Statement by Mr. Ryuji Yamane
Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
High-level Segment of the Human Rights Council, Nineteenth Session

28 February 2012


Madam President,
Madam High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am extremely honored to make a statement at the Human Rights Council on behalf of the Government of Japan. I should first like to pay tribute to Her Excellency Ambassador Laura Dupuy Lasserre for her great leadership in discharging the heavy responsibilities as President of the Council. I would also like to commend the vigorous activities being carried out around the world by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Madam Navanethem Pillay, and her Office.

Madam President,

Allow me to express my sincere appreciation for the warm support extended to us from many countries when the Great East Japan Earthquake inflicted immense damage on our country almost a year ago on 11 March 2011. The Japanese Government is doing its utmost for recovery and reconstruction from the disaster. The Earthquake made us realise how blessed we are to live in a splendid society where whose members are able to maintain self-discipline and to help one another even in the midst of a national catastrophe.

Madam President,

Over the years, the international society has continued to make various efforts to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms which are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as universal values. I wish to stress in this connection the importance of not just political reforms but economic and social reforms in building a stable and democratic country that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms. Japan shall continue to support peoples who seek freedom and democracy.

Madam President,

The past year witnessed wide-ranging changes in many parts of the world from the viewpoint of human rights, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. The tidal wave of the “Arab Spring” swept away long-standing governments in Tunisia and Egypt. Libya also experienced a change in the political regime.

However, in Syria, an undemocratic and inhumane situation persists, where thousands of deaths have resulted from severe repression. The international community needs to take coordinated action with utmost urgency. The Human Rights Council has been responding in a suitable manner, such as the holding of the Urgent Debate this morning. For its part, Japan shall continue whatever diplomatic efforts possible for a solution, in collaboration with the international community. I personally attended the Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis on 24 February as the Japanese government representative and reiterated our call to the Syrian government to halt the violence immediately. Also, in light of the deteriorating humanitarian situation, Japan has decided to provide USD 3 million in emergency grant aid for Syria.

Turning to Asia, Myanmar has made significant progress towards democratisation and national reconciliation. Japan highly regards the recent release of many political prisoners and ceasefire agreements with groups of ethnic minority insurgents as representing substantial progress. Henceforth, it is important for Myanmar to hold a free and fair by-election in April and to enable all those concerned, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to conduct political activities freely. Mr Koichiro Gemba, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, visited Myanmar at the end of December last year. In his meeting with President Thein Sein, he conveyed Japan’s high regard for the efforts by the Government of Myanmar in promoting democratisation and national reconciliation, and Japan’s intention to continue supporting such reform efforts by Myanmar. Japan considers it highly important that the entire international community, including the Human Rights Council assist Myanmar to further advance efforts in the country towards democratisation and national reconciliation as well as to improve the human rights situation.

By contrast, challenges remain in the same Asian region with regard to the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. In particular, the widespread and systematic violations of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) have been underscored in the objective reports by the UN Secretary General and the Special Rapporteur. It is deeply regrettable that the dire human rights situation in the DPRK, such as in the political concentration camps called "Kwanliso", persists despite the repeated expressions of concern from the international community. So far as the DPRK’s cooperation with international human rights mechanisms is concerned, it is truly regrettable that the DPRK has failed to implement a single recommendation it received during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) working group session in 2009, and that the DPRK has consistently failed to allow the Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in the DPRK to enter its territory.

The DPRK has also persisted in its failure to address with sincerity the abduction issue, which is an egregious violation of fundamental human rights and a matter of importance to the entire international community. Seventeen Japanese nationals, including a then thirteen-year-old girl were abducted by DPRK intelligence agents. Twelve of them have yet to return. In addition to these victims who are formally recognised as abductees by the Japanese Government, there are many more cases of missing persons on which the possibility of abductions cannot be ruled out. This is the tenth year since DPRK’s admission in 2002 of the abduction of Japanese nationals. However, the DPRK has failed to conduct the reinvestigation it promised in 2008, and there has been no progress on this issue.

In the light of these circumstances, Japan and the EU will jointly submit to this session of the Human Rights Council a resolution to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK. Japan hopes to gain broad support on this resolution, so that the international community sends a clear message to the DPRK.

Madam President,

The role and the importance of the Human Rights Council in protecting human rights in the international community continues to increase. The Council must organise itself in a practical and effective manner so as to enable itself to meet the expectations from the international society. Since the establishment of the Council in 2006, Japan has actively contributed to the work of the Council and to enhancing its functioning, including an active role during the Human Rights Council Review.

The UPR is a meaningful mechanism through which each country is persuaded to improve its own human rights situation through dialogue with member countries and cooperation with the international community. Japan is paying close attention to the second cycle of reviews starting from June this year, and intends to do everything possible to make the UPR an effective tool of the Council. Moreover, Japan will work earnestly on its own second review to be held later this year.

Madam President,

Human rights treaties also play an extremely important role in each country. Japan is making sincere efforts for the effective implementation of the treaties it has concluded. Last July, Japan submitted its government report on the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to the OHCHR. On gender equality, the government formulated the Third Basic Plan for Gender Equality in December 2010 and has strengthened efforts to bring about a gender-equal society in various fields. Last August, the government provided follow-up information requested by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the latter’s concluding observations on Japan’s State Report. This information was well received by the Committee. Japan shall continue earnestly to address recommendations by human rights treaty bodies and suggestions from the international community, and thereby protect and promote all forms of human rights.

One area of new initiatives by the Japanese government is the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities. The Amended Basic Law for Persons with Disabilities was approved on 29 July 2011 after vigorous and intensive discussions held with the participation of disabled persons. The purpose of the amended law is to bring about a “society in which all citizens live in harmony by respecting each other’s character and individual personalities, regardless of whether or not they have disabilities”. The Japanese Government shall continue to prepare its domestic mechanisms swiftly so as to enable it to conclude the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Madam President,

There is no end of the road concerning the protection and promotion of human rights. The entire community of nations needs to make persistent and sustained efforts. Human rights are a matter of legitimate concern to the international society. The Human Rights Council is expected to play an important international role in the area of human rights. During its tenure as a Council member, Japan continued to attach importance in the conduct of diplomacy to universal values such as human rights and democracy. It has made positive contributions to the protection and promotion of human rights through such means as nation-building support and technical assistance. Japan is standing the election this year in order to serve again on the Council from 2013, with the aim of contributing further to improving human rights situations around the world. I strongly hope that Japan’s efforts thus far at home and abroad shall be well recognised and Japan will enjoy support from as many Members States as possible.

I thank you for your kind attention.

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