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TITLE: JAPAN HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DATE: FEBRUARY 1995 JAPAN Japan is a parliamentary democracy based on a 1947 Constitution. Sovereignty is vested in the people, and the Emperor is defined as the symbol of state. 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. 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, formed in June 1994, is a three-party coalition consisting of the LDP, the Social Democratic Party of Japan, and the new party Sakigake. The judiciary is independent of the Government. 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 credible reports of harsh treatment of some suspects in custody. Japan's industrialized free market economy is highly efficient and competitive in world markets. In 1994 the economy began to recover from a recession that began in 1991. A just and efficient legal system generally assures observance of constitutionally provided human rights. 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. There also continue to be reports of physical and psychological abuse of prisoners or detainees. Officials are sometimes dismissed for such abuse but are seldom tried, convicted, and imprisoned. 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 reports of political or other extrajudicial killings. b. Disappearance There were no reports of disappearances. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment The Constitution provides for freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. However, reports by several Japanese bar associations and some prisoners indicate that police sometimes use physical violence, including kicking and beating, as well as psychological intimidation, including threats and name calling, to obtain confessions from suspects in custody or to enforce discipline. 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 system places on admissions of guilt. The Government also points out that the high percentage of confessions, like the high conviction rate, is reflective of a higher standard of evidence needed to bring about indictment in the Japanese system. Appellate courts have overturned several convictions in recent years on the ground that they were obtained as a result of forced confession. In addition, civil and criminal suits have been brought against some police and prosecution officials, alleging abuse during interrogation and detention. While many of these cases are still pending, one Tokyo public prosecutor was dismissed and two resigned in 1994 in separate incidents of alleged assaults on witnesses during questioning. One of the prosecutors involved has been indicted, and the State has agreed to compensate one of the victims. The National Bar Association and human rights groups have criticized the prison system, with its emphasis on strict discipline and obedience to numerous rules. Guards sometimes selectively enforce rules and impose punishment, including "minor solitary confinement," which may be imposed for at least 1 and not more than 60 days and in which the prisoner is made to sit (for foreigners) or kneel (for Japanese) motionless in the middle of an empty cell. Some human rights groups allege that physical restraints, such as leather handcuffs, have been used as a form of punishment and that prisoners have been forced to eat and relieve themselves unassisted while wearing these restraints. Ministry of Justice officials state that restraints are only used inside the prison when prisoners have been violent and pose a threat to themselves and others, or when there is concern about an attempt to escape. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile Constitutional provisions for freedom from arbitrary arrest or imprisonment are respected in practice. Japanese law provides for judicial determination of the legality of detention. Persons may not 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 without judicial proceedings. This period may be 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. Bail is available in only about 25 percent of cases. 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 detention facility may be substituted at the order of the court. This provision was originally added to facilitate investigation and cover a shortage of normal detention facilities. However, according to a 1994 Ministry of Justice report, normal detention facilities were filled to only 60 percent of capacity in 1993. Critics charge that allowing suspects to be detained by the same authorities that interrogate them heightens the potential for detainee abuse and coercion. The Government counters that adequate safeguards to prevent abuse, including strong judicial oversight, have been built into the system. 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 Criminal Procedure Code grants the prosecution and investigating police officials the power to control access to attorneys before indictment when deemed necessary for the sake of the investigation. 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. In addition, counsel may not be present during interrogation at any time before or after indictment. Beyond this, the Government affirms that the right of the accused to seek legal counsel is fully respected and that attorneys are almost always able to see clients without obstruction. Some local bar associations provide detainees with a free counseling session prior to indictment. Counsel is provided at government expense after indictment if the arrested person cannot afford one. Preventive detention does not exist. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The Government respects in practice the constitutional provisions for the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial tribunal in all criminal cases. 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 before indictment, and there are persistent allegations of coerced confessions. Defendants are also protected from the retroactive application of laws and have the right of 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. The judiciary is independent and free from executive branch interference. Judges are appointed by the Cabinet for 10-year terms, which can be renewed until judges have reached 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 were 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. 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 may be lost by naturalization in a foreign country or failure to elect Japanese nationality at the required 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. From August 1993 to June 1994, non-LDP coalitions governed the country. The current three-party coalition government includes the LDP but is headed by a Prime Minister from the Japan Socialist Party. 