Ever since the historic landslide victory of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in the Lower House elections, we have wondered how the new government will wield its power. In the area of human rights protection, at least, there is cause to expect dramatic change. One of the more startling appointments to the new Cabinet is that of Yokohama lawyer Keiko Chiba as minister of justice. The progressive attitude of the new minister contrasts sharply with what we’ve seen in the past. Her appointment will be heartily welcomed throughout the global legal community.

Chiba’s opposition to the death penalty has made headlines, but that’s only one example of her political philosophy. Among other things, she has supported local voting rights for foreign permanent residents, clear recognition of the injuries suffered by “comfort women” and other victims of Japan’s past aggressions, and admission of more refugees to Japan.

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