U.N. human rights chief calls for caution over Japan's state secrets bill

December 03, 2013

By JUN NOJIMA/ Correspondent

GENEVA--U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay added her voice to the growing groundswell of opposition to the contentious state secrets protection bill being fast-tracked by the Abe administration, echoing concerns raised both in and outside of Japan.

"They should not rush through the law without first putting in proper safeguards for access of information and freedom of expression as guaranteed in Japan’s Constitution and international human rights law," Pillay said in a news conference here on Dec. 2.

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights urged Japan to proceed cautiously, saying that concerns that the bill contains provisions that are vague about what constitutes state secrets have yet to be rectified.

Pillay characterized the bill as classifying information that is "inconvenient" to the government as state secrets.

The bill is aimed at protecting state secrets concerning diplomacy, defense, prevention of spying and other harmful activities, and prevention of terrorism.

It imposes stiffer sentences for those handling information designated as state secrets if they leak them, including up to 10 years in prison.

But opponents argue that the bill would undermine the public’s right to know, leaving room for broad interpretation by powerful bureaucrats in designating what would be classified as state secrets.

Under its current provisions, no clear-cut measure has been included in the bill to guarantee that an independent panel will verify the appropriateness of information that the government deems secret under this designation.

The ruling coalition is seeking to pass the bill, which is currently in the Upper House, before the current Diet session ends on Dec. 6.

By JUN NOJIMA/ Correspondent
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U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay during a news conference in Geneva on Dec. 2 (Jun Nojima)

U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay during a news conference in Geneva on Dec. 2 (Jun Nojima)

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  • U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay during a news conference in Geneva on Dec. 2 (Jun Nojima)

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