Europeans Warned about Ill-Treatment in Japan before World Cup
John de Boer (University of Tokyo & GLOCOM Platform)
Just days before the FIFA World Cup Finals are scheduled to begin in Japan troubling news has reached Europe. A recent report issued by UK based Amnesty International states that, "foreign nationals entering Japan may be at risk of ill-treatment by immigration authorities during interrogations at Special Examination Rooms by private security guards in detention facilities located at Japanese ports of entry, including Narita airport". With tens of thousands of foreigners expected to travel to Japan for the World Cup, the worry on the part of many concerned Europeans is that the risk of ill-treatment will be heightened.
The aftermath of S-11 has witnessed an increase in the tendency on the part of authorities world wide to overstep boundaries delineated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) when conducting investigations of suspected persons. Unfortunately, Japan is no exception.
According to the twenty-page report issued by Amnesty International in May 2002, foreign nationals have allegedly been strip-searched, beaten and denied food while being held in window-less detention facilities. The allegations center on treatment handed out by private security companies that have been contracted by air carriers to transport and house foreign nationals from Special Examination Rooms, where they were denied entry after interrogations conducted by Japanese immigration officials, to detention facilities.
In practice, after "the order to leave" is issued to foreign nationals by immigration officials, the carrier that brought them to Japan is responsible for the security and expenses of "holding" them until they can be transported back to where they came from. Air carriers have contracted private security companies to carry out these responsibilities. In the process, the report published by Amnesty International documents individual cases of ill-treatment at the hands of certain security companies. In many cases, the detainees were held incommunicado being denied access to their families, consular or diplomatic missions and refused contact with representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. In some cases, security companies have reportedly demanded and forcibly taken money from foreign nationals for "security charges" before they were deported, despite regulations preventing them from doing so. Another alarming fact revealed by this report was that this treatment has been applied to both asylum seekers and foreign nationals with valid travel documents repeatedly.
Japan has the important responsibility to protect the rights and the lives of all civilians visiting and living within its territory. During occasions such as the World Cup the amount of pressure being exerted on Japanese immigration and security officials is immense. This is particularly so, considering that Japan will co-host the largest sporting event ever since S-11.
However, the core concerns raised by this report do not question Japan's right to defend itself, its citizens and visitors from danger posed by criminal elements seeking entry into Japan. Neither does it question Japan's right to deny entry to foreign nationals who have criminal records, such as Diego Maradona. Rather, the report simply requests that airport authorities in Japan respect and adhere to international law when carrying out their responsibilities. In principle, Japan should have no problems with this demand as it is signatory to all conventions highlighted in the Amnesty report. Nevertheless, Europeans have been made aware that Japanese authorities are not adhering to their duties and instead are reverting to illegal and intimidating behavior.
Europe has its own problems with immigration holding centers. Horrendous cases are being reported from detention centers in Ceuta, Spain, which surpass those documented in the Amnesty report on Japan. Similar stories have also been reported in the UK, where foreign nationals awaiting deportation have been held in prison cells in contravention of international human rights law. The only difference is that the spotlight is now on Japan as it co-hosts the World Cup. This is Japan's chance to shine, to demonstrate how wonderful the country is, how hospitable the people are, and how safe the cities and towns are. It is urged that the Japanese government and all of its citizens do all that they can to make this event a success in all of its aspects.
!! GAMBARE NIPPON !!