Last Updated: Monday, 30 November 2015, 06:42 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2002 - Japan

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2002
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2002 - Japan , 28 May 2002, available at: [accessed 30 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Covering events from January-December 2001

Head of government:
Koizumi Junichiro (replaced Mori Yoshiro in April)
Capital: Tokyo
Population: 127.3 million
Official language: Japanese
Death penalty: retentionist

There were two executions and more than 100 prisoners remained under sentence of death. Prisoners and pre-trial detainees continued to be ill-treated and arbitrarily punished under a harsh prison regime. The refugee recognition system remained secretive and arbitrary and failed to meet international standards as set out under the UN Refugee Convention.


Koizumi Junichiro was appointed Prime Minister in April. The ruling coalition secured 78 of 121 seats contested in Upper House elections in July. The new government planned reforms to reverse long-term economic decline.

For the first time since 1945, legislative amendments passed by the Diet in October allowed the armed forces greater scope to participate in international conflicts. In September, the Prime Minister's Office initiated an Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Bill, aimed at widening the scope of operations by the defence forces, the Self Defence Forces (SDF), in foreign territories; strengthening international cooperation in gathering information on "terrorism"; and restricting the entry of immigrants and monitoring of immigrants, including asylum-seekers. The authorities appeared to adopt a policy targeting specific groups on the basis of their nationality. Many Afghan asylum-seekers were reportedly detained and questioned from September, apparently in anticipation of the Bill's enactment.

Death penalty

At least 10 death sentences were passed. Two executions were carried out. Asakura Koujiro and Hasegawa Toshihiko were executed in December. Asakura Koujiro, 66 years old, was executed in Tokyo Detention Centre and Hasegawa Toshihiko was executed in Nagoya Detention Centre. At least 118 prisoners remained on death row.

Conditions on death row remained cruel, inhuman or degrading. Many prisoners had been held in solitary confinement for a decade or more, with limited contact with the outside world and no contact with other prisoners. They remained at risk of execution at only a few hours' notice and denied the opportunity of contacting relatives or lawyers.

Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

By the end of 2001 Japan had not submitted its initial report to the UN Committee against Torture, due in July 2000 and a requirement following its accession to the UN Convention against Torture in 1999.

Ill-treatment of prisoners

The Daiyo Kangoku system of pre-trial detention, which had been criticized by the UN Human Rights Committee, continued. Suspects may be held up to 23 days in police detention and interrogated for lengthy periods. There were no legal regulations governing police interrogation procedures and no access to court-appointed lawyers for suspects before they were charged. Many detainees were allegedly misled into believing they would be freed on admission of guilt, and convictions were frequently based on improperly induced confessions.


Of the 353 people who applied for asylum, 26 were recognized as refugees and 67 were granted special permission for residence. The refugee recognition process remained arbitrary; rejections were not fully explained and did not take into account risks faced by asylum-seekers if deported. There were reports of ill-treatment of asylum-seekers, including the denial of access to medical care, in immigration detention centres, where many were detained for long periods.

  • Nine Afghan men who had applied for refugee status between August and September were detained in Tokyo Detention Bureau on 3 October. Their applications for temporary release were assigned to the Tokyo District Court. In November Judge Fujiyama Masayuki, sitting in District Court Section 3, suspended the implementation of the detention order on five of the group whose appeal was heard in his court, and they were released after 40 days of detention. For the first time, a judge in a Japanese court had given precedence to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees over Japanese immigration laws. However, this decision was subsequently overturned by the Tokyo High Court on 28 November. The five were subsequently diagnosed as suffering from acute traumatic stress disorder. The other four asylum-seekers had their applications turned down by Tokyo District Court Section 2, and their appeals to revoke a written detention order were rejected by the Tokyo High Court. The four were detained at the East Japan Immigration Centre in Ibaragi Prefecture. The Immigration Bureau issued a notice of refusal of refugee status to all nine on 26 November.
Private security staff attached to the Landing Prevention Facility (LPF) in Narita International Airport reportedly abused detainees held there. Many potential asylum-seekers were among those detained and were often deported after being denied adequate access to lawyers and information about refugee determination procedures. Detainees were held virtually incommunicado in windowless rooms.
  • Hasan Cikan, a Kurdish refugee detained in the LPF after he declared his intention to apply for refugee status, only escaped deportation because his family contacted a lawyer and human rights organizations. They ensured that evidence that he was at risk of further political imprisonment in Turkey was considered.

Former President of Peru Alberto Fujimori, who resigned his presidency and remained in Japan after a visit in November 2000, was formally charged with murder before the Supreme Court of Justice in Peru in September. He was alleged to be jointly responsible for the murder of 15 people in 1991 at Barrios Altos, Lima, and the "disappearance" and murder of nine students and a university professor in Lima in 1992. The Japanese government, in apparent recognition of his Japanese nationality, said that requests for his extradition would be refused. By the end of 2001, the Japanese government had not adopted a clear position on its responsibilities under the UN Convention against Torture to investigate or prosecute charges against him. (See Peru entry.)

AI country reports/visits


An AI delegation visited Japan in October to carry out research.
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