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 contributed to significant imbalances in size among parliamentary electoral districts. In June, however, the Diet approved legislation reducing the maximum voting weight disparity among upper house districts of the Diet from almost six-and-a-half to one to less than five to one. In November 1994 the Diet passed legislation reducing the maximum voter weight disparity to approximately two to one in lower house districts. In addition, the new legislation provides that two-fifths of lower house members will be elected in proportional races which, in effect, further reduces malapportionment. 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. The 21-member Cabinet includes only 1 female member. Women make up nearly 20 percent of all government workers but hold less than 1 percent of top (section chief and higher) government posts. In 1994 the Prime Minister's office promulgated an action plan to increase the ratio of women in leadership positions on government advisory panels to 30 percent by fiscal year 1995. However, the target was later cut to 15 percent, a step apparently reflecting slower than anticipated progress. Only 40 of the 201 existing panels currently meet the 15-percent target. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights Local human rights organizations function freely, with no governmental restrictions or impediments. International human rights nongovernmental organizations have been allowed to work freely in Japan, although the Government restricts access to prisons and detention facilities by human rights groups. 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. The Civil Liberties Bureau also commissions private citizens, nominated by prefectural governments, to investigate charges of discrimination. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status Women The position of women in society, although significantly improved during the last few decades, continues to reflect deep-seated traditional values that assign women a subordinate role in the workplace. Although discrimination by private employers against women is prohibited by the Constitution, it persists. Legislation has been enacted over the past 30 years 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. As part of their lower overall intake of new employees because of recessionary pressures, some companies announced that they would hire no women in 1994; other companies did not announce such a policy but reduced the percentage of women hired for entry-level positions. Significant disparities in pay and access to managerial positions persist for women, who comprise over 40 percent of the employed population. Several cases are pending which challenge management's allegedly biased use of Japan's two-track (general versus administrative) system in 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. While the Labor Standards Law prohibits employers from discriminating against women in wages, it does not ban disproportionate hiring into different career tracks based on gender. A 1994 Ministry of Labor report noted that the average wage of women workers is less than 60 percent of that of men and that women account for only 4.1 percent of management posts in the country. An increasing number of women have filed discrimination suits and have protested unfair hiring practices of Japanese firms. Public awareness of discrimination against women and sexual harassment in the workplace has increased. A growing number of government entities are establishing hot lines 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. Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, often may go 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. Recent immigration trends reflect the growing problem of trafficking of Asian women to Japan. While the number of illegal male workers has decreased from its peak in November 1992, the number of illegal female workers continued to increase. Human rights groups estimate that over 60 percent of illegal female immigrants work in occupations involving prostitution. The Government is working to reduce the foreign prostitution problem by enforcing existing antiprostitution laws as well as provisions in the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act directed against anyone "encouraging a person to engage in illegal work." Over the past year, police, especially in Tokyo, have conducted a number of sweeps against both foreign prostitutes and their employers. In August 1993, the Japanese Prime Minister officially acknowledged and apologized for the former Imperial government's involvement in the Japanese army's practice of forcing an estimated 200,000 women (including Koreans, Filipinos, Chinese, Indonesians, Burmese, Dutch, and Japanese) to provide sex to soldiers between 1932 and 1945. Current plans by the Government to atone for these abuses do not include direct government compensation to surviving "comfort women." Two cases are pending in Tokyo District Court--one brought by 3 Korean plaintiffs and the other by 18 Filipino plaintiffs--seeking compensation for these abuses, but a decision in these cases is likely to take years. Children In general the rights of children are adequately protected. In recent years, however, more attention has been paid to the problem of severe bullying, or "ijime," involving verbal or physical abuse in middle and high schools. Over 10,000 serious cases of ijime are reported to the Ministry of Education annually, although human rights organizations estimate that the true number of such incidents is much higher. In 1993, 92 children under the age of 14 committed suicide, many apparently in response to ijime. In an effort to cope with ijime, as well as with other children's issues, the Ministry of Justice established the Office of Ombudsman for Children's Rights in August 1994. Indigenous People The Ainu, a Caucasoid people descended from the first inhabitants of Japan, 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-scale farming. A law passed in 1899, the Former Aborigines Protection Act, left the Ainu with only about 15 percent of their original landholdings. Ainu leaders 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 been largely moribund. A milestone was reached on October 13, 1994, when a Sapporo district court defined the Ainu as a minority group. However, in November the Ainu failed in their attempt to obtain a court ruling that they are an indigenous people with special land, fishing, and cultural rights. In July Shigeru Kayano became the first Ainu member of the Diet when he gained a seat in the House of Councilors. Kayano declared his intent to promote Ainu rights legislation in the Parliament, but immediate progress appears unlikely. 