Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1992

Japan is a parliamentary democracy based on a constitution adopted in 1947. Sovereignty
is vested in the people, and the Emperor is defined as the sjrmbol of state.
On the national level, power is divided among executive, legislative, and judicial
branches. Executive power is vested in a cabinet, composed of a prime minister and
ministers of state, responsible to the Diet—composed of the House of Representatives
(lower house) and the House of Councilors (upper house). The Diet, elected by
universal suffrage and secret ballot, designates the prime minister, who must be a
member of that body. Nearly 70 percent of the electorate usually votes in general
elections, contested by six political parties covering a broad ideological spectrum.
For the last 37 years the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has held a parliamentary
majority. The judicial system has several layers of courts, with the Supreme
Court as final authority.
A well-oi^anized and disciplined police force generally respects the human rights
of the populace, but there continued to be reports of harsh treatment of suspects
in custody. The police force is firmly under the control of the civil authorities. The
Civil Liberties Bureau in the Ministry of Justice and the Human Ri^ts and Refugee
Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs monitor problems relating to human
rights practices in Japan.
Japan's free market economy has the world's second largest gross national product.
In 1992 Japan experienced an economic slowdown, with a correspondingly negative
effect on employment.
The Constitution states: "All of the people are equal under the law and there shall
be no discrimination in political, economic, or social relations because of race, creed,
sex, social status, or family origin." While the human rights provisions of the Constitution
and Bill of Rights are secured by a just and efficient legal system, women,
the "Burakumin" (a group traditionally treated as outcasts), the Ainu (Japan's indigenous
people), and auen residents experience varying degrees of discrimination. Enforcement
of current laws against such discrimination is hampered because these
laws contain virtually no penalties for offenders.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from
      a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing.
There were no known cases of political
or other extregudicial killing.
b. Diaappearance.—There were no kiM>wn cases of abductions, secret arrests, clandestine
detention, or hostage holding by security forces or any other oiganization.
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment is
provided for in the Constitution. According to credible reports by prisoners cmd others,
police sometimes use j^ysical violence, including kicKings ana beatings, as well
as psychological intimidation, including threats and name calling, to obtain confessions
from suspects in custoc^. Foreign media coverage of speanc cases involving
foreim prisoners drew attention to tms issue. In Japan, confession is regarded as
the urst step in the rehabilitative process. Rou^y 85 percent of all crunmal cases
goin^ to trial include confessions, reflecting the priority that the police place on admissions
of guilt. Several court cases have overturned convictions obtained by forced
confession, but abuse of prisoners to obtain confessions remains a problem. Confessions,
although signed bv the accused, are normally written statements by interrogators
summarizing and reflecting on the accused's statement and not verbatim
The issue of the ri^ts of psychiatric patients received attention in Japan as the
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) conducted its third study mission to
Japan in April 1992 to review the 1988 Mental Health Law. Although Japan was
credited witn efforts to encourage community-based care for psychiatric patients, the
ICJ report pointed out that a shortage of facilities prevents about 30 percent of patients
in hospitals fipom being discharged and handled as outpatients. It sJso noted
that a large number of patients ^o are voluntarily admitted are kept in locked
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Freedom from arbitrary arrest or imprisonment
is provided for in the Constitution and respected in practice. Japanese law
provides for judicial determination of the legality of detention. Persons may not be
detained witnout charge, and prosecuting authorities must be prepared to demonstrate
before trial that probsuble cause exists to detain the accused. Under the
Criminal Procedure Code, a suspect may be held in police custody for up to 72 hours
without representation by defense counsel. A judge may extend this period for up
to 25 days if necessary. If an indictment follows, the suspect is transferred to a
criminal detention facility.
In some cases, the period of preindictment detention may be extended further
using a procedure known as 'l)eUEen taiho," or arrest on a separate charge. The police
may arrest a suspect on a minor or secondary charge and then use the 23-aay
detention period to investigate a separate, primary charge. After termination of the
initial period of detention, the prisoner may be rearrested on yet another charge,
thus imtiating a separate and additional 23-day detention period. The sjrstem was
used to investigate, and hold without access to legal counsel, three American citizens
in 1992. Tne law prohibits the police from arresting a person on a charge they
have no intention of prosecuting but "Ibekken taiho" may be used for minor offenses
such as immigration violations. Bail is rarely available.
