Civil Liberties Squashed in Japan

Terrorism has been a long lasting topic of discussion ever since the events of 9/11, and as it is, many countries are dealing with terrorism in different ways. Countries have open-sourced and analyzed the successes and failures of other countries to find methods to keep their citizens safe from terror. One country in particular has made an audacious step in stopping terrorism: Japan. Is Japan’s new counter-terrorism legislation the right step for the world? As of now, it’s full of opposition and controversy.

The Liberal Democratic Party, the majority party in the Japanese National Diet, lead by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have successfully passed the Anti-Conspiracy Bill in the House of Councillors, Japan’s higher legislative house. This bill continued to the House of Representatives, Japan’s lower house, where it passed by an overwhelming majority. This bill targets the “plotting of an act of terror”; this is defined in exactly 277 different ways. The legislation leaves a lot open to debate and is extremely obscure in what it defines as terrorism. Among other things, sit-in protests and copying music are some of the obscure targets in this bill. Other laws that the Liberal Democrat Party has passed in Japan have bolstered in an increase in security like wiretapping, increasing police surveillance, and in enlargement of security cameras.

Prime Minister Abe claims that the Anti-Conspiracy Bill’s motive is to protect Japan for the upcoming world events like the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The opposition leader, Renho Murata of the Democratic Party, said that this “brutal” law will curb civil liberties and human rights. Murata also says that this bill blocks “the freedom of thought.” People in opposition of this bill fear that the government could stop genuine protest to government policy with no relation to terror.

The United Nations (UN) has given their input on Japan’s Anti-Conspiracy Bill. Joseph Cannataci, a rapporteur on the right to privacy made stated that this legislation could “lead to undue restrictions to the rights to privacy and to freedom of expression.” Many Japanese citizens are split on this issue; Kyodo, a news agency reports that 39.9% support and 41.1% oppose this bill. The opposition has been vocal, rallying protests against the apparently authoritarian legislation.

It is obvious that counter-terrorism is a hotbed of controversy, especially in Japan. Should America see Japan as a success and adopt the policy, or should America see Japan as a failure? What America can see, however, is a growing debate on whether civil liberties should be curbed in order to stop terrorism.   

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