Forced change of religion in Japan: UN Human Rights Committee denounces Tokyo’s policy of turning a deaf ear
HRWF (25.07.2014) – On 15-16 July, Japan’s human rights record was reviewed in the framework of the 111th session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. During Japan’s sixth periodic review, the right to freedom of religion or belief and the right not to be coerced to change religion has been raised in detailed reports provided to the Committee by Human Rights Without Frontiers (Brussels) and by the Japanese Association of Victims of Abduction and Forced Religious De-Conversion.
During the review, the German expert of the Committee, Ms. Seibert-Fohr, raised the issue of abductions and so-called “deprogramming” as she said. She explained that the Committee came to know about cases of abductions and forced religious de-conversions of members of the Unification Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses, that adults were abducted and confined by their families for up to six months or more, and that there was a lack of investigation and police search, under the justification that they were “with their families”. She explained that civil cases were brought but no injunction had been pronounced to her knowledge. She asked the Japanese government which steps it was going to take to remedy this situation.
The Japanese Government merely denied the existence of a problem by answering: “The examples cited, we are not aware of. When reports are received, we deal with this appropriately. The Ministry of Justice dealing with human rights, based on regulations, indicates that investigations should be made on cases and that is exactly what we do.”
Still, the Committee, in its Concluding Observations of July 24 said that it was “concerned at reports of abductions and forced confinement of converts to new religious movements by members of their families in an effort to de-convert them (arts. 2, 9, 18, 26)” and it urged Tokyo to “take effective measures to guarantee the right of every person not to be subject to coercion which would impair his or her freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief.”
For decades, Japanese authorities have turned a deaf ear to the complaints of numerous victims of abduction, confinement and attempts of change of religion under physical and psychological coercion. For decades, Japanese police have protected the perpetrators from prosecution letting such crimes continue and thus violating the victims’ human rights. Continue reading