Cabinet Interview: Usui adamant on Aum-restraint law

by Setsuko Kamiya

Staff writer

A new law to solve troubles caused by Aum Shinrikyo should be legislated in the next extraordinary Diet session, newly appointed Justice Minister Hideo Usui said recently.

The Justice Ministry is scheduled to submit to the extraordinary Diet session, to begin in early November, a bill that would enable authorities to supervise as well as restrain Aum’s activities.

“The cultists, without any regret for their past activities, have been active in many parts of the country and are causing troubles to some citizens,” Usui said. “We must put a stop to that.”

Usui, 60, is also well aware of the importance of the ministry’s immigration-related duty.

Although strict measures should be taken against foreigners who illegally overstay in Japan, the ministry should provide warm welcome to the foreigners who are legally staying in Japan, he said.

“The immigration officers are the only government officials most foreigners will face during their stay, but unfortunately, I’ve heard that some get a bad impression of Japan because of how they are treated at the immigration office,” he said. “I think they should be treated with more hospitality.”

However, Usui said in an interview with The Japan Times that the ministry should also consider being more flexible toward illegal overstayers who have worked hard and settled down here, through such means as giving special permission for staying in Japan.

“Depending on the case, such measures should be taken on humanitarian grounds,” he said.

Usui said that the current judicial system should be revised in some ways as it does not meet the demands of a society that has become so complicated and internationalized.

He also said that more citizens are asking for a more efficient judicial system, criticizing current procedures as being too costly and slow.

In July, an advisory panel to the government on judicial reform have launched full-
fledged discussions to continue for two years. The panel is expected to discuss ways to increase more legal professionals as well as the possibility of introducing the non-career judicial system, which requires judges to have at least several years of experience as lawyers before they become judges.

Under the current system, law students work as trainees for 1 1/2 years once they have passed the bar exam and are then appointed as assistant judges. They continue to be promoted or change posts until they retire.

The panel may also discuss the possibility of reintroducing the jury system, which was adopted in 1928 but mothballed in 1943.

However, Usui said he personally had doubts on whether the jury system would suit the Japanese culture.

“It’s important that we introduce more people from various backgrounds, and I would like to wait for what the advisory panel has to say,” he said.

On capital punishment, Usui said as long as the system exists, he will follow the law as a minister of a constitutional state.

He added that he believes a majority of Japanese people give tacit approval to the system but further discussions on the issue is welcome.

Usui served as director general of the Defense Agency under former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto from January to November in 1996 and is now in his second Cabinet.