Japan commits to ending impunity for enforced disappearances

Japan took a step towards ending impunity for enforced disappearances on 23 July, when it ratified a UN human rights treaty.

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (Disappearances Convention) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2006. It aims to prevent enforced disappearance, establish the truth when this crime occurs, punish the perpetrators and provide reparations to the victims and their families.

Japan deposited an instrument of ratification of the Disappearances Convention with the office of the United Nations Secretary-General on 23 July. It is the 12th country to do so and the first in Asia.

“Amnesty International welcomes Japan’s ratification of the Disappearances Convention,” said Christopher Hall, Senior Legal Adviser for Amnesty International. “In doing so Japan has shown its commitment to ending impunity for one of the worst violations of human rights. This ratification is very important also because it is the first from an Asian country.”

Amnesty International has called on Japan to go one step further by recognizing the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive communications from individuals and states regarding cases of enforced disappearance.

The Disappearances Convention was the culmination of a long effort by many families of disappeared persons, NGOs and governments to address the continuing problem of enforced disappearance through international law.

“The Disappearances Convention is one of the strongest human rights treaties ever adopted by the United Nations,” said Christopher Hall. “In the past perpetrators of this crime have acted in the knowledge that they were unlikely  to be held accountable for their conduct and the families of the victims have been denied their right to see justice done.  The Disappearances Convention is an important tool for the international community to halt this trend.”

Amnesty International said that Japan must now take the further steps required to fulfil its international obligations to ensure that there is no impunity for enforced disappearances by enacting and amending any necessary legislation to implement the Convention.

“Amnesty International urges Japan to enact effective implementing legislation as soon as possible or to amend existing legislation,” said Christopher Hall. “By ensuring that its territory is not a safe haven for perpetrators of enforced disappearances Japan will set an important example for the world – and other Asian countries – to follow.”