet for a 10-year term, which can be renewed until the age of 65. Justices of the Supreme Court can serve until the age of 70, but face periodic review through popular referendum. A defendant who is dissatisfied with the decision of a trial court of first instance may, within the period prescribed by law, appeal to a higher court. There are several levels of courts, with the Supreme Court serving as the highest judicial authority. There is no trial by jury in Japan. There are no political prisoners. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence Under the Constitution, each search or seizure must be made upon separate warrant issued by a judge. Standards for issuing such warrants exist to guard against arbitrary searches. There are no reports that the Government or any other organization arbitrarily interfered with privacy, family, home, or correspondence. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press The Constitution, an independent press and judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combine to ensure freedom of speech and press. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association These freedoms are provided for in the Constitution and respected in practice. In 1993 the Japanese media drew attention to the alleged efforts of the Tokyo municipal government to restrict the rights of Iranians living in Japan to assemble in a popular local park. Citizen groups have taken up the cause, arguing that the city's actions are discriminatory. While the Government has not stood in the way of efforts to resolve the problem through appropriate legal and administrative means, neither has it acted to resolve the issue. c. Freedom of Religion Freedom of religion is provided for in the Constitution and respected in practice. While Buddhism and Shintoism remain the two major religions, there are many others, including several Christian denominations. Foreign missionaries are welcome and gain admission to Japan through a specific visa category for foreign religious workers. Some temples and shrines receive public support as national historic or cultural sites. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation Japanese citizens have the right to travel freely both within Japan and abroad, to change their place of residence, to emigrate, and to repatriate voluntarily. Japanese nationality can be lost by naturalization in a foreign country or failure to elect Japanese nationality at the proper age. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government Japanese citizens have the right and ability peacefully to change their government. A parliamentary democracy, Japan is governed by the political party or parties able to form a majority in the lower house of its bicameral Diet. From 1955 until 1993, all prime ministers and almost all cabinet ministers were members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which enjoyed a majority in the lower house throughout this period. In 1993 the party lost its parliamentary majority. The Government is now headed by a non-LDP coalition. Local and prefectural governments are often controlled by coalitions. Elections on all levels are held frequently; suffrage is universal; and ballots are secret. Postwar population movements have contributed to significant imbalances in size among parliamentary electoral districts. In the most underrepresented lower house district--mostly in urban areas--there are nearly three times as many voters per representative as in the most overrepresented districts--mostly in rural areas. Among upper house districts, the maximum disparity exceeds six-to-one. Court rulings have called for more equitable electoral districts. One court in December declared the July 1992 upper house election unconstitutional because of the malapportionment problem, but the lack of a nonpartisan redistricting mechanism has hampered the process of adjustment. Prposed political reform legislation would significantly reduce the disparity among lower house districts but would not affect the situation in upper house elections. There are no legal or de facto impediments to women's participation in government and politics, but cultural attitudes are not favorable to their participation. Women hold 14 seats in the 511-member lower house of the Diet, and 38 seats in the 252-member upper house. Three women--a record high--are members of the current 21-member Cabinet. Women make up nearly 20 percent of all government workers but hold less than 1 percent of top (section chief and higher) government posts. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights A number of local human rights organizations function freely, with no governmental restrictions or impediments. The Government does not obstruct or inhibit the investigative activities of international human rights nongovernmental organizations. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status Women The position of women in society and the home, although significantly improved during the last few decades, continues to reflect deep-seated traditional values that assign women a subordinate role. In this environment, violence against women, particularly domestic violence, often goes unreported due to social and cultural concerns about shaming one's family or endangering the reputation of one's spouse or offspring. Typically, victimized women more often return to the home of their parents rather than file reports with authorities. Therefore, Ministry of Justice statistics on violence against women undoubtedly understate the scope of the current situation. Many local governments are responding positively to a need for confidential assistance by establishing special women's consultation departments in police and prefectural offices. Although discrimination by private employers against women is prohibited by the Constitution, it persists. Legislation over the past 30 years has been enacted to accord women the same legal status as men. The Equal Employment Opportunity Law of 1986 was aimed at eliminating sex discrimination in such areas as recruitment, pay, and working hours. Yet the law does not expressly forbid discrimination; it merely states that "employers should endeavor" to avoid it. Under this law and other regulations, the Ministry of Labor attempts to encourage corporate compliance with its objectives by positive inducements, including subsidies; it does not enforce compliance through fines or other punitive measures. Significant disparities in pay and access to managerial positions persist. Women comprise over 40 percent of the employed population. A 1989 Ministry of labor report noted that the average wage of women workers is about half that of men. In March 1992, nine working married women filed lawsuits with the Tokyo district court, citing discrimination in wages and promotions. Other cases are pending which question management's use of Japan's two-track (general versus administrative) system of hiring women employees. Initially designed to create a "career" track for employees while maintaining a separate "clerical" track, observers say the system is used to discriminate against women, who traditionally have not been hired for managerial positions. Public awareness of discrimination against women and sexual harassment in the workplace has increased. An increasing number of government entities are establishing hotlines and designating ombudsmen to handle complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment. Nevertheless, sexual discrimination and stereotyping in the workplace continue to be major problems for women. Children Japan has child labor laws, and the rights of children are adequately protected. Indigenous People The Ainu are a Caucasoid people descended from the first inhabitants of Japan. They now probably number less than 100,000; almost all of them live on Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's four main islands. Their primary occupations are hunting, fishing, and small farming. The ultimate effect of a law passed in 1898, the Former Aborigines Protection Act, was to leave the Ainu with only about 15 percent of their original landholdings. Ainu leaders, including Giichi Nomura at the Sapporo International Indigenous Peoples Symposium held as part of the U.N. Year of the World's Indigenous Peoples, continue to express grievances about this situation. Meanwhile, the Ainu continue to face social discrimination while engaging in an uphill struggle against complete assimilation. The Government has done little in response to Ainu grievances. An interagency study group opened hearings in January 1990 with the stated goal of reviewing Ainu history and making recommendations, but it has not played an active role. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities The ethnocentric nature of Japanese society, reinforced by a high degree of cultural and ethnic homogeneity and a history of isolation from other cultures, has impeded the integration of minority groups. This primarily affects Burakumin, Koreans, and alien workers against whom social, economic, and legal discrimination is widespread. The Burakumin (descendants of feudal era "outcasts" who practiced "unclean" professions such as butchering and undertaking) are frequently victims of entrenched social discrimination. Their access to private housing, employment, and marriage opportunities has been greatly restricted. Beginning in 1969, the Government introduced with some success a number of social, economic, and legal programs designed to improve conditions for the Burakumin and hasten their assimilation into mainstream Japanese society. The Government has extended basic legislation to provide funding for Burakumin programs until 1997, but the Burakumin continue to lobby for a new law that will expand current programs. In recent years, however, some within the Burakumin community have questioned whether "assimilation" is an appropriate goal. Despite improvements in Japan's legal system, Korean permanent residents (most of whom were born, raised, and educated in Japan and who are estimated to number approximately 2 million) are still subject to various forms of deeply entrenched social discrimination. In recent years, the Government has enacted several laws and regulations providing permanent resident aliens with equal access to public housing and loans, social security pensions for those qualified, and certain public employment rights. The legal obligations to carry an alien registration card and to be fingerprinted have been leading concerns among permanent resident aliens in Japan. This is particularly so for second- and third-generation Korean residents, who constitute 82 percent of all such aliens. In response to continued appeals from the Republic of Korea, the Government in 1993 halted the fingerprinting of permanent foreign residents. Instead, the Government has established a family registry system that uses the resident's picture and signature and contains information on parents and spouses living in Japan, a system similar to that used for Japanese nationals. The new law leaves intact the requirement that all foreign residents must carry alien registration certificates at all times. Some immigrants reportedly face police harassment and discrimination in obtaining housing, jobs, and health care. In recognition of the difficulties faced by foreigners in these areas, Tokyo city recently issued a law to prevent housing discrimination against foreigners. There have also been efforts by the central and local governments to disburse information on health insurance plans to enroll foreigners into the system. Some communities are using existing social welfare programs to cover emergency medical expenses incurred by uninsured foreign visitors. The January 1991 memorandum between the Japanese and South Korean Governments extended employment rights to local government positions, giving each locality the authority to decide which jobs may be held by non-Japanese nationals. Local governments are also being urged by the Government to allow Korean residents to take the teacher entrance examination and to employ them on a full-time basis. Private-sector employment and social discrimination are still common. Antidiscrimination laws affecting Korean residents were initiated as government guidance and are not backed up by penalty provisions. According to law, aliens with 5 years of continuous residence are eligible for naturalization and the simultaneous acquisition of citizenship rights, including the right to vote. In fact, however, most eligible aliens do not apply for citizenship, in part due to fears that their cultural identity would thereby be denied. De facto obstacles to naturalization include broad discretion on the part of adjudicating officers and great emphasis on Japanese language ability. The Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau estimates that, as of May 1993, there were 298,646 foreign nationals residing illegally in Japan, an increase of 7 percent from the previous year. Many are laborers from Southeast Asia and South Korea. Additionally, there are a number of Iranian workers, but that number declined by 13.8 percent, apparently as the result of the Government's suspension on April 15, 1992, of a visa waiver agreement it had with Iran for short-term visitors. While many of Japan's illegally resident foreigners came in search of better-paying manufacturing and construction jobs, there are indications that these opportunities are disappearing with Japan's economic slowdown. Thus, more of the foreign workers are unemployed or marginally employed. Law enforcement sweeps against South Asians and other foreigners have increased. Activist groups claim that, with little or no knowledge of the Japanese language or of their legal rights, foreign workers