Another concern is the potential for abuse deriving from the practice of "substitute
detention." While Japanese law stipulates that suspects should be held in
'liouses of detention" between arrest and sentencing, a police cell may be substituted.
This provision was added to cover a shor^ge of detention facilities in
Japan. Critics charge that aUowing suspects to be detained by the same authorities
that interrogate them hei^^tens the potential for prisoner abuse and coercion.
The length of time before a suspect is brou^t to trial depends on the nature of
the crime out rarely exceeds 2 months; the average is 1 to 2 months. By law there
is no ri^t to legal representation during interrogation. While the Ministry of Justice
has stipulated that a detained person should be able to meet wdth counsel within
48 hours of the accused's request, the Code of Criminal Procedure grants the
prosecutor's office and the investigating police officials the power to limit access to
attorneys when deemed necessary for uie sake of the investigation. In practice, the
48-hour time limit is sometimes ignored, and preindictment attorney visits are typically
restricted to 15 to 30 minutes. As a court-appointed attorney is not provided
until after indictment, suspects must rely on their own resources to hire an attorney
for preindictment counseling. Some local bar associations provide detainees with a
free counseling session prior to indictment. In practice, suspects able to afford private
counsel may typically consult with an attorney more than once during the
preindictment detention period, sometimes without private access. Counsel is pro582
vided at government expense after indictment when the arrested person cannot afford
e. Denied of Fair Public Trial.—The Constitution provides for the right to a speedy
and public trial by an impartial tribunal in all criminal cases, and mis ri^t is respected
in practice. However, appeals to the Supreme Court have been known to
take years, wilJi one appeal case still pending after almost 9 years. The defendant
is informed of charges upon arrest and assured a pubUc trial by an independent civilifm
court with defense counsel and the ri^t to cross-examination. The Constitution
assures defendants the right not to be compelled to testify against themselves
as well as free and private access to counsel, although the right to such access is
sometimes abridged m practice. Defendtmts are also protected from the retroactive
application of laws and have the right of access to incriminating evidence after a
formal indictment has been made. However, Japanese law does not require full disclosure
by the prosecutor, and material which will not be used in court by the prosecution
may be suppressed.
Judges are appomted by the Cabinet for a 10-year term which can be renewed
until uie age o{^65. Justices of the Supreme Court can serve until the age of 70 but
face periomc review through popular referendum. A defendant who is dissatisfied
with the decision of a trial court of first instance may, within the period prescribed
by law, appeal to a higher court. There are several levels of courts, witn the Su-
Sreme Court serving as the highest judicial authority. There is no trial by jury in
There are no political prisoners.
      f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
the Constitution, each search or seizure must be made upon separate warrant issued
by a judicial officer. Standards for issuing such warrants exist to guard against
arbitrary searches. There are no reports that the Government or any other organization
arbitrarily interfered with privacy, family, home, or correspondence.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Rights, Including
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution, an independent press and judiciary,
and a functioning democratic political system combine to ensure freedom of
speech and press.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
These freedoms are provided
for in the Constitution and respected in practice.
      c. Freedom of Religion
Freedom of religion is provided for in the Constitution
and respected in practice. While Buddhism and Shintoism remain the two major religions,
there are many others, including several Christian denominations. Foreign
missionaries are welcome.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Japanese citizens have the right to travel freely, both within Japan and
abroad, to change their place of residence, to emigrate, and to repatriate voluntarily.
Japanese nationality can be lost by naturalization in a foreign country or failure to
elect Japanese nationality at the proper age.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Japanese citizens have the right and ability peacefully to change their government.
A parliamentary democracy, Japan is ruled by the political party or parties
able to form a majority in the lower house of its bicameral Diet. The Liberal Democratic
Party (LDP) has been in power on the national level—through control of the
lower house—continuously since its establishment in 1955. The political system is
open, however. The LDP owes its longevity primarily to pragmatic and effective governance
and to the fragmentation of the opposition parties. Local and prefectural
governments are often controlled by coalitions. Elections on all levels are held frequently,
suffrage is universal, and ballots are secret. Indigenous people and ethnic
minorities are free to participate in the political process, although their influence
and numbers in government and politics are limited, due in part to social stereotyping
and stigmatization.
