Thursday, February 16, 2006

Discrimination in Japan

Human rights groups applaud U.N. discrimination report
By ERIC JOHNSTON (Staff writer)

OSAKA -- Human rights groups in Japan on Wednesday welcomed a recently released United Nations report detailing racial discrimination and xenophobia toward minorities, including Korean, Chinese and other foreign residents in this country, and called for legislation to remedy the problem.

"We do need such a law," said Song Jung Ji, an Osaka-based lawyer of Korean descent who is a director at a nonprofit organization working to end discrimination against foreign residents. "Japan currently has no legislation to protect the rights of foreigners against discrimination."

The report, issued Jan. 26, was a stinging critique of Japan's treatment of ethnic minorities and foreign residents, and is part of U.N. Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene's worldwide report on racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia.

Diene visited Japan last July, spending about a week traveling to minority communities in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido, and speaking with nongovernmental organizations, lawyers, judges, local governments and the Foreign Ministry.

"All surveys and indicators point to the fact that minorities live in a situation of marginalization and economic and social vulnerability," the report says.

"Discrimination is also of a political nature, as the special rapporteur noticed the invisibility of national minorities in state institutions.

"The government, at the highest levels, should officially and publicly recognize the existence of racial discrimination and xenophobia in Japanese society. The Diet should as a matter of urgency proceed to the adoption of a national law against racism, discrimination and xenophobia," the report says, adding that Japan has an obligation to live up to both its Constitution and to various U.N. treaties it has signed on eliminating discrimination.

It urges creation of a commission for equality and human rights, and to place it under the prime minister.

"Such a commission should also have offices at the municipal level, since around 20,000 cases are currently submitted yearly to the Justice Ministry that concern human rights around the country," it says.

Song said the important thing was to ensure that the commission truly represents minorities in Japan.

"If it's just comprised of a bunch of bureaucrats, it would be useless," she said.

The Japan Times: Feb. 16, 2006
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