Advocacy / Campaign

AJWRC’s Position on Japan’s Reply to the Commitee Against Torture


on Sep 16, 2008

The following article provides an outline of AJWRC’s position on the “Comments by the Government of Japan concerning the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture.”


AJWRC’s reply to the Comments Sent by the Japanese to the Commitee Against Torture

In late May, in response to the issues referred to in paragraphs 14, 15, 16 and 24 of the “Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee Against Torture,” the Government of Japan released the “Comments by the Government of Japan concerning the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture” (hereinafter, the “Comments”). The “Comments” have been provided by Japan as stipulated in the “Initial Report of Japan,” in which the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) requested that the Japanese government provide, within one year, information on its response to specific recommendations identified by CAT. AJWRC would like to address our position on the “Comments,” particularly focusing on paragraph 24, which concerns sexual and gender-based violence.

AJWRC warmly welcomes the CAT “Conclusions and Recommendations,” as we focus on eliminating all forms of human-rights abuses against women, and have called on the Japanese government to sincerely follow-up on the recommendations made in this report. On October 4, 2007, we submitted a petition, signed by 112 individuals and 30 organizations, calling for the development of a follow-up plan developed through consultation with interested parties and for a concrete response to the CAT request for information to be provided within a year. We are, however, very disappointed by the “Comments” and by the government’s reaction to the follow-up programs needed to realize the recommendations from CAT. As of yet, no NGOs have had the opportunity to either hear about the government’s follow-up plan or to express their views on the plan.

Furthermore, we are deeply disappointed not only with the process of Japan’s follow-up, but also with the content itself. In the “Conclusions and Recommendations,” CAT requested that the Government of Japan provide information about how the Covention Against Torture has been implemented, including detailed data, rather than an explanation of Japan’s domestic legal framework. However, in the comments provided to CAT, the government repeatedly responded to the recommendations with counterarguments expressing the same, long-held positions. This attitude toward the CAT recommendations may raise doubts about the sincerity of the Japanese government, which has promised to tackle human rights issues through discussions with civil societies and international organizations.

The Government of Japan’s comments on the issue of sex and gender-based violence (paragraph 24 of the CAT Conclusions and Recommendations, and paragraphs 19–23 of the “Comments by the Government of Japan”)

In paragraph 24 of the “Conclusions and Recommendations,” CAT pointed out the insufficiency of the redress and punitive measures taken by Japanese government for victims of sexual assault, considering in particular the victims of the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery (the so-called “Comfort Women”) during the Second World War. To prevent further violations of law, CAT recommended that the government provide education to address the discriminatory roots of sexual and gender-based violations, provide rehabilitative measures for the victims, and take steps to prevent impunity.

The Government of Japan, however, read a very narrow interpretation into the CAT recommendations, simply taking them as a criticism over the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery problem. In paragraphs 19–22 of the “Comments,” the government makes a long counterargument, only mentioning education in paragraph 23, and making no reference to either rehabilitative measures for victims of sexual and gender-based abuses or to effective measures to prevent impunity. This narrow understanding shows the Japanese government’s lack of awareness on issues of sexual and gender-based abuses.

In paragraphs 19–22 of the “Comments,” the Japanese government employed old arguments that “the Convention Against Torture [adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1984 and accessioned by the Government of Japan in 1999] does not apply retroactively to issues that arose before 1999 when the Convention came into force” and that “the government has already solved this problem through Asian Women’s Fund program.” We strongly feel that the government intentionally misinterpreted the CAT recommendations, because the “Conclusions and Recommendations” were written after investigating the Japanese government’s long-held positions on these issues.

In the “Conclusions and Recommendations,” CAT had concluded that the statute of limitations for acts amounting to torture could prevent investigation, prosecution, and punishment, and that moreover, the Asian Women’s Fund program was insufficient. The government’s counterarguments show us that they are far from being constructive about improving the human rights situation through discussions. More information is also required in paragraph 23, in which the government explains about general human rights education for public officials―despite the fact that they had been requested to provide information about whether they have provided education specifically to prevent sexual and gender-related violations. Furthermore, the explanation about the Asian Women’s Fund, which was dissolved in 2007, was completely unrelated.

In short, the “Comments” from the Japanese government do not fulfill the request from CAT for comprehensive information. The purpose was to ensure that the Government provide redress for violations of law and take effective measures to prevent sexual and gender-related violations.

We are deeply disappointed that the Japanese government, a year after the CAT recommendations were released, once again attempted to refute the CAT recommendations without any intention of either reviewing or improving the situation in Japan. In fact, it would have been a more fruitful year if the Government of Japan had began discussion with NGOs shortly after the “Conclusions and Recommendations” were released, in order to redress violations of law along with the CAT recommendations.

We would like to call on the government to pay particular attention to the CAT“General Comment No. 2: Implementation of article 2 by States Party”(CAT/C/GC/2/CPR.1/Rev.4), issued in November of 2007. In this general comment, CAT focused clearly on violence against particularly vulnerable groups, and requested that state parties provide information based on gender analysis.

It is indispensable for the government to discuss these issues and work together with international organizations and interested parties in order to respond to these recommendations properly. We request that the Government of Japan accept the “Conclusions and Recommendations” from CAT with sincerity, and once again request that the government immediately take the actions necessary to correct the violations of the Convention Against Torture.


For more information on the United Nations Committee Against Torture’s 2007 review of Japan, please see issue 19 of Voices from Japan.