Amnesty International referred to Japan’s recently enacted legislation targeting Aum Shinrikyo and a law authorizing wiretapping by police as human-rights concerns, in its annual report released Wednesday.
“There were concerns that these laws could be arbitrarily used by police against peaceful activists,” said the London-based, human-rights watchdog.
Last December, the Diet enacted a set of laws aimed at controlling activities of organizations that had committed “indiscriminate mass murder during the past 10 years.” Under the laws, Aum Shinrikyo, the cult that has renamed itself Aleph, was placed earlier this year under tight surveillance and must undergo regular inspections of its facilities.
Aum Shinrikyo has claimed responsibility for the 1995 sarin gas attack that killed 12 and injured thousands in Tokyo’s subways.
Last year, the Diet also enacted a law allowing authorities to monitor communications during investigations of organized crime.
Amnesty said the wiretapping law “could violate constitutionally guaranteed rights to privacy and confidential communication.”
The report also mentioned that five death-row inmates were executed in 1999. “One of the five had filed a habeas corpus petition to the court, and another had petitioned for a retrial,” it added.
Amnesty said about 85 percent of all executions worldwide are concentrated in just five countries, China and the United States among them.
At least 1,813 people were put to death in 31 countries in 1999. Of these, China executed 1,077, followed by Iran with 166, Saudi Arabia with 103, Congo, formerly Zaire, with about 100, and the U.S. with 98, according to Amnesty.
The group denounced China for sentencing and executing people for political reasons without any public announcement. Amnesty also criticized the U.S. for executing people under 18 years old.
Amnesty also said that Yoshihiro Yasuda, which the group described as “a well-known human rights lawyer and campaigner against the death penalty,” was detained for 10 months after being arrested on suspicion of obstructing investigations of his client later in 1998.
Noting that Yasuda was dismissed as lawyer for the accused Aum Shinrikyo guru Shoko Asahara as a result of his detention, the report said Asahara’s rights to a fair trial “may have been jeopardized.”
Other human right concerns the watchdog cited includes Japan’s “harsh and highly secretive” prison system. “Prisoners continued to face cruel and humiliating treatment,” it said.
It also mentioned treatment of foreign asylum seekers in Japan, saying “the process for determining asylum, which continued to be subject to long delays, lacked transparency.”