Since the United States termed China’s crackdown in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region “genocide,” the Genocide Convention, which stipulates the prevention and punishment of mass killings, has been attracting more attention.
Although 152 countries have currently ratified the convention, Japan is not a signatory due to barriers posed by domestic laws. Concern over a divergence from the international community has brought the Liberal Democratic Party to heightened calls for ratification.
The Genocide Convention is an international treaty created in 1948, to which all G7 nations except Japan, as well as China, are signatories. It defines genocide as the killing or inflicting of physical or mental harm on members of racial, ethnic or religious groups.
Although there have been some calls within Japan for ratifying the convention in the past, so far Japan has kept its distance from the standpoints of necessity and urgency.
The convention obliges signatory nations to levy punishment based on national law. With conspiracy and incitement leading to genocide also subject to punishment under the convention, many parts of Japan’s legal system remain unprepared to cope with the new categories of crimes. For Japan, signing the treaty would necessitate a “major revision of the Penal Code,” according to a government official.
When Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi was asked about Japan joining the treaty at a press conference on February 9, he merely parroted the usual government response, “We will continue to carefully consider the issue.”
Meanwhile, Japan did ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2007. Like the Genocide Convention, it defines genocide and its aim is to administer justice. But it does not impose an obligation on signatory states to mete out punishment.
Likewise, if investigation and prosecution are problematic for a country, the ICC provides support. Under these regulations, a government’s role is to contribute to the prevention and eradication of serious crimes.
A senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out, “Currently, only the U.S. recognize the Uyghur issue as genocide.” He explained on February 9. “Even if Japan signs the treaty, human rights violations against Uyghurs will not stop. It is more important for us to consider what Japan can do to improve the situation.”
In response, some members of the Liberal Democratic Party have called for Japan to ratify the convention. House of Councillors member, Shigeharu Aoyama, said, “More than two-thirds of UN member states are signatories to the convention. From the standpoint of upholding the UN Charter, maintaining the status quo is unacceptable.”
A middle-ranking Diet member also raised the issue, saying, “Japan is not even a signatory to the treaty, so we are still on the step prior to recognition of genocide”. In February, the party’s Foreign Affairs Division launched a project team on diplomacy and human rights with the aim of stimulating debate on the issue.
(Read the column in Japanese at this link.)
Author: The Sankei Shimbun