Statement by Ms. Chinami Nishimura,
Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
High-level Segment of the Human Rights Council at Its Thirteenth Session

March 3, 2010

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

First of all, I express my deepest sympathy and condolences to the people and the Government of the Republic of Chile for those affected by the devastating earthquake which occurred on February 27.

It is my great honor to speak before the Human Rights Council on behalf of the Government of Japan. I would like to commend His Excellency Ambassador Van Meeuwen for his leadership as the President of the Council. We would also like to express our appreciation to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Madam Pillay, and her Office, for their contributions.

Mr. President,

Since last September, the Japanese new administration has actively engaged in all areas of UN activities including human rights. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly immediately after his appointment, confirmed the importance he places on the United Nations. In doing so, he stated his conviction that Japan had the capacity to play an even greater role in the United Nations as a "bridge" among the various countries, and explained the concept of yu-ai, or fraternity, which resonates with the concept of the "bridge." This yu-ai is a way of thinking that respects one's own freedom and individual dignity while also respecting the freedom and individual dignity of others. We intend to actively promote human rights diplomacy based on this way of thinking.

Mr. President,

As a member of the Council since its establishment, Japan has engaged in human rights issues that are the concern of the international community, and will continue to spare no effort to enable the Council to meet expectations in fulfilling its role.

This year is a highly important year for the Council as we move toward next year which will mark the fifth year since the establishment of the Council. And, next year we will review the Council and we expect active discussions in the review process. The foremost objective of the review is to strengthen the functions of the Council so that it will be able to conduct activities that contribute to the actual improvement of human rights situations, in particular so that it can tackle serious violations of human rights effectively and expeditiously. We intend to work together with other countries to bring our best ideas on this matter.

We consider the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) a useful means for each country to retrace its domestic human rights situation and to gain suggestions for improvement through an exchange of opinions at home as well as dialogue with other countries. We have made efforts to enhance the effectiveness of the UPR, for example, when necessary, by having a preliminary dialogue with the country to be reviewed. We will continue to participate actively in the discussions in order to find ways to further improve the operation, including the follow-up, of the UPR.

Special Procedures perform an important and indispensible role as the Council deals effectively with various issues concerning human rights in the international community. This process, where a Special Rapporteur, Independent Expert, or Working Group investigates the human rights situation of a country, region, or theme, and reports to the Council, is highly effective in making use of their expertise and neutrality to elicit commitments toward the improvement of the human rights situations in the countries concerned. We believe that the UPR and the Special Procedures should continue to play mutually reinforcing roles.

Mr. President,

Human rights are universal values; their protection and promotion are the first and foremost obligation of the state. In light of this principle, when improving the human rights situation of each country, it is also necessary to take into consideration the specific circumstances of the individual country or region as well as its particular historical, cultural and religious background.

In this context, Japan welcomes the increasing awareness of human rights issues in the Asian region, which has achieved impressive economic growth in recent decades. We highly value the ASEAN Charter, which stipulates the importance of human rights. We also welcome the establishment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights as well as the efforts toward democracy in the region under last year's Bali Democracy Forum, where Prime Minister Hatoyama served as co-chair. We will continue to actively and constructively engage in improving human rights situations, while taking into consideration the specific circumstances of individual countries.

Mr. President,

Although the international community as a whole is redoubling efforts on human rights, regrettably, human rights violations have not disappeared from the face of the Earth.
For example, systematic and widespread human rights violations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) have been pointed out by objective reports of the Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur. The international community has expressed its deep concerns through the adoption of the resolutions concerning the human rights situation in the DPRK at the United Nations and other means.

Moreover, despite repeated recommendations from other countries, the DPRK has not sincerely addressed the abduction issue, which is a global concern. In my constituency in Niigata Prefecture, several Japanese citizens including a thirteen-year-old girl were abducted by DPRK agents. Although the DPRK agreed to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the abduction issue, it has not fulfilled the commitment for more than a year and a half.

In addressing a case like this in which a serious violation of human rights continues, it is imperative that the international community use all available means. To this end, it is necessary to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK, to continue to track the human rights situation in the DPRK, and to draw the attention of the international community.

Mr. President,

Prime Minister Hatoyama stated the following in his policy speech at the 174th Session of the Diet: "As a responsibility of the international community, we must secure for the world's children lives in which everyone can drink clean water, be free from discrimination and prejudice, enjoy protection of human rights and receive basic education."

In this regard, last November, the Convention on the Rights of the Child celebrated its twentieth anniversary of adoption at the United Nations General Assembly. Implementing the Convention is an important responsibility of the international community, including Japan. The periodic report that the Government of Japan submitted in accordance with the Convention and the two Optional Protocols will be reviewed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in May this year and we look forward to a constructive exchange of opinions with the Committee. Japan will also hold a symposium in Tokyo on March 26th, inviting a UN official and expert from overseas to discuss recommendations to promote "respect and protection of the rights of the child". We will continue to strive to implement the Convention nationwide and eliminate relative poverty of the child..

From the viewpoint of eliminating discrimination and prejudice, Japan actively deals with the issue of leprosy. Although leprosy is a curable disease today, persons affected by leprosy and their family members are still subject to serious human rights violations in various parts of the world due to discrimination and prejudice based on misunderstandings. It is with this in mind that Japan is seeking to develop principles and guidelines for the elimination of discrimination against leprosy through such means as being the main sponsor for the relevant resolutions of the Human Rights Council. Japan will continue to take a leading role on this issue in the international community.

Mr. President,

The ceaseless efforts of every country are necessary for the protection and promotion of human rights. Last July, Japan became a State Party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Japan also underwent the examinations on its country reports based on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in July last year and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination last month. We will follow up recommendations made by the Committees on these Conventions. We will also maintain and reinforce dialogue and cooperation with the United Nations including the Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the Human Rights Council. Furthermore, we are currently working on studies aimed at the establishment of a national human rights institution, which, independent of the government, would deal with human rights infringements and remedy the situation as quickly as possible.

There is no final destination in the protection and promotion of human rights. It goes without saying that there is a need for perseverance and endurance. We intend to continue to actively engage in and contribute to the Human Rights Council, and we have officially decided to stand as a candidate in the 2012 election for the Human Rights Council. We hope that many countries value our efforts thus far and will support our candidacy.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

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