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Staff writer Human rights advocates voiced concerns over Japan’s compliance with the U.N. convention on torture at a public hearing held by the Foreign Ministry and other ministries Friday. The session was held to hear opinions from nongovernmental organizations on what issues should be included in the government’s first report to the United Nations, which is required by parties to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Japan ratified the convention in June, and it took effect in July. Tokyo is scheduled to report to the U.N. Committee of Torture by July 29 on what policies it has implemented to meet the convention. According to participants, issues raised by NGOs included treatment of death row inmates, harsh rules and punishment in jails and other confinement facilities, coercing of confessions from criminal suspects and the so-called “daiyo-kangoku” system, which allows police to hold criminal suspects for up to 23 days after arrest. Treatment of psychopathic patients at medical facilities and the issue of asylum seekers being deported to the countries they fled were also questioned, they said. The convention against torture, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1984, bans public officials from inflicting physical or mental pain on a person for the purpose of punishment, obtaining information, or any discriminative purpose. It also stipulates that parties to it may not send a person to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would may be subjected to torture. When the U.N. Human Rights Committee last year reviewed a similar report by the Japanese government outlining the country’s policies on compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it expressed concerns over a wide range of issues including those stated by NGO representatives Friday. However, the lack of progress on these matters was recently criticized at a meeting of legislators, NGO representatives and central government officials, sources said, adding that the government showed no actual plan for improvement on most issues. “The U.N. recommendation itself does not have the power to effectively (change Japan’s policies),” said Hideki Morihara of Amnesty International’s Japan branch, adding that discussions held before the government compiles its report are important. On Friday, NGO members requested that the government continue holding hearings as well as disclose a draft of the report. But a government official said it would be difficult to hold more hearings as time is limited before the submission deadline, and many ministries and agencies are involved in compiling the report.

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