Statement by Mr. Ikuo Yamahana
Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
High-level Segment of the Human Rights Council
at Its Sixteenth Session
and Mid-term progress update by Japan on its implementation of recommendations agreed in May 2008
March 1, 2011
Madam High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor for me to speak before the Human Rights Council on behalf of the Government of Japan. I should first like to commend His Excellency Ambassador Sihasak, for his superb leadership as the President of the Council in this fifth anniversary year of its establishment, a true milestone. I should also like to express appreciation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Madam Pillay, and her office, for their dedicated efforts around the world.
At the outset of my statement, I have to touch upon the situation in the Middle East and North Africa. We have observed serious human rights violations including violence against peaceful demonstrations in the region. We reaffirm that it is essential for governments to lend their ears to their citizens and to exert continuous efforts to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.
In this regard, the Government of Japan expresses serious concern over the situation in Libya, in which a large number of people have been killed or injured, and strongly condemns the use of flagrant violence by the Libyan authorities against the people of Libya. The resolution adopted at the Special Session of the Human Rights Council last week as well as UN Security Council Resolution 1970 represent a clear global message to the Libyan authorities. The Government of Japan strongly urges the Libyan authorities including Leader Muammar Al Qadhafi to observe these resolutions, to immediately halt the violence against the people of Libya, and to fully respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Human Rights Council has an increasingly important role in ensuring that human rights are guaranteed in the international community. As a member of the Human Rights Council since its establishment, Japan is actively engaged in its activities. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is one of its main accomplishments, and represents a tool which defines the Council. Japan welcomes that the outcome of the Review of the Council was agreed upon last week, according to which States are encouraged to provide a midterm update on its follow-up of the UPR recommendations which they have accepted session.
In this vein, Japan has given serious consideration to the outcome of its own UPR session of May 2008. It has now voluntarily published its follow-up status, as presented here in front of you. We hope to see all countries taking voluntary follow-up actions in order to continue improving their human rights situations.
Allow me to touch on some specific efforts Japan is undertaking, including those listed in the follow-up document.
To begin with, we will further commit ourselves to the implementation of international human rights treaties. In April last year, the government created a Division for Implementation of Human Rights Treaties in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for this purpose. Japan is following up on the recommendations it received from treaty bodies and is giving serious consideration as to whether or not to accept individual communications procedures.
Among the broad range of areas in which we are taking new initiatives is the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities. The Japanese government recently established a Headquarters to Promote Reform of the System for Persons with Disabilities, and is presently engaged in intensive discussions, with the participation of disabled persons, on issues including an amendment of the Basic Law for Persons with Disabilities. The Japanese government is developing its internal structures promptly so as to conclude the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Japan is also stepping up its efforts to realize a gender-equal society. In December last year, the Cabinet approved the Third Basic Plan for Gender Equality as an effective action plan by laying out 15 priority fields and 82 performance objectives. The entire government is working cohesively to carry out this plan and it aims to increase the share of women in leadership positions to at least 30 percent by 2020 through specific “positive actions” and other measures.
It is crucially important to provide a proper education to future generations. Last year, the Japanese government made high school tuition free of charge, and is working to increase the scope of scholarships and tuition exemptions it grants university students. This is to ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to receive the kind of education to which they aspire, and thereby to enhance their potential.
The Japanese government is also seriously engaged in the issue of international child abduction. With the best interests of children in mind, the government aims to reach a decision as early as possible on the possibility of concluding the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. To this effect, relevant ministries and agencies are working closely and are also taking into account a broad range of views.
In his recent policy speech, Minister for Foreign Affairs Seiji Maehara stated that “it is important that human rights and fundamental freedoms as universal values are secured in every nation and region of the world as well as in Japan,” and that Japan “will continue making efforts to promote them in various frameworks including the United Nations and bilateral human rights dialogues.”
Japan attaches great importance to “dialogue and cooperation” in conducting human-rights diplomacy. This stance is consistent with the underlying principles of the Human Rights Council, and the UPR is also a system which reflects this idea. Unfortunately however, the UPR alone is insufficient in order to address serious human rights violations which occur around the world. Special Procedures are an indispensable mechanism which complements the UPR, and vice versa. Japan has so far fully cooperated with the Special Procedures, and has now decided to extend an official Standing Invitation to all thematic mandate-holders.
While addressing the importance of the Special Procedures, we must refer to the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The DPRK’s widespread and systemic violations of human rights have been brought to light in objective reports by the U.N. Secretary General and the Special Rapporteur. It is truly regrettable that the DPRK failed to accept even a single one of the 167 recommendations it received at its UPR working group session in 2009. This was despite the fact that the international community had repeatedly expressed its concerns over the dire human rights situation there prior to its Review.
The DPRK has not addressed the abduction issue which is also a matter of international concern. DPRK agents have abducted a number of Japanese citizens, including a then thirteen year old girl. Although the DPRK authorities agreed to conduct a new investigation into the abduction issue, they have since failed to fulfill its commitment for over two and a half years.
Given this situation, Japan, together with the EU, will submit a resolution during this present session to extend the mandate for the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK. The purpose is to continue monitoring the human rights situation in the DPRK through the Special Rapporteur and to continue raising international awareness of this serious issue. We strongly hope to obtain broad support so as to send a clear message to the DPRK from the international community.
Japan greatly welcomes that the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance entered into force in December last year. This is significant since the Convention obliges states to ensure that enforced disappearance constitutes a punishable criminal offence and thereby deters such crimes from being committed in the future. Aiming to take a leading role on this issue, Japan has nominated Professor Kimio Yakushiji as a candidate in the election of the first members of the Committee on Enforced Disappearance. We strongly hope that Professor Yakushiji is elected and greatly contributes to the Committee’s activities.
Japan has also been actively engaged in international initiatives to eliminate discrimination against persons affected by leprosy. We welcome the unanimous adoption last year, at the General Assembly following that at the Human Rights Council, of a resolution encouraging each government to give due consideration to the Principles and Guidelines as a means to eliminate such discrimination. We hope that further consideration will be given to the guidelines, and that human rights violations against persons affected by leprosy and their family members will cease to exist as soon as possible.
There is no end to the protection and promotion of human rights. Tireless and sustained efforts are required on the part of the entire international community. Japan’s term as a Human Rights Council member will end this summer, but it is standing as a candidate in the 2012 election in the hope of contributing further to the international efforts to improve human rights situations around the world. We hope that our contribution at home and abroad is well appreciated and that Japan receives support from as many nations as possible.
I thank you, Mr. President.
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