United Nations Office at Geneva
In April of 2016, United Nations Special Rapporteur David Kaye visited Japan to study the state of freedom of expression in the country. He was here for 8 days from April 12, and met with government officials, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and “anonymous” members of the media.
More than a year later, in June, Kaye—a professor at the University of California-Irvine who specializes in international human rights law—submitted his report to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Before submitting his final report, Kaye was obligated to submit a draft to the Japanese government, and to meet with its representatives to discuss his findings. He did give the Ministry of Foreign Affairs a copy on May 24, but government officials now complain the draft does not reflect any of the information and correction they have provided the rapporteur for months.
As early as February 25, the Japanese government rebutted Kaye’s draft report on four points:
- That there are threats to journalistic independence, because government is pressuring them;
- That government has interfered to remove references to comfort women from history textbooks;
- That the scope of the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets is questionable;
- That excessive force was used by government against activists protesting United States military bases on Okinawa, and that they are being monitored.
Kaye’s concerns about governmental pressure on the media were based upon the testimony of “anonymous journalists.” He has decided that the wartime comfort woman system was “criminal,” and has said he feels the government’s designs are being reflected in Japanese textbooks. He has also expressed concerns over hate speech and the press club system, and cited the supposedly unreasonable restrictions that the Public Office Election Law places on election activities.
The Japanese government said it conducted a detailed analysis of Kaye’s preliminary report and the press conferences where he spoke about it during his short visit to Japan. They determined factual errors as well as total disregard of the government’s side in the resulting draft. The final report submitted to UNCHR only noted “reproduced as received” the one-page Japanese government’s “response to recommendations.”
There is a strong possibility that Kaye was influenced by the one-sided opinions of those affiliated with a segment of NGOs, the government said. Its response is a policy to continue refuting the report so it does not cause further misunderstandings about Japan in the international community.
The government was interested in preventing counterfactual views from being incorporated in the report that Kaye was to submit in June. In addition, the Japanese government had worked to have its views listed on the homepage of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights alongside Kaye’s report.
The report submitted by a special rapporteur is not legally binding. Still, the Japanese government is wary lest the Kaye report exerts unchallenged influence from hereon.
In 1996, for example, special rapporteur Radhika Coomaraswamy submitted a report to the UN, declaring comfort women to be sex slaves. Since then, the Coomaraswamy Report has been used by the South Korean government and Japanese activists against Japan.
There is the possibility then that with the release of Kaye’s report, representatives from China and North Korea might use the findings in their propaganda war against Japan.
The Japanese government raised the irony that the access and unrestricted movement Kaye enjoyed in Japan permitted him to talk to his preferred interviewees and come up with a damaging report. In contrast, the other countries known to be subjects of his research—possibly the real problem countries—may not give him access at all, and thus avoid investigation.