Tokyo, Japan. The Japanese government on Monday protested against a letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from a United Nations legal expert raising concerns that planned legislation targeting terrorism and other crimes could allow police to trample civil liberties.
A protest by Yoshihide Suga drew a stiff rejoinder from Joseph Cannataci, UN special rapporteur on the right to privacy, who blasted Suga’s comments as “angry words” with “no substance” in comments to reporters by Skype.
Japan says the legal changes are needed to ratify a UN treaty aimed at battling international organized crime and fighting terrorism, as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Olympics.The lower house of Japan’s parliament is expected to approve the bill as early as Tuesday.
International opponents see the proposals as part of Abe’s agenda to tighten the government’s grip at the expense of individual rights. “It is not at all the case that the legislation would be implemented arbitrarily so as to inappropriately restrict the right to privacy and freedom of speech,” Suga said.
Cannataci asked Abe for information on the accuracy of such concerns and the compatibility of the draft law with international human rights norms and standards. “Unless and until corrected on any point of fact, I stand by every single word, fullstop and comma of what I wrote to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. There is absolutely no justification for the Japanese Government to behave in this way and push through seriously defective legislation in such a rush.” Cannataci said to reporters.
Japanese civil rights critics from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations have also warned the changes, combined with a recent widening of legal wiretapping and courts’ reluctance to rein in police surveillance powers, could deter grassroots opposition to government policies.