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 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 safeguards against discrimination, Korean permanent residents (most of whom were born, raised, and educated in Japan and who are estimated to number approximately 700,000) are still subject to various forms of deeply entrenched social discrimination. In 1994, as Japanese concerns over North Korea's suspected nuclear development program grew, verbal and physical attacks escalated against pro-North Korean sympathizers until tensions decreased in midyear. Between April and July, over 120 such incidents--mostly targeting Korean school students--were alleged by the pro-North Korea Chosen Soren Residents' Association. The Ministry of Justice acknowledged 42 attacks on Korean students as "human rights violations" as of June. The Government in 1993 halted the fingerprinting of permanent foreign residents. (A Korean alien resident of Japan who lost her permanent resident status because of her refusal to be fingerprinted won an appeal to the Fukuoka High Court after the law was repealed.) Instead of fingerprinting, 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 current law leaves intact the requirement that all foreign residents must carry alien registration certificates at all times. 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. 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 has issued a law to prevent housing discrimination against foreigners. There have also been efforts by the central and local governments to disseminate 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. In the first court test of Japan's antidiscrimination laws, in September a second-generation Korean nurse sued the Tokyo metropolitan government on the grounds that she had been refused consideration for promotion because she is not Japanese. At year's end the case was still pending. 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 choose not to apply for citizenship, in part due to fears that their cultural identity would thereby be lost. De facto obstacles to naturalization include broad discretion available to adjudicating officers and great emphasis on Japanese language ability. The Immigration Bureau of the Justice Ministry estimates that, as of May 1994, there were 293,800 foreign nationals residing illegally in Japan, a decrease of 1.6 percent from the previous year. Many are laborers from Southeast Asia, China, Iran, and South Korea. While many of Japan's illegally resident foreigners came in search of better-paying manufacturing and construction jobs, there are indications that these opportunities decreased during Japan's economic slowdown. Thus, more of the foreign workers are unemployed or marginally employed. Law enforcement sweeps against illegal foreign workers 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 been exploited. The Government has tried to reduce the inflow of illegal foreign workers by prosecuting employers. Recent revisions of the Immigration Law provide for penalties against 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 the Foreign Ministry, from 1982 to August 1994, Japan determined that 206 of 1,109 applicants met the required standard for asylum. 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. In March, in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) developed in Geneva in 1989 by participating nations to determine the refugee status of Indochinese asylum seekers, the Government changed its position on screening procedures for Vietnamese boat people--it will no longer conduct special screening procedures for newly arrived boat people and will treat them as it would all other illegal entrants to Japan. Strict administrative procedures contribute to the roughly 20-percent rate of approval of asylum applications. For example, appeals of initial denials are reviewed by a separate authority of the same body, and decisions are rarely overturned. Asylum seekers and some critics claim that the processing of asylum applications is not readily understandable, making it difficult for applicants to comply with government procedures. Also, 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. In an effort to make procedures clearer to applicants, the Government has revised the English-language pamphlet it distributes to those interested in the asylum process. People with Disabilities Japan has no national law protecting the rights of the disabled, including access and employment, but some prefectures and cities have enacted their own legislation addressing the issue. Despite growing awareness of the issue, access to public transportation, "mainstream" public education, and other facilities is often quite limited for the disabled in Japan. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association The right of workers to associate freely in unions is assured by the Constitution. Approximately 24 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 and was formed in 1989 through the merger of several confederations, 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. Most unions are involved in political activity as well as labor relations but are not controlled by political parties. Unions are active in international bodies, most notably the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and maintain extensive international contacts. The right to strike, implicit in the Constitution, is exercised. During 1993, 116,000 worker days were lost to strikes. Japanese laws prohibit retribution against strikers and are effectively enforced. Public employees do not have the right to strike, although they do have recourse to mediation and arbitration. The Government determines the pay of government employees based on a recommendation by the independent National Personnel Authority. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively The Constitution gives unions 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 adequate mechanisms exist for resolving such cases as do exist. A high-profile example still pending concerns the privatization of the national railway system in 1986. The East Japan Railway Company and some of the other private successor companies of the Japan National Railway refused to offer employment to thousands of former employees who were union members. Fourteen cases related to this matter have been filed with the Central Labor Commission. Two have been decided in favor of the workers but are under appeal by management, and the other 12 were still pending at year's end. 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. The Labor Inspection Division of the Ministry of Labor rigorously enforces child labor laws. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work The Minister of Labor or the Director of the Prefectural Labor Standards Office administratively determines minimum wages, 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 $6.25 (620 yen) per hour. The wage rates are sufficient to provide workers and their families with a decent living. Amendments to the Labor Standards Law provided for the phased reduction of maximum working hours in most industries from the 44-hour, 6-day workweek to 40 hours in 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 provides that workers may voice concerns over occupational safety and remove themselves from unsafe working conditions without jeopardizing their continued employment. (###)
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