The Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s Democratic Party, and other organizations have taken a firm position against legislation necessary for Japan to accede to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
It is uncertain how U.S. President Donald Trump’s military attack on Syria, as well as China’s expansionism, North Korean threats, and South Korea’s coming election will affect the international order, but it is clearly growing more unstable. Given the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, terrorism and crime targeting Japan are growing likelier.
Many countries have acceded to the Convention to improve cooperation including information sharing in order to prevent terrorism and crime. A total of 187 countries, or 96 percent of U.N. members, have acceded to the convention, while only 11 countries—including Japan—have not.
Nevertheless, the Asahi Shimbun opposes the bill because it includes the spirit of a “conspiracy charge” bill that would punish individuals for planning to commit crime and may allow authorities to violate people’s freedom of thought. If that were true, even I would oppose the bill. But on close examination of the legislation before the Diet, we find that such concerns are misplaced.
Eleven years ago, I delivered testimony before the House of Representatives Judicial Committee on the conspiracy charge bill proposed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito coalition. Then, there was some room for the concerns expressed by Asahi Shimbun and DP. In response to these concerns, I argued that the conspiracy charge should be established and that visible conditions should be set forth to prevent authorities from abusing or violating freedom of speech, thought, or creed. To this end, the ruling parties should accept proposed amendments by the Democratic Party (then called Democratic Party of Japan) which were reasonable given the concerns surrounding the legislation.
But the current bill differs far from the previous one. While the previous bill had allowed authorities to charge people with concrete agreement to commit a serious crime, the current bill requires authorities to find preparations for committing crime in addition to the agreement to do so, effectively addressing the concerns that the Democratic Party, Asahi Shimbun, and I had requested. Nevertheless, the Democratic Party and Asahi Shimbun still oppose the bill, claiming that present law is sufficient to crack down on terrorism.
However, present law is not enough. For example, assume that terrorist group members attempt to take ordinary people hostage and exchange them for their colleagues in prison. Under the present law, police cannot arrest them simply for planning such an attempt. Police cannot arrest them for purchasing arms or going close to the house of hostage targets with arms, either. Police can arrest them only after they intrude into the house. This is because Japanese law is basically designed to punish offenders only after they commit crime. Such clampdown is too late.
The current bill to charge anyone with preparing for terrorism would allow law enforcement authorities to arrest and interrogate offenders once they purchase arms, shutting down the loophole of the present law. Japan must enact the bill as early as possible. The Asahi Shimbun and the DP should end its opposition for the sake of opposition.
Yoshiko Sakurai is president of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals. This piece originally appeared on JINF’s website.