Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 12:25 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2006 - Japan

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 23 May 2006
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2006 - Japan, 23 May 2006, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
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.

One man was executed and 78 prisoners remained on death row. The authorities continued to deny reparations to victims of Japan's system of sexual slavery during World War II. A new law governing the treatment of prisoners was adopted in May. Increased punishments for trafficking in persons came into effect in July. A Bill to establish a national human rights commission was debated but not adopted.


Elections in September increased the majority of the ruling party. The deployment of Japanese troops as overseas peacekeepers renewed public debate on whether to revise Article 9 of the Constitution which defines Japan as pacifist.

In November, the former President of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, left Japan for Chile where he was arrested at the request of the Peruvian authorities, pending an extradition request.

The 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, and renewed efforts by the government to secure a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, increased tensions in the east Asia region. The government was criticized for its continued failure to apologize adequately and provide full reparations for wartime crimes against humanity such as forced sexual slavery, and for the way Japanese history textbooks portray its past aggressions.

The Diet (parliament) debated but did not adopt a Bill first submitted in 2003 to establish a national human rights commission.

The government indicated that it would accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court by 2009.

Death penalty

Kitagawa Susumu was executed in secret by hanging in September, while the Diet was in recess. A former police officer, Kitagawa Susumu was sentenced to death in 1994 for the murder of two women, in 1983 and 1986. His appeal had been rejected by the Supreme Court in 2000.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations held a joint international conference against the death penalty in December, reiterating calls for a moratorium. On his appointment in October, the Minister of Justice, Sugiura Seiken, acknowledged the worldwide trend towards abolition of the death penalty and announced that he would not personally sign any execution order. He immediately retracted this commitment.

Treatment of prisoners

A new Penal Facilities and Treatment of Prisoners Law was adopted in May, replacing the 1908 law. It provides for a monitoring body to inspect prisons, improved access to the outside world for prisoners and human rights education for prison staff. It does not, however, cover conditions in pre-trial detention or for prisoners sentenced to death.

  • In November, two guards at Nagoya prison received suspended sentences for killing a prisoner in 2001. Otomaru Mikio was sentenced to three years in prison, suspended for four years, for aiming water from a high-pressure hose at a naked prisoner, causing internal injuries. Takami Masahiro received a 14-month prison term, suspended for three years, for assisting in the attack.
  • In June, a pregnant detainee in Tokyo Detention Centre was handcuffed in hospital during her delivery, and prevented from seeing her newborn baby. She had also been required by the detention centre to have the birth induced to fit the hospital schedule. In October, the Minister of Health and Labour stated that births should be induced only when a clear medical need was established by a doctor.

Violence against women

Survivors of Japan's system of sexual slavery – before and during World War II – continued to be denied full reparations. Survivors were also denied a remedy in the Japanese courts. In February the Supreme Court rejected a compensation claim by seven Taiwanese survivors (the case had begun with nine but two died). A Tokyo High Court also rejected a case by Chinese survivors in March.

Courts continued to argue that compensation claims were settled by post-war treaty arrangements. Contrary to international law, some applied statutes of limitation. In June a US federal appeals court rejected, for the second time, a damages suit filed by 15 survivors. The court cited Japan's immunity from such lawsuits in the USA.

Trafficking in persons

Amendments to the Criminal Code increased punishments for unlawfully detaining or buying trafficked persons. Related amendments were made to the Immigration Law and Criminal Procedure Code but none adequately addressed the protection of victims of trafficking. The government's commitment to ratify the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (the Palermo Protocol) was not fulfilled by the end of 2005.

Restrictions on freedom of expression

The Tokyo High Court reinstated the convictions for trespass against three people detained in 2004 for distributing pamphlets within a residential military compound, opposing Japanese involvement in Iraq. They were fined between 100,000 and 200,000 yen and appealed to the Supreme Court.


Revisions to the Immigration and Refugee Recognition Law effective from May increased time limits for filing asylum claims from 60 days to six months from arrival in Japan. Revisions also established an expert committee to give confidential recommendations to the Minister of Justice on appeals against rejected asylum claims. Appointed by the Ministry of Justice, most of the 18 members were former officials and only a few were refugee law experts.

The number of people recognized as refugees under the limited provisions of Japan's refugee law rose to at least 46. More than 40 others were granted special permission to stay for humanitarian reasons. Some individuals were released on condition they did not take up employment, but without basic livelihood assistance. Conditions in immigration centres remained harsh with inadequate medical care.

  • On 18 January Ahmet Kazankiran and his son, recognized as refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in October 2004, were forcibly repatriated to Turkey in contravention of Japan's obligations under international law and in spite of appeals from UNHCR and human rights groups.

AI country visits

AI delegates, including AI's Secretary General, visited Japan in May/June. Delegates met senior government officials, as well as local human rights groups, and a wide range of people in civil society.

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