Population movements since the 1946 Constitution have left some parliamentary
electoral districts disproportionately large; some districts have more than three
times the population of others. The Supreme Court has called for greater equalityr
in the value of votes, but the lack oi a nonpartisan mechanism to make such
changes has slowed the process of adjustment.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation
of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of local human rights organizations exist. They do not face any governmental
restrictions or impediments to their work. The Government does not obstruct
or inhibit the investigative activities of international nongovernmental organizations.
Section 5. Discrimination Based an Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or SocicU Status
The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, creed, sex, social status,
or family origin. Children are beneficiaries of equal protection, and the Constitution
prohibits exploitation of children. The Government oacks up the intent of the Constitution
witn various laws.
The position of women in society and the home, althou^^ significantly improved
during the last few decades, continues to reflect deep-seated traditional values
which assign women a subordinate role. In this envuxinment, violence against
women, particularly domestic violence, often goes unreported due to social and cultural
concerns about shaming one's family or endangering the reputation of one's
spouse or offspring. TypicaUy, victimized women more often return to the home of
their parents rather than file reports with authorities. Therefore, Ministry of Justice
statistics on violence against women undoubtedly understate the scope of the current
problem. Many local governments are responding to a need for confidential assistance
by establishing special women's consultation departments in police and prefectural
Although discrimination by private employers against women is prohibited by the
Constitution, it persists. Women comprise over 40 percent of the employed population.
Legislation over the past 30 years has been ac^usted to accord them the same
legal status as men. The Elqual Employment Opportunity (EEO) Law of 1986 was
aimed at eliminating sex discrimination in such areas as recruitment, pay, and
working hours. The law does not expressly forbid discrimination; it merely states
that "employers should endeavoi'' to avoid it. Under this law and other regulations,
the Ministry of Labor attempts to encourage corporate compliance with its objectives
by positive inducements, including subsidies; it does not enforce compliance throu^
fines or other punitive measures. The EEO Law and other laws dealing with women's
employment are scheduled for periodic review and some groups are calling for
the inclusion of penalties.
Under the current laws, significant disparities in pay and access to managerial
¥ositions persist. In March nine woridng married women filed lawsuits with the
bkyo District Court, citing discrinoination in wages and promotions. Other pending
cases question management's use of Japan's two-track (general versus administrative)
system of hiring women employees. Initially designed to create a "career" track
for employees while maintaining a separate "clerical track, the system, observers
say, is used to discriminate against women. Both statistical and anecdotal evidence
suggests that the current retrenchment in the work force is falling most heavily on
women seeking entry level nonclerical positions in private firms.
There are 7 women in the 512-menaber House of Representatives and 13 in the
252-member House of Councilors. Diet member Mayumi Moriyama was appointed
Minister of Education in December 1992. With this appointment, Ms. Moriyama becomes
the first woman to have held two Cabinet positions, having served as Japan's
first woman Chief Cabinet Secretary in 1989. Women make up nearly 20 percent
of all government workers but less man 1 percent of top (section chief and higher)
government posts. The stereotyping of jobs and abilities and to demands and expectations
of family and society impede full participation.
Public awareness of discrimination against women and of sexual harassment in
the workplace has increased. An Fukuoka District Court landmark ruling in April
found an employer guilty of violating the rights of a female worker who had complained
of verbal sexual harassmentby a male superior. The employer, who spread
rumors that his colleague was promiscuous, was ordered to pay $12,700 in damages.
Another highly visible sexual harassment case involved a female Prefectural Assemblv
member who filed assault charges against a male Prefectural Assembly member
who sexually harassed her. The assailant was released without punishment because
the attack took place while he was under the influence of alcohol. The case received
wide coverage both domestically and abroad. An increasing number of government
entities are establishing hotlines and designating ombudsmen to handle complaints
of discrimination and sexual harassment. Despite the increased media and public
attention given to sex discrimination and the growing presence of women in the
work force, sexual stereotyping and discrimination contmue.
