GENEVA – The U.N. Human Rights Committee on Thursday recommended that the central government ban all propaganda advocating racial superiority or hatred, and punish perpetrators.
In a report, the committee expressed “concern at the widespread racist discourse” in Japan, such as hate speech, against members of minority groups, including Koreans.
The committee also noted a large number of authorized extremist demonstrations, harassment and violence against minorities, and the open display of “Japanese only” signs in private establishments.
The U.N. report comes at a time when rallies and confrontations involving anti-Korean groups and those opposed to their activities are on the rise, particularly in Tokyo’s Shin-Okubo district and Osaka’s Tsuruhashi area, both of which are known as Koreatowns.
People who are targeted by such acts have “insufficient protection” under the criminal and civil codes, the report said.
Japan “should prohibit all propaganda advocating racial superiority or hatred that incites to discrimination, hostility or violence” as well as demonstrations intended to disseminate such propaganda, the committee said.
The country “should also take all necessary steps to prevent racist attacks and to ensure that the alleged perpetrators are thoroughly investigated and prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions,” the report said.
The United Nations also called on Japan to accept full blame for pressing women from Korea and other Asian nations into sexual slavery during World War II.
“We want Japan to make the kind of statement that the families and the women themselves — the few who are still surviving — can recognize as an unambiguous, uninhibited acceptance of total responsibility,” said Nigel Rodley, head of the committee.
It also recommended that victims and their families should be given access to justice, that all evidence should be disclosed, that Japanese schoolbooks should deal with the issue frankly, and that denial and defamation of victims should be roundly condemned.
Around 200,000 women, mainly from Korea but also China, Taiwan, Indonesia and other Asian countries, were forced to work in Japanese military brothels as “comfort women.”
Japan issued a landmark apology in 1993 — known as the Kono statement — and mainstream public opinion holds that the wartime government was culpable.
But a tranche of the political right, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, continues to cast doubt on the matter, claiming the brothels were staffed by professional prostitutes.
Japan recently held a review of the issue that upheld the apology but asserted there was no evidence to corroborate the women’s testimony, sparking regional anger.
“I suspect that the Kono Statement would have sufficed, had it not been for the fact that it has so evidently been put into question,” Rodley said.
The committee accused Japan of contradicting itself by denying that the women were forcibly deported to brothels but also admitting they were recruited, transported and managed by coercion.
Rodley said that was a worse stance than in the committee’s five previous hearings on Japan’s record.
“What is troubling is that the delegation now seems to need to speak out of both sides of its mouth,” he said.
The U.N. panel recommended that Japan consider scrapping the death penalty, referring to the case of Iwao Hakamada, who was released from death row after spending decades in prison.
It also asked that Japan apply its state secret protection law in compliance with the strict requirements included in the law.
The report was released after a two-day committee meeting focusing on Japan from July 15, the first such occasion in six years. Recommendations in the report are not legally binding.