2. Activities of the Human Rights Organs of the Ministry of Justice

The activities of the human rights organs of the Ministry of Justice can be divided into the following areas: human rights promotion, human rights counseling, investigation and resolution of human rights infringement cases, and the civil legal aid system..

(1) Human Rights Promotion

The human rights organs of the Ministry of Justice have been carrying out various activities to improve each citizen's awareness and understanding of human rights. Examples of activities are the holding of symposiums, lectures, round-table talks, discussions, movie viewings, participation in various events, TV, radio and cable broadcasts, publicity in newspapers and public relations magazines, distribution of pamphlets and fliers, posting of posters, banners, and billboards, and broadcasts using loudspeaker vans. These activities are collectively called “human rights promotion activities” and they are indispensable to prevent human rights infringements beforehand.

1) The Priority Target of Promotion Activities

In order to promote their activities, the human rights organs of the Ministry of Justice have annually set a priority target for the year and have conducted focused promotion activities since 1966. The target for FY2004 was set as “Fostering each individual's awareness of human rights -- Human rights close to home”. It aims at motivating each individual to actively cultivate a keen awareness of human rights, and to respect each other's human rights starting in their immediate environment, such as in homes, schools, workplaces, and local communities.

2) Human Rights Week

The United Nations designated December 10 as “Human Rights Day” at its 5th General Assembly on December 4, 1950 to commemorate December 10, 1948, the day that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted at its 3rd General Assembly and recommended that member states perform commemoration ceremonies. In Japan in 1949, the year following adoption of the Declaration, the week ending on December 10 each year was designated as “Human Rights Week” and nationwide human rights promotion activities have been carried out since then.

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3) Network for Human Rights Promotion Activities

To create an interlinking network among the bodies implementing human rights promotion activities such as the human rights organs of the Ministry of Justice, prefectures, municipalities of wards, cities, towns, and villages, and public corporations, the project to establish a “Network for Human Rights Promotion Activities” has been under development at a prefectural level since 1998 and a municipal level since 2000.

Through this network, members have been cooperating in human rights promotion activities, drawing up annual programs on human rights promotion activities, constructing a database of information relating to human rights, and providing information on the promotion of human rights.

4) Human Rights Promotion Festivals

Human Rights Promotion Festivals are held twice a year in two different prefectures in Japan by integrating various events such as symposiums, exhibitions of awareness raising materials, panels on human rights, awareness raising movies, folk entertainment and concerts to which residents are invited to participate.

In 2004, the festivals were held in Okayama and Saitama Prefecture, and as many as 60,000 people participated in total.

5) Human Rights Flower Campaign

The Human Rights Flower Campaign has been held since 1982 as a human rights promotion activity carried out mainly for elementary school students.

The purpose of this campaign is for children to nurture a warm-hearted spirit and to learn tenderness and compassion by cooperating together in caring for flower seeds and bulbs and thereby realizing the preciousness of life through this experience. This activity has been extremely effective in nurturing the philosophy of respect for human rights in families and local societies by giving the parents and nursing homes the flowers they grow and also through sketching and viewing events.

6) National Human Rights Essay Contest for Junior High School Students

6) National Human Rights Essay Contest for Junior High School Students

The National Human Rights Essay Contest for Junior High School Students has been held since 1981 for the purpose of enabling junior high school students to improve their understanding of the importance and necessity of human rights and to acquire a richer awareness of human rights through writing essays on human rights issues. In FY2004, a total of 755,390 students (about 20% of all junior high school students across the country) from 5,762 schools (about 48% of junior high schools) entered the contest.

(2) Human Rights Counseling

Human Rights Counseling Offices have been established by the human rights organs of the Ministry of Justice as places of consultation where questions in daily life over whether an issue is a human rights problem or whether legal measures are possible can be asked without reservation. The counseling is free of charge and there are no difficult procedures to follow. The content of the counseling is kept absolutely confidential.

In addition, for foreign nationals who cannot speak Japanese fluently, Human Rights Counseling Offices for Foreigners are held in the legal affairs bureaus and district legal affairs bureaus in Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Takamatsu, and Matsuyama, where interpreters proficient in English and Chinese are posted. Other legal affairs bureaus and district legal affairs bureaus open special human rights counseling offices for foreigners whenever necessary, such as during Human Rights Week.

Furthermore, the legal affairs bureaus and district legal affairs bureaus nationwide have a women's rights hotline specializing in counseling for women and a children's rights hotline specializing in counseling for children, and human rights volunteers and the staff of legal affairs bureaus conduct telephone counseling.

(Note) Women's Rights Hotline

Human rights problems concerning women such as violence against women including domestic violence, sexual harassment, and stalking behaviors have recently become problems of increasing severity.

Therefore, the human rights organs of the Ministry of Justice established the women's rights hotline in 2000, which specializes in women's rights, at the legal affairs bureaus and district legal affairs bureaus nationwide, and have made consultations over the phones possible in order to handle violations of women's rights as soon as possible and to resolve them.

(Note) Children's Rights Hotline

Children's rights problems tend to happen in places that are hard to notice. The child victim himself or herself may not be mature enough to inform an outside party about the damage or may find it difficult to tell somebody close. For these reasons, there are many cases where the problem is discovered for the first time when it has become quite serious. Therefore, telephone counseling is carried out to uncover the signs from children as soon as possible in order to resolve the problem.

(3) Human Rights Infringement Cases

1) Investigation and Resolution of Human Rights Infringement Cases

Where it is suspected that infringement of human rights has taken place, this case is called a human rights infringement case. Human rights infringements are not only against the law but also are against the spirit of respecting human rights, which is the basic principle of the Constitution of Japan and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The human rights organs of the Ministry of Justice immediately start relief procedures when they receive a request for relief from a victim. In addition, the organs may start relief procedures on suspecting human rights infringements that are reported in newspapers or magazines.

During the relief procedure, an investigation is conducted to determine whether or not human rights infringements have really occurred. This investigation, however, is voluntarily carried out with the cooperation of the people concerned and is not a compulsory investigation like that of the police or of public prosecutors.

If human rights infringement is confirmed as a result of investigation, one of seven relief measures is taken, which include legal advice as “assistance”, “conciliation” to conciliate the discussions of the parties concerned, and strict measures against the perpetrator such as an accusation or warning. Among the relief measures, assistance and conciliation may be carried out during an investigation, taking effective timing into consideration. In addition, depending on the case, human rights promotion is carried out for the parties concerned.

After completion of the relief procedure, the results of the measures are reported to the victim and, when necessary, aftercare is provided for the victim by cooperating with related administrative organs and contacting the parties concerned.

2) Human Rights Conciliator System

In cases where a person's life is violated by traffic obstruction, by a neighbor's harassment, or privacy is violated, many of the persons concerned are in conflict. In such cases, it is appropriate to solve the conflict of the parties concerned by listening carefully to what both sides want to say and by adjusting both sides' claims and interests. As a system to adjust the claims and interests of both parties concerned, the “Human Rights Conciliator System” was established. Human rights conciliators are appointed from among human rights volunteers, and they conciliate the claims and interests of the parties concerned from a fair and neutral point of view and try to solve cases peacefully.

Number of human rights infringement cases
(from Jan.1 to Dec.31,2011 )
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