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Gov't urged to enable individuals to report human rights violations.

TOKYO, Aug. 4 Kyodo

An association representing lawyers across Japan urged the government on Thursday to ratify optional protocols of treaties that enable individuals to file complaints with international organizations for violations of their human rights.

Kenji Utsunomiya, president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, met with Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto and requested Tokyo soon establish such a legal remedy. Utsunomiya said the lawyers' group believes the move is also needed as Japan prepares to join an international pact for resolving child custody disputes.

At the meeting with the minister, Utsunomiya pointed out that Japan is the only country among the Group of Eight major nations that has not introduced such a system. The other G-8 nations are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States.

Later Utsunomiya also told reporters that the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which took power in September 2009, had said in its election pledges that it would work toward ''swift ratification'' of the optional protocols.

Matsumoto said the Foreign Ministry has adopted a neutral stance on the issue and that approval of other government bodies, including the Justice Ministry, is needed to introduce the legal remedy, Utsunomiya said.

Even though Justice Minister Satsuki Eda has been positive about introducing the system, those opposed to it say the remedy would jeopardize judicial independence in Japan.

Under the system, international organizations that have received rights violations reports can only send their nonbinding recommendations on legal remedies to the state and to individuals who have filed complaints.

''We believe Japan should raise its human rights conditions to be on par with international standards. The government's efforts to improve conditions have been insufficient,'' Utsunomiya said.

The JFBA chief also said as Japan is set to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets procedures for settling cross-border child custody disputes, the system enabling individuals to report on rights violations would help resolve problems arising from joining that pact.

The lawyers' organization has taken a cautious stance on Japan's accession to the child custody treaty, saying the pact that would realize prompt return of children ''abducted'' abroad by one parent could endanger Japanese parents and their children who have fled abusive relationships.

The JFBA has pointed out that the legal remedy mechanism would help redress the situation of parents and children when a return to a child's habitual country of residence is ordered under the Hague Convention despite claims of abuse.

The mechanism is stipulated in protocols to such treaties as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Aug 8, 2011
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