Diplomatic Bluebook 2016

Chapter 3

Japan’s Foreign Policy to Promote National and Worldwide Interests

7.Human Rights

(1) Initiatives within the UN

A. UN Human Rights Council

The UN Human Rights Council was established in Geneva, Switzerland, in order to strengthen the UN’s ability to address human rights issues, as part of a movement toward mainstreaming human rights in the UN. The Human Rights Council holds sessions throughout the year (three regular sessions per year, lasting at least ten weeks in total), to discuss issues and make recommendations concerning the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Uto delivered a statement at the High Level Segment of the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in March, in which he referred to various changes in human rights situations around the world and the Government of Japan’s position on these changes. He also outlined Japan’s assistance to help improve the human rights situation in countries, including Sri Lanka and Myanmar, as well as its cooperation with the Human Rights Council. At the session, the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) that was co-tabled by Japan and the European Union (EU) was adopted by majority vote (for the eighth time for eight consecutive years). This resolution welcomes that the “Situations in the DPRK” was adopted as an agenda item for the first time at the UN Security Council in 2014. It also expects that the UN Security Council will continue to be actively involved in this issue. Furthermore, it welcomed the report presented by Mr. Marzuki Darusmam, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK, during the session, and decided to hold a panel discussion at the 30th session.

At the 29th session in June, Japan, on behalf of a core-group composed of Brazil, Estonia, Ethiopia, Morocco, Portugal and Romania, submitted the Resolution on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy and their Family Members, which was adopted unanimously. The resolution is intended for the Human Rights Council to discuss the issue of leprosy-related discrimination and to investigate effective methods for its elimination in order to protect the human rights of people throughout the world affected by leprosy and their family members who suffer from discrimination. This resolution was submitted for the first time in five years and the number of countries which co-sponsored the resolution was the largest (97 states) ever, exceeding that of the relevant resolutions submitted by Japan to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly.

At the 30th session in September, Japan, as the main sponsor, submitted the resolution to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur (delegated authority) on the situation of human rights in Cambodia. The resolution was co-sponsored by 27 countries and adopted unanimously. This resolution intends to ensure continuous assistance for the constructive efforts of the Government of Cambodia to improve the human rights situation in the country, and welcomes the progress made with regard to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. Also, the resolution extended by two years the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia.

During the session, a “Panel discussion on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, including the issue of international abductions, enforced disappearances and related matters” was held. The representative of the abductees’ families attended the panel discussion as a panelist from Japan. The representative of the Government of Japan also took part in the panel, called upon the DPRK to take concrete actions towards the improvements in the human rights situation in the DPRK, including the early resolution of the abductions issue.

Japan will continue to be actively engaged in discussions to resolve human rights issues in the international community.

B. The Third Committee of the UN General Assembly

The Third Committee of the UN General Assembly is, along with the Human Rights Council, the UN’s main forum focused on human rights. In October and November, the Committee discusses a wide range of issues, including social development, women, child, racial discrimination, refugees, crime prevention, and criminal justice, as well as the human rights situations in the DPRK, Syria, and Iran, among others. Resolutions adopted by the Third Committee are submitted to a plenary session of the General Assembly, contributing to the development of international norms.

Every year, since 2005, Japan and the EU have tabled the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK at the UN General Assembly. In 2015, Japan and the EU again tabled the resolution at the Third Committee of the 70th session of the General Assembly. It was adopted by 119 affirmative votes at plenary session in December, exceeding the number of affirmative votes in the previous year. The resolution is strong in its content for it is based on the last year’s UN General Assembly resolution, which reflected the content of the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK (COI), and on the Human Rights Council resolution of March. Specifically, along with the condemnation of the DPRK’s systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights as last year’s resolution, it encourages the UN Security Council to take appropriate action, including through the consideration of referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) of the situation in the DPRK and the scope for sanctions.

Japan also actively participated in discussions on the human rights situations in individual countries, such as Syria, Iran, and Myanmar, as well as discussions on various human rights issues (social development and the rights of the child etc.). In addition, as it has done previously, Japan dispatched a female representative of a Japanese NGO to serve as the Alternate Representative of Japan at the Third Committee of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly.

(2) Initiatives Concerning International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law

A. International Human Rights Law

On January 20, 2014, Japan ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention provides measures that state parties should undertake in order to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as to promote respect for the inherent dignity of persons with disabilities. Following the acceptance of the Convention in 2007, the Act for Eliminating Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities will come into force in April 2016, as part of the enhancement of legal frameworks for persons with disabilities, ahead of the Convention’s ratification. It is anticipated that the adoption of the Convention will further strengthen efforts to secure the rights of persons with disabilities in Japan, and furthermore, will promote international cooperation regarding respect for human rights.

The Government’s reports on the status of the implementation of the various human rights conventions in Japan are regularly examined, with reference to the provisions of the relevant conventions. In March, the Government of Japan submitted to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights the additional information and comments regarding the recommendations made in the concluding observations on the third periodic report of Japan, adopted by the Committee in 2013. In August, the Government submitted to the Human Rights Committee the additional information and comments in response to the request of the Committee for relevant information on the implementation of the specific recommendations made in 2014 in the concluding observations of the Committee on the sixth periodic report of Japan.

B. International Humanitarian Law

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) dispatched the government delegation to a series of international conferences on International Humanitarian Law in Geneva (Switzerland) in April and December, contributing to the international discussions on strengthening the implementation of International Humanitarian Law. At the international conference in December, Japan and the Japanese Red Cross Society submitted a joint pledge on dissemination of international humanitarian law. Moreover, as part of its efforts to promote awareness and understanding of international humanitarian law, MOFA dispatched a lecturer to the International Humanitarian Law Moot Court Competition, held by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

(3) Initiatives Undertaken via Bilateral Dialogue

In addition to initiatives within the UN and other multilateral frameworks, Japan regards bilateral dialogues as a priority, in order to protect and promote human rights. The third Japan-Myanmar human rights dialogue was held in February (in Naypyidaw), the seventh Japan-Cambodia human rights dialogue was held in August (Phnom Penh), and the 21st Japan-EU human rights dialogue took place in October (as a video conference). In addition to outlining their respective initiatives in the field of human rights, the participants in these dialogues exchanged opinions concerning cooperation in multilateral forums such as the UN.

(4) Contribution to Refugees Issues

Japan started accepting refugees from Myanmar under a resettlement program (which is defined as the selection and transfer of refugees from the country in which they have sought protection to a third country that admits them as refugees with a permanent residence status). This is part of a pilot project that was launched in FY2010 (initially intended to run for three years, but extended for another two in 2012), in order to make an international contribution and provide humanitarian aid.

In January 2014, the Cabinet approved the ongoing acceptance of such refugees from FY2015 as a formal program, rather than a pilot project, and agreed to admit Myanmarese refugees from Malaysia and reunite families from Thailand, by allowing the resettlement of eligible relatives of those already resettled in Japan. To date, 105 people from 24 families have come to Japan under this program, including the pilot project.

Refugees under the resettlement program transfer to accommodation facilities after arriving at Narita International Airport (September 29; Photo: Refugee Assistance Headquarters)Refugees under the resettlement program transfer to accommodation facilities after arriving at Narita International Airport
(September 29; Photo: Refugee Assistance Headquarters)

Until now, the main destinations for refugees accepted for resettlement were Western countries, and Japan is the first Asian Country to accept resettled refugees. Accordingly, Japan has attracted both high praise and high hopes from the international community in regard to its proactive efforts to address refugee issues. Amid a recent increase in the number of applicants seeking refugee status in Japan, we are continuing our efforts to provide finely tuned support to those who truly need it.