The international community has a variety of legal means at its disposal—such as the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime—for eradicating terrorist organizations. It is clear that the anti-terror bill is necessary if Japan is going to play a role as a member of the international community.
There are some who are drawing comparisons between the anti-terror bill and the pre-war Peace Preservation Law, criticizing the anti-terror bill as a “malignant law which invades the internal freedom of thought.” Even within the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, there are those who voice their “opposition to the crime of conspiracy” out of ignorance of international criminal law.
The current anti-terror bill contains stringent provisions strictly delineating the actus reus components of the stipulated crimes. It is unthinkable that the bill will lead to abuses of power within modern-day Japan. Those who desire peace, safety, and security in Japan must help enact basic laws which allow the police to mount a full response to threats to Japanese society. The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are just three years away. If the anti-terror bill is not passed now, then how will we respond should terrorists infiltrate the Olympic venues and attempt to carry out their terrorist designs? It will be too late to pass laws once the act of terrorism has already taken place.
To understand the crime of terrorism, it is important that one understand transnational crime. In an increasingly globalized international community, the concept of national borders is being lost in the ongoing exchange of people, goods, and information. Terrorists, too, are able to move from country to country with greater ease than before. As we saw in the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States, it is necessary to apply comprehensive, transnational criminal law in order to respond to ideological-inspired acts of terrorism.
The current anti-terror bill is just a first step in terrorism countermeasures. The next step must be to form an international counter-terrorism network. If the anti-terror bill is passed, then Japan will be able to sign the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, thus finally joining the pre-existing international counter-terrorism network. The current bill is not only about countering terror, however. It is also an effective measure for eliminating criminal gangs.
Terrorists have ideological, religious, and political convictions. In Germany, for example, those who commit “belief crimes” thought to render return to society impossible receive treatment at specialized social facilities designed to rehabilitate them into normal life. The time has come for Japan, too, to engage in a serious debate about criminal penalties for terrorists designed to allow them to rejoin society.
Hisao Kato is an attorney and a former Keio University Law Professor