Summary of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations' Report on the Application and Practice in Japan of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

By Nibe, Masaki | Social Justice, Summer 1994 | Go to article overview

Summary of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations' Report on the Application and Practice in Japan of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights


Nibe, Masaki, Social Justice


The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) published two reports on the application and practice in Japan of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1991 and 1993, respectively. The 1993 report incorporates the 1991 version and consists of three parts, treating criminal process (Part One), the rights of foreigners, women, the handicapped, children, and legal aid (Part Two), and supplementary descriptions (Part Three). Part Three was prepared mainly for the purpose of providing opinions that counter the Japanese government's periodic national report of December 1991 and supplementing the 1991 JFBA report (Part One). The following is a summary of the 1993 report. The 271-page main report and this summary were translated into English from the original Japanese by Professor Makitaro Hotta of the Faculty of International Relations at Ritsumeikan University.

Part One

1. Introduction

1. Organization and Activities of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations

One of the main activities of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) and its local bar associations (52 in all) lies in the protection of human rights. That purpose is specifically provided for in the Lawyers Act. In the JFBA, committees such as the Human Rights Committee and Criminal Defense Center were established for the protection of human rights.

Recently, the JFBA has engaged in activities such as submitting its opinions to international organizations, promoting ratification of United Nations treaties, and introducing and disseminating international standards of human rights.

This report, drafted as part of JFBA's activities, constitutes a contrasting viewpoint to that contained in the Japanese government's report, which was submitted on December 16, 1991, to the Secretary General of the United Nations according to Article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

2. Practice and Application of the Covenant in Japan

The Japanese government has ratified the Covenant and stated to the Human Right Committee that the treaty would take priority over domestic legislation. It also stated that Japanese courts would render judgments applying the treaty directly to cases. However, the government has in fact taken the contrary position in court cases when the government has been sued as the defendant. There has been no case in which a Japanese court has given a judgment based on the Covenant i n favor of an individual plaintiff, even in cases where the Covenant was clearly violated.

Section 2: Realities of the Criminal Process

1. Incorrect Verdicts and Torture in Postwar Japan

After World War II, Japan substantially reformed its criminal procedure under the new Constitution and established rules of criminal evidence such as the absolute prohibition of torture and the inadmissibility of confessions that were illegally obtained by torture. However, there have been many cases where false criminal charges were involved, pursuant to which many death penalties were imposed. In a series of retrials, four prisoners who had been sentenced to death were acquitted.

In these cases, confessions obtained through torture and other maltreatment at the hands of the police led to erroneous indictments and incorrect verdicts. Coerced confessions, false confessions, and baseless prosecutions and trials are still seen today. The following descriptions probe into these criminal practices in Japan, which violate international standards, such as those provided by the ICCPR.

2. The Death Penalty and Reopened Cases (Articles 6, 7, and 10)

Four prisoners sentenced to death were acquitted in a series of reopened cases: Mr. Sakae Menda in the Menda case, Mr. Sigeyoshi Taniguchi in the Saitagawa case, Mr. Yukio Saitoh in the Matsuyama case, and Mr. Masao Akabori in the Shimada case. They had been under sentence of death in their respective confinements for periods ranging from 10,400 to 12,600 days.

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