Human Rights Volunteers are private citizens engaging in human rights counseling and dissemination of the concept of human rights based on the Human Rights Volunteers Act.
The Human Rights Volunteers System was established in 1948 based on the idea that it is desirable that the concept of human rights be disseminated by citizens with various backgrounds and that human rights be protected within the community. These type of system is not found in any other country.
The work by human rights volunteers is gratuitous. About 14,000 volunteers are appointed by the Minister of Justice currently and allocated to municipalities (including special wards in Tokyo). The Human Rights Volunteers actively engage in human rights promotion and protection activities.
Human rights volunteers’ backgrounds are, for instance;
To appoint a Human Rights Volunteer, the heads of municipalities will select a suitable candidate for the volunteer such as a person with great personality, deep insight, and extensive knowledge of the realities in society as well as a deep understanding of human rights promotion and protection. Then, they will take the opinions of the respective municipal council, and make a recommendation to the Legal Affairs Bureau or District Legal Affairs Bureau (Article 6, paragraph 3 of the Human Rights Volunteers Act).
The Legal Affairs Bureau or District Legal Affairs Bureau will deliberate on the recommendation, also asking for an opinion from the Bar Association and the Prefectual Association of Human Rights Volunteers, and finally the Minister of Justice will appoint the candidate as the Human Rights Volunteer (Article 6, paragraph 2 of the Human Rights Volunteers Act).
The National Federation of Associations of Human Rights Volunteers has set June 1 as “Human Rights Volunteers’ Day” since 1982 to commemorate the day on which the Human Rights Volunteers Act came into effect. On that day, Human Rights Volunteers re-recognize their vocation as well as publicly announce the importance of respect for human rights and that Human Rights Volunteers are allocated in each municipality to provide citizens with counseling.
Before and after the “Human Rights Volunteers’ Day”, ad-hoc human rights counseling centers are set up within public facilities and other places nationwide to provide human rights counseling and conduct awareness-raising activities.