GENEVA – The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged the Japanese government on Friday to regulate hate speech by law, following a rise in racist demonstrations mainly targeting Korean residents in the country.
A similar recommendation was given to Japan by the U.N. Human Rights Committee in July.
The antidiscrimination panel also pressed Japan to make further efforts to address the issue of the “comfort women,” Japan’s euphemism for those who were sexually exploited by the Imperial Japanese military before and during World War II. Most of them were Korean.
In its recommendations to Japan, the committee noted that hate speech and other behavior inciting racist violence and hatred during rallies and in the media, including the Internet, are “not always properly investigated and prosecuted” by Japanese authorities.
It demanded that Japan firmly address hate speech during demonstrations, investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations responsible for such acts, and punish public officials and politicians who disseminate hate speech.
Japan should also “address the root causes” of racist hate speech and “strengthen measures of teaching, education, culture and information,” with a view to combating prejudices which lead to racial discrimination and promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among nations and among racial or ethnic groups, it said.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which took effect in 1969, recognizes discriminatory expressions as a crime. Signatory countries are obliged to reject all forms of propaganda aimed at justifying or promoting racial hatred and discrimination and take legal actions against them.
However, the Japanese government has yet to take such measures, as freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution.
The U.N. committee urged Japan to change this position and take “appropriate steps to revise its legislation,” in particular its penal code, to regulate hate speech.
On the comfort women issue, the panel cited reports that most of these women “have never received recognition, apologies or any kind of compensation” from the Japanese government.
The panel prodded Japan to carry through with investigations on human rights violations against the comfort women and bring those responsible to justice, offer sincere apologies and adequate reparation to all surviving victims or their families, and condemn any attempt to deny the existence of the comfort women issue.
The committee issued the recommendations after holding a session from Aug 20 to 21 in which 18 experts reviewed Japan’s compliance with the international convention against racial discrimination. The session on Japan was the first in about four years.