can easily be discriminated against by employers. Some illegal alien workers have suffered exploitative treatment. The Government has tried to reduce the inflow of illegal foreign workers by prosecuting employers. Recent revisions of the Immigration Law provide for penalties for employers of undocumented foreign workers. Suspected foreign workers may also be denied entry for passport, visa, and entry application irregularities. The Government continues to study the foreign worker issue, and several citizens' groups are working with illegal foreign workers to improve their access to information on worker rights. Japan has granted asylum in only a small number of cases to those claiming fear of persecution upon return to their homeland. The Government believes that most people seeking asylum in Japan do so for economic reasons. According to representatives of international organizations in Japan, since 1981 Japan has determined that only about 200 people have met the required standard. As for Chinese student dissidents, the Government has shown flexibility in dealing with visa extensions, though it continues to be reluctant to grant permanent asylum. Strict administrative procedures contribute to the low rate of approval of asylum applications. For example, appeals of initial denials are reviewed by a higher authority of the same body, and decisions are rarely overturned. Asylum seekers claim that the processing of asylum applications is not readily understandable, making it difficult for them to comply with Government procedures. For example, the Government's "60-day rule" requires applicants to appear at an immigration office within 60 days of arrival or within 60 days of the time they learn they are likely to be persecuted in their home country; most asylum seekers arrive in Japan without knowledge of this requirement and can inadvertently waive their claim by not acting promptly. The Government recently stated that it is striving to reform its asylum procedures and make them more accessible and understandable to asylum seekers. People with Disabilities Japan has no national law protecting the rights of the disabled, including access, but some prefectures and cities have enacted their own legislation addressing the issue. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association The right of workers to associate freely in unions is assured by the Constitution. Approximately 25 percent of the active work force belongs to unions. Unions are free of government control and influence. The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (RENGO), which represents 8 million Japanese workers, was formed in 1989 through the merger of several confederations and is Japan's largest labor organization. There is no requirement for a single trade union structure, and there are no restrictions on who may be a union official. Members of the armed forces, police, and firefighters, however, are not permitted to form unions or to strike. The International Labor Organization's Committee of Experts in 1991 criticized Japan's denial of the right of firefighters to strike as unwarranted. Government and union representatives have engaged in talks to address this issue over the past 2 years, but no resolution has been reached to date. Japanese law allows unions to lobby and to make political campaign contributions, and most unions are involved in political activity as well as labor relations. RENGO and other labor groups are active in supporting political parties and individual candidates and in promoting their political and social programs. Organized labor generally supports two social democratic parties that are presently part of the governing coalition and provides them with significant amounts of funds and manpower. Unions are active in international bodies, most notably the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and maintain extensive international contacts. The right to strike is implicit in the Constitution and is exercised. During 1992, 231,000 man days were lost to strikes. Public employees do not have the right to strike, although they do have recourse to mediation and arbitration. Government employees have their pay raises determined by the Government, but the raises are based on a recommendation by the Independent National Personnel Authority. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively The Constitution states that unions have the right to organize, bargain, and act collectively. These rights are exercised freely, and collective bargaining is practiced widely. The annual "spring wage offensive," in which individual unions in each industry conduct negotiations simultaneously with their firms, involves nationwide participation. Japanese management usually consults closely with its enterprise union. However, trade unions are independent of management and aggressively pursue the interests of their workers. Antiunion discrimination is prohibited by law, and in practice does not take place. Members of the armed forces, police, and fire fighters are not permitted to organize. There are no export processing zones. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor The Labor Standards Law prohibits the use of forced labor, and there are no known cases of forced or compulsory labor. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children Under the revised labor Standards Law of 1987, minors under 15 years of age may not be employed as workers, and those under the age of 18 years may not be employed in dangerous or harmful work. Child labor laws are rigorously enforced by the labor Inspection Division of the Ministry of Labor. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work Minimum wages are administratively determined by the Minister of Labor or the Director of the Prefectural Labor Standards Office, based usually on the recommendation of the tripartite Minimum Wage Council. Minimum wage rates vary by industry and region. In the Tokyo area, a steelworker's rate is $5.65 (620 yen) per hour. The wage rates are sufficient to provide workers and their families with a decent living. The Labor Standards Law provides for the phased reduction of maximum working hours from the present 44-hour, 6-day workweek to 40 hours by 1994. The Ministry of Labor effectively administers various laws and regulations governing occupational health and safety, principal among which is the Industrial Safety and Health Law of 1972. Standards are set by the Ministry of Labor and issued after consultation with the Standing Committee on Safety and Health of the tripartite Labor Standards Commission. Labor inspectors have the authority to suspend unsafe operations immediately, and the law guarantees that workers may voice concerns over occupational safety and remove themselves from unsafe working conditions without jeopardizing their continued employment.
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