The exclusive nature of Japanese society, reinforced by cultural and ethnic homogeneity
and a history of isolation from other cultures, has impeded the integration
of minority groups. Despite improvements in Japan's legal system, Korean permanent
residents (most of whom were bom, raised, and educated in Japan) and the
Burakumin (descendants of feudal-era outcasts who practiced so-called "unclean"
professions such as butdiering and undertaking) are frequently the victims of en584
trenched social discrimination which has restricted the access of both groups to private
housing, emi)loymenL and marriage opportunities. The Ainu, descendants of
the original inhabitants of Japan, are also subject to discrimination, especially regarding
employment opportumties.
Beginning in 1969, £he Government introduced a number of social, economic, and
legal programs designed to improve conditions for the Burakumin and hasten their
assimilation into mainstream Japanese society. In 1992 the Government extended
basic legislation to provide iundmg for Burakumin programs for another 5 years.
The Burakumin continued to lobbv lor a new law that would expand programs.
The Ainu community continued to seek revisions to existing Japanese law to afford
greater protection of Ainu rights and improve the status of >anus. In the July
1992 upper house elections, Japan Socialist Party (JSP) proportional seat candidate
Shigeru Kayano, an Ainu, ran for the Diet but was narrowlv defeated. Under Diet
rules, he could become Japan's first Ainu Diet member should an existing JSP proportional
roll member vacate his seat prematurely.
Hie legal obligations to carry an alien registration card and to be fingerprinted
have been leading concerns among permanent resident aliens residing in Japan,
particularly secondand third-generation Korean residents who constitute 82 percent
of all such aliens. In response to continued appeals from the Republic of Korea, the
Government will end the fingerprinting of permanent foreign residents, including
Koreans. The Government will replace the fingerprint system with a family registry
system that uses the resident's picture and signature and contains information on
parents and spouses living in Japan, a system similar to that used by Japanese nationals.
Some within the Korean community continue to oppose these proposed
changes as discriminatory to nonpermanent resident foreigners. It also leaves intact
the req|uirement that eJl foreign residents must carry alien registration certificates
at aU times.
In addition, Korean permanent residents are subject to various forms of entrenched
social discrimination. In recent years the Government has enacted several
laws and regulations extending to permanent resident aliens equal access to public
housing and loans, social security pensions for those qualified, and certain public
employment rights. As a result of'^the January 1991 memorandum between the Japanese
and South Korean governments, employment rights were extended to local
government positions, giving each locality the authority to decide which jobs may
e held by non-Japanese nationals. (Japanese nationality is reouired for civil servants
who participate in the exercise of^ public power or in public decisionmaking.)
Observers report that prefectures and metropolitan areas sucn as Tokyo, Osaka, and
Sarts of Kanagawa Prefecture are expanding opportunities for the employment of
brean residents in local government. Local governments are also being urged by
the Government to allow Korean residents to take the teacher entrance exams and
to employ them on a full-time basis. Observers so far report no substantial increase
in the nun^ers of Korean residents hired as regular teachers. Private sector employment
and social discrimination are still common. Antidiscrimination laws affecting
Korean residents were initiated as government guidance and are not backed up
by penalty provisions.
According to law, aliens with 5 years' continuous residence are eligible for naturalization
and the simultaneous acquisition of citizenship rights, including the right
to vote. In fact, however, most eligible aliens do not apply for citizenship, in part
due to fears that their cultural identity would be diminished.
Immigrants reportedly face police harassment and discrimination in obtaining
housing, jobs, and health care. In recognition of the difliculties faced by foreigners
in these areas, Tokyo City recently issued a law to prevent housing discrimination
against foreigners, and there have been efforts by the Government and by local governments
to disseminate information on health insurance plans to enroll foreigners
into the system. Some communities are using existing social welfare programs to
cover emergency medical expenses incurred by uninsured foreign visitors.
The Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau estimates that as of May 1992, there
were 278,892 illegal foreign nationals in Japan. Many are illegal woikers from
Southeast Asia, the Republic of Korea, and Iran. The number of illegal Iranian
workers is expected to decline sharply because the Government suspended, as of
April 15, 1992, a visa waiver agreement it had with Iran for short-term visitors.
