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Yoshiko Sakurai

【#433(Special)】Stop Opposition for Sake of Opposition to Anti-Terror Bill

Yoshiko Sakurai / 2017.04.12 (Wed)

April 10, 2017

     The Asahi Shimbun newspaper, the Democratic Party and other organizations have taken a firm position against an anti-terror bill required 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 tilting to the left will affect international order. The international situation is growing more unstable and severe. Given the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, terrorism and crime targeting Japan are growing likelier.
     Many countries have acceded to the convention to build up cooperation including exchange of information to prevent terrorism and crime. A total of 187 countries, or 96% of the U.N. members, have acceded to the convention, while only 11 countries including Japan have not done so.
     Nevertheless, Asahi claims opposition to the bill for the reason that it includes the spirit of a “conspiracy charge” bill that would punish people for their just planning to commit crime and may allow authorities to violate people’s freedom of mind. If the reason is true, even I do oppose the bill. If we closely examines the bill, however, we can find such concern is eliminated.

Difference from previous conspiracy bill
     Eleven years ago, I gave my opinion as a witness at the House of Representatives Judicial Committee on the conspiracy charge bill proposed by the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito party. Then, there was some room for such concern as that now cited by Asahi and the Democratic Party. Therefore, I made the following two points:
     (1) The conspiracy charge should be established.
     (2) However, visible conditions should be set to prevent authorities from controlling people’s mind and 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).
     The DPJ and Asahi presented reasonable amendments 11 years ago.
     The current government bill differs far from the previous bill. While the previous bill had allowed authorities to charge people with concrete agreement to commit serious crime, the current bill requires authorities to find preparations for committing crime as well as agreement to do so. The current bill includes clear restraint that I, the Democratic Party and Asahi had requested.

Present law cannot crack down on terrorism
     Nevertheless, the Democratic Party and Asahi still oppose the bill, claiming that the present law is enough to crack down on terrorism. However, the 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 just for the planning. 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. The bill could shut down the loophole of the present law. Japan must enact the bill as early as possible. Asahi and the Democratic Party should end its opposition for the sake of opposition.

Yoshiko Sakurai is President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.