(Sankei: February 18, 2016 – p. 1)
It was learned on Feb. 17 that the government will also introduce the “preventive justice” system — under which ministries seek legal advice from the Justice Ministry’s Litigation Bureau during the policy planning stage — in international litigation, such as cases filed with the International Court of Justice (ICJ). This is meant to reduce the risks of losing cases in which Japan is sued by other countries in relation to the TPP or research whaling. Legal issues will be studied in advance for international law cases, which are prone to be influenced by politics, in order to enhance diplomatic negotiation capability in matters affecting national interest.
Japan suffered a complete loss in the ICJ case on its research whaling in the Southern Ocean in March 2014. Japan’s claim that its research whaling is “scientific research” was rejected due to its failure to show convincing scientific results of research whaling and lack of procedural transparency. Japan resumed research whaling last December based on the argument that the International Whaling Commission (IWC) resolution of September 2014 calling for suspension is not legally binding. However, government officials are wary that “unless Japan produces scientific evidence, it may face even harsher criticism.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe advocates “rule of law” in the international community, and considerable progress has been achieved in making common rules among nations with different systems and taking different positions. Such rules have become more important. In order not to lag behind this international trend, the Justice Ministry has decided to introduce the concept of preventive justice in international affairs and strengthen cooperation with the Foreign Ministry. A total of 35 million yen has been earmarked in the FY16 budget for such purposes as research on international justice.
The government intends to settle disputes on research whaling at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) from now on, so it is beefing up research on the interpretation of provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and other relevant legal documents. The decision in the ICJ case that Japan lost and how Japan had built its case will also be examined.
The TPP agreement signed recently by 12 nations has investor-state dispute settlement provisions, and Japan’s unique regulations on the environment and food may be interpreted by foreign companies as “discriminatory.” The Justice Ministry wants to reduce the risks of unjust demands for compensation in anticipation of the effectuation of the TPP accord.