The United Nations Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) discussed on 24-25 February 2010 the third to sixth periodic reports of the Japanese government regarding compliance with state obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
The Japanese government sent an eighteen-member delegation headed by Mr. Hideaki Ueda1, Ambassador in Charge of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Representatives of Japanese non-governmental organizations2 attended the session and provided relevant information to the CERD members.
CERD released on 16 March 2010 its thirty-five paragraph Concluding Observations regarding the situation of racial discriminaton in Japan.3 CERD welcomed the support of Japan for the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the recognition of the Ainu people as indigenous people in 2008.
In view of this development, HURIGHTS OSAKA organized a seminar on 8 May 2010 in Osaka city on the proceedings of the CERD session. Professor Akira Maeda of Tokyo Zokei University and Ms. Setsuko Egashira of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations spoke during the seminar about the highlights of the CERD session. They both lobbied the members of the CERD and observed the session.
Professor Maeda and Ms. Egashira narrated the impact of the stance made by a Japanese government official regarding North Korean students in Japan just before the CERD session began. Mr. Hiroshi Nakai, Minister in charge of the Issues of Abduction by North Korea, asked the Ministry of Education to bar schools with North Korean (Chosen-Gakkou) students from the planned tuition subsidy program. Mr. Nakai reportedly linked the tuition subsidy program to the unsolved issue of abduction of Japanese by North Korean agents some decades ago.
As a result, several members of the CERD raised this issue during the session. While they welcomed the government’s initiative to have tuition subsidy for all children, they criticized the attitude of some government ministers and asked the Japanese government to look into this issue that would affect the right to education of North Korean children.
They also expressed concern regarding racist attacks and demonstrations against Korean schoolchildren and other foreign children by rightist groups, such as the Citizen’s Group for the Abolition of the Privileges of Koreans in Japan (Zaitoku-kai). They urged the Japanese government to punish those who violate relevant laws and take measures to prevent future attacks.
Professor Maeda and Ms. Egashira also pointed out that through the Concluding Observations the CERD:
a. Reaffirmed the definition of the tem “descent” in ICERD as not solely referring to “race” and thus ICERD covers descent-based discrimination such as Buraku discrimination
b. Encouraged the Japanese government to establish a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles (General Assembly resolution 48/134)
c. Encouraged the Japanese government to consider making the optional declaration provided for in Article 14 of ICERD recognizing the competence of the CERD to receive and consider individual complaints.
1. Mr. Ueda’s opening statement at the CERD session is available at http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/human/pdfs/state_race_rep3.pdf
2. Among the non-governmental organizations that sent representatives to the CERD session were Japan Federation of Bar Associations, the Ainu Association of Hokkaido, the Buraku Liberation League, the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, and the Japanese Network for the Institutionalization of Schools for Non-Japanese Nationals and Ethnic Minorities.
3. The Concluding Observations of CERD on the reports of Japan are available at: www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/cerds76.htm