With the Lower House approval this week of the bill to amend the law against organized crime — which penalizes the acts of plotting and preparing for crimes without actually carrying them out, it is all the more important for political parties, lawmakers and individual citizens to stop and think about concrete concerns raised about the basic points of the legislation and consider whether it is indeed necessary. In this connection, a letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by Joseph Cannataci, United Nations special rapporteur on the right to privacy, should serve as a timely and meaningful warning to all parties concerned.

The Abe administration protested the letter, saying Japan needs to pass the legislation to join a 2000 U.N. treaty aimed at fighting cross-border organized crimes and denied the risk that its provisions would be arbitrarily enforced. Still, it should humbly address the concerns expressed by Cannataci — that the bill, "also known as the 'anti-conspiracy bill' ... due to its broad scope may, if adopted into law, lead to undue restrictions on the right to privacy and freedom of expression."

Although the government says that the primary purpose of the legislation is to prevent terrorism and organized crimes, its scope is so broad that it could cover crimes that do not seem directly related to terrorism, as Cannataci points out. Among the 277 types of crime covered by the bill are theft of forestry products in reserved forest (the Forest Law); exporting without permission and destruction of important cultural properties (the Cultural Properties Preservation Law) and violations of copyrights (the Copyright Law).