On March 21, a new cabinet-approved anti-terror bill was submitted to the Diet. The bill is a proposed revision of the law against organized crime, and includes much stricter actus reus provisions than those for the crime of conspiracy. In advance of the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the government said that the updated law was necessary in order for Japan to ratify the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, a key tool in the international community’s ongoing fight against terrorism. The government is anticipating that the anti-terror bill will pass during the current Diet session. The Liberal Democratic Party—the ruling party of Japan—plans to begin deliberations in the Lower House in the first ten days of April.
The proposed revision is limited in scope to terrorist organizations and criminal gangs, drug-smuggling operations, and other organized terror groups whose purpose is the execution of serious crimes. In addition to the existence of concrete plans or agreements to commit crimes, the application of the provisions of the anti-terror bill also requires “preparatory activities” for committing serious crimes, such as procuring funding, purchasing weapons, or scouting out the planned scene of the crime.
The word “terrorism” did not appear in the draft text of the bill as drawn up by the Ministry of Justice, leading some in the LDP to oppose the bill on the grounds that it should be absolutely clear that its purpose is to target terrorism. So, the word “terrorism” was added to the final draft of the bill.
The statutory penalties for the crimes covered by the bill are no more than five years’ imprisonment for conspiring with someone who commits a crime which carries a penalty of death, indefinite incarceration, or at least ten years in prison, and no more than two years’ imprisonment for conspiring with someone who commits a crime which carries a penalty of between four and ten years’ incarceration.
The UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime asks each country to apply the terms of the Convention to crimes carrying sentences of at least four years in prison. The Japanese government placed 676 separate crimes under the purview of the Convention. However, having received criticism for there being too many crimes on the list, the government narrowed the scope to 277 crimes—such as terrorism, drugs, and financial resources fraud—which could be surmised to be related to organized crime groups. Language was also included which provided for reduced or eliminated penalties for those who turn themselves in to the authorities before the planned criminal activities commence.
At a press conference held on March 21, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide emphasized the government’s position: “As the Tokyo Olympics approach,” Secretary Suga said, “it is necessary to thoroughly strengthen the legal system so that crimes—including acts of terrorism—planned by organized crime groups can be stopped before they are carried out.”
The anti-terror Convention was adopted by the United Nations in 2000, and has already been ratified by 187 countries, or 96% of the UN membership. New conspiracy-crime legislation has been proposed three times in Japan, but has been rejected each time. Japan is one of only ten other countries—including Iran and South Sudan—which have not yet ratified the UN Convention.