While many in Japan's illegal foreign population came in search of better paying
manufacturing and construction jobs created by Japan's labor shortages, there are
indications that these opportunities are disappearing with the economic slowdown,
leaving more workers unemployed or marginally employed. Human rights groups
claim that, with little or no knowledge of the Japanese language or their legal
rights, foreign workers can easily be discriminated against by employers. Some illegal
alien workers have suffered exploitive treatment, but there is no evidence that
this is common. The Goveniment has tried to restrict the inflow of illegal foreign
workers by prosecuting employers under recent revisions of the Immigration Law,
by assessing penalties on employers of undocumented foreign workers, and by denying
entnr on grounds of passport, visa, and entry application irregularities to foreigners
believed trying to enter Japan to look for work. The Government continues
to studv the foreign worker issue in special committee. Several citizens' groups worit
with illegal foreign workers to improve their access to information about worker
There continue to be credible reports of Chinese oflicials in Japan engaging in
harassment and intimidation tactics against Chinese prodemocracy students resident
in Japan. Japan has been criticized for failure to protect adequately Chinese
dissidents in Japan by extending the visas of those who fear persecution or by preventing
intimidation by Chinese ofiicials. There were reports tiiat Chinese students
seeking to extend their visas are meeting with greater flexibility from Japanese officials.
Section 6. Worker Rights
a. The Ri^ht of Association.—The right of workers to organize, bargain, and act
collectively is assured by the Constitution. Approximately 25 percent of the active
work force belongs to unions. Unions are free of government control and influence.
The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), which represents 8 million Japanese
workers, was formed in 1989 through the merger of several confederations and
is Japan's largest labor organization. Tnere is no requirement for a single trade
union structure, and there are no restrictions on who may be a union oflici^.
Members of the armed forces, police, and fireflghters are not permitted to form
unions or to organize. The International Labor Organization in 1991 criticized Japan's
denial of the right of firefighters to organize as unwarranted. The Government
and union representatives initiated talks to address this issue. Japanese law allows
unions to lobby and to make political campaign contributions, and most unions are
involved in poutical activity as well as labor relations. Rengo and other labor groups
are active in supporting political parties and individual candidates and promoting
their political and social agenda.
Oi^nized labor generally supports the opposition political parties and provides
key funds and manpower. Unions are active in international bodies, most notably
the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and maintain extensive
international contacts.
The right to strike is implicit in the Constitution, and it is exercised frequently.
A disproportionately laige number of strikes take place during the spring wage offensive.
PubUc employees, however, do not have the right to strike, although they
do have recourse to mediation and arbitration in order to resolve disputes. In exchange
for a ban on their right to strike, government employees' pay raises are determined
by the Government based on a recommendation by the independent National
Personnel Authority.
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The Constitution states that
unions have the right to organize, bargain, and act collectively and these rights are
exercised in practice. Collective bargaining is widely practiced. The annual "spring
wage offensive," in which individual unions in each industry conduct negotiations
simultaneously with their firms, attracts national attention. Japanese management
usually consults closely with unions on issues. However, trade unions are independent
of management and aggressively pursue the interests of their workers.
Antiunion discrimination is prohibited by law and in practice does not take place.
There are no export processing zones.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Labor Standards Law prohibits
the use of forced labor, and there are no known cases of forced or compulsory
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
Under the Labor Standards Law,
minors under 15 years of age may not be employed as workers, and those under
the age of 18 years may not be employed in dangerous or harmful work. Child labor
laws are rigorously enforoed by tne Labor Inspection Division of the Ministry of
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Minimum wages are administratively determined
by the Minister of Lal>or or the Director of the Prefectural Labor Standards
Office based usually on Uie recommendation of the tripartite Minimum Wage Council.
Minimum wage rates vaiy by industry and region. These wage rates are sufficient
to provide workers and their families with a decent living. The Labor Standards
Law provides for the phased reduction of maximum working hours from the
present 44-hour, 6-day workweek to 40 hours over a several year period.
The Ministry of Labor effectively administers various laws and regulations governing
occupational health and safety, principal among which is the Industrial Safety
and Health Law of 1972. Standaras are set by the Ministry of Labor and issued
after consultation with the Standing Committee on Safety and Health of the tripartite
Labor Standards Commission. Labor inspectors have the authority to suspend
unsafe operations immediately, and the law provides for woriters to voice concerns
over occupational safety and to remove themselves from unsafe working conditions
without jeopardizing their continued employment.