The Japan Federation of Bar Associations expressed concerns Friday that people’s personal rights have been suffering from growing restrictions in the name of counter-crime and antiterrorism measures at the conclusion of its 50th two-day annual human rights meeting in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, various policies have been proposed or implemented in Japan in order to prevent terrorism and crimes, the federation said in its declaration adopted at the meeting, citing the planned conspiracy legislation and upcoming introduction of mandatory fingerprinting and photographing of visitors aged 16 or older on Nov. 20.”These measures would allow law enforcement authorities to collect personal information so they can put individual lives and thoughts under surveillance,” the declaration noted. “This will cause infringement on privacy and freedom of speech and expression.”The conspiracy bill, if enacted, will enable investigative authorities to recognize conspiracy as a crime, even when a conspiracy is not acted upon, while the fingerprinting and photographing aim to block the entry into Japan of individuals designated as terrorists by the justice minister.The government initially submitted the conspiracy bill to the Diet in 2003 as a measure to curb organized crime as well as terrorism, saying the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime that Japan signed in December 2000 requires signatory nations to set up conspiracy charges.The bill has been repeatedly scrapped due to resistance from opposition parties and civic organizations, who claim that punishing mere discussions would mean suppression of freedom of thought and expression, although the government has not yet given up its enactment.The new immigration control system has also been criticized by the federation and human rights campaigners as discriminating against foreigners by marking them as possible terrorists.Stirred by the public perception that peace and order in Japan are deteriorating, installation of surveillance cameras on streets has been promoted, while residents in a community have been involved in patrolling together with police forces in order to make the community tough against crimes, the federation pointed out.Such moves “are likely to lead to denial of diversity and tolerance in a community and to bring about its breakup,” the declaration said.”Needless to say we have to create a society that does not prompt terrorism and crimes… but we should realize cohabitation of all people by guaranteeing them human rights, not by excluding foreigners and minorities, in order to terminate terrorism and crime as poverty, discrimination and lack of democracy are sometimes behind them,” the declaration said.Based on such recognitions, the largest lawyers’ group in Japan urged the government in the declaration to drop the conspiracy bill and review the immigration control while seeking restrictions on excessive uses of police powers.Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.