Japan has passed a controversial law targeting terrorist conspiracies and other serious crimes, in spite of a warning by the UN that it could be manipulated to suppress civil liberties.
PM Shinzo Abe’s ruling bloc forced it through the upper house early on Thursday (June 15), undeterred by vocal opposition. A sizable crowd had assembled on Wednesday to protest outside the parliament.
The coalition in charge has been attempting to push the anti-conspiracy law through the legislation for months. It criminalizes the plotting and committing of 277 acts in total, including severe crimes such as terrorism as well as a number of minor offenses, such as:
The legislation calls for a prison term of up to five years for planning serious crimes. Tokyo maintains that it is a prerequisite for implementing a UN treaty against transnational organized crime, which Japan signed in 2000.
“We would like to implement the law appropriately and effectively in order to protect the lives and the assets of the Japanese people,” Abe said on Thursday.
The law has sparked regular protests nationwide since December, growing in intensity over recent weeks, after the scope of Abe’s proposals became public knowledge. The bill passed the more powerful House of Representatives on May 23 — Abe’s ruling coalition has a comfortable majority in both houses.
Despite PM Abe’s assurances that Japan is aligning its legislation with the UN, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy, Joseph Cannataci, disapproved of the wide reach of the new law in a letter to the Japanese government on May 18.
“I am concerned by the risks of arbitrary application of this legislation given the vague definition of what would constitute the “planning” … and given the inclusion of an overbroad range of crimes … which are apparently unrelated to terrorism and organized crime,” he said.
Japan’s bar association has also stated that the current law gives police and investigators too much room in deciding what can be regarded as a criminal organization.
Opposition Democratic Party leader Renho made a statement that called the legislation “brutal” and a breach of the right to free thought. The opposition warned that the scope of the law can include petty crimes. For instance, Japan’s justice minister was mocked after conceding that, theoretically, mushroom hunting could be targeted if the fungi were stolen to raise money to fund terrorism.
Critics also fear that the law, added to the widening of legal wiretapping and the reluctance of courts to check police surveillance powers, could stave off grassroots opposition to government plans.
Koichi Nakano, political science professor at Tokyo’s Sophia University, compared the new legislation to the Peace Prevention Law enacted in Japan in 1925. “The law was abused, it persecuted communists, and then religious leaders, leaders and ordinary people,” he told CNN.
NordVPN stands firmly against surveillance and censorship, both on the Internet and offline. Criminalizing harmless behavior in an environment where surveillance and wiretapping are being expanded paves the way for abuse of power. It also threatens the basic rights to privacy and freedom of expression, which are enshrined in the Japanese constitution. Multiple examples across the world show that attempts to protect citizens from terrorism by weakening their rights do not prevent attacks but certainly do decrease the quality of life of the innocents.