National / Politics

Legal experts decry state's false rationale for conspiracy bill

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Staff Writer

With the state-sponsored conspiracy bill widely expected to be rammed through the House of Representatives next week, experts are blasting the government for attempting to justify its passage by bringing up a U.N. treaty that Japan hasn’t ratified yet.

The government has argued that its bill is a prerequisite for ratifying the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which was adopted in 2000 and took force in 2003.

So far, 187 countries have ratified it and 11 — including Japan, Somalia, South Sudan and Iran — have not.

Isao Itabashi of the Council for Public Policy said that while Japan needs to ratify the treaty — as it is the only member in the Group of Seven rich nations that has not — the bill is only one option for getting it done.

He said the treaty is meant to fight organized crime by eradicating money laundering, unlike the government’s explanation, which claims it is aimed at countering terrorism.

Moreover, he also warned that allowing such an Orwellian revision to the law would give it a dark side that risks “limiting the rights and freedom of the people.”

The government “must keep fair balance between freedom and safety. Such system won’t last without the understanding of the people,” Itabashi said.

“The government should provide more transparent explanation, and the opposition parties, too, should conduct discussions more carefully,” he added.

Kanako Takayama, a Kyoto University professor well-versed in criminal law, agreed.

Speaking at symposium this week organized by a group of academics called Save Constitutional Democracy Japan, Takayama explained that Japan already fulfills the prerequisites for ratifying the treaty, including a criminal code that holds conspirators responsible for criminal actions taken by other members of a conspiracy and punishments for preparing for crimes, among other charges.

Takayama also said that the bill covers too many types of crimes. The government started the campaign with 676 crimes in its original draft and ended up with 277.

Yukio Yamashita, a lawyer and a director at the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, which opposes the bill, explained at a March news conference that a person using forged postage stamps or competing in a motor boat race without a license could be punished under the bill.

“We must consider each crime as to whether it’s reasonable” to be placed in the bill, “but inquiries like this aren’t taking place in the Diet’s debate. I feel like I’m watching the process of democracy and constitutionalism falling apart,” Takayama said.