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U.N. racism expert to visit Japan on fact-finding mission.

GENEVA, June 30 Kyodo

A U.N. expert on racism and discrimination will visit Japan in July for the first time, at the invitation of the Japanese government, to assess the situation of minorities and foreigners in Japanese society.

Doudou Diene of Senegal, special rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, will arrive in Japan this weekend for his fact-finding mission through July 12.

Diene told Kyodo News on Wednesday he has asked the Japanese government for an invitation to allow him to study the perception and interaction of foreigners and minorities within Japanese society, and to see how the country's strong national identity is coping with the challenges of multiculturalism in a globalized world.

He said his visit aims to determine the extent Japan is complying with its international human rights obligations. At issue are concerns linked to discrimination and xenophobia. He said he wants to determine what structures and strategies are in place to remedy the problems.

''As a world power in an era of globalization, Japan has to expand to the outside world. But its society is still closed, spiritually and intellectually centered,'' he said, adding such conflicting positions could create tensions that would lead to racism and discrimination.

Diene will travel to Osaka, Kyoto, Sapporo and Tokyo, where he will meet with government officials from the ministries of internal affairs; justice; health, labor and welfare; education; and foreign affairs. He will also visit various communities, minority leaders and human rights groups.

He said he has specifically requested a meeting with Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara or a senior representative from his office.

Diene will focus on minorities of Korean and Chinese descent, while also looking into the situation that migrants from the rest of Asia, the Arab world and Africa find themselves in as they settle in Japan.

He wants to learn about the Ainu minority and ''burakumin'' (a minority group of social outcasts). He will also examine how asylum seekers are treated upon their arrival.

By inviting him to visit the country, Japan has already indicated a willingness to accept scrutiny and criticism, Diene said. However, he said his role as special rapporteur is not to judge or condemn, but to hear from different sides.

''It is never easy for any government to accept an outside eye in their policies and programs,'' he said. ''It is for me to convince them I am here to listen and understand,'' explaining that Japan can make a valuable contribution to multiculturalism.

Diene was appointed to the post in May 2002 by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. His mandate was renewed by the body last April.

He is the second U.N. special rapporteur to lead a specific mission to Japan, after an expert on violence against women visited the country in 1995.

Diene will share his preliminary findings with the Japanese government at the end of his visit before drafting a report to be submitted to the Commission on Human Rights next March. The main conclusions of his visit will first be presented in his report to the U.N. General Assembly in the autumn.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Jul 5, 2005
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