Bills for legislating “crimes of conspiracy” were scrapped at Diet sessions three times in the past. The government is now mulling changing the name to the “crime of preparing organized crimes including terrorist attacks” and submitting to the extraordinary Diet session to be convened in September bills for revising the Organized Crime Punishment Law.
Amidst large-scale terrorist attacks taking place across the world, Japan will host the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. In order to combat terrorism in cooperation with the international community, a law to punish crimes of conspiracy is needed. We hope the bills will be swiftly passed at Diet sessions this time so that the government can proceed with preparations of the legal framework for the Olympics.
At the meeting of the General Assembly held in 2000, the UN adopted the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. This is the main instrument to fight against crime by international terrorist organizations and organized crime syndicates. The convention requires the signatories to adopt crime-control bills as a precondition for ratification. More than 180 countries and regions have already concluded the treaty. Japan is, however, the only nation among the Group of Seven (G7) which has not ratified the convention. This is because the country does not have a law to punish conspiracy crimes.
Although bills for legislating crimes of conspiracy were submitted three times during the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, they were all scrapped on account of resistance by opposition parties such as the Democratic Party of Japan, as well as resistance from the weak-kneed ruling parties. As a result, Japan has become a “weak link” in international cooperation in fighting against terrorism.
Opposition parties back then used a far-fetched argument such that “the law could punish someone who said at a bar he would strike his boss,” or “the law could be abused to suppress citizens’ legal protests.”
In order to avoid such distorted arguments, bills to be summited to the upcoming Diet sessions changed the word “groups” to “organized crime groups” for the law to be applied. In addition, not only conspiring to commit crimes but also “acts of preparing for crimes” such as fund-raising and purchasing tools are added as conditions to constitute crimes.
There are concerned voices that such a law is against the principle of Japanese laws – designed to punish offenders after committing crimes. Do they mean we have to wait until terrorist attacks take place? Unless laws enable us to prevent terrorist attacks before they happen, the laws are meaningless.
Furthermore, legislation alone is ineffective to prevent terrorism. Plea-bargaining introduced as a result of the reform of the criminal justice system should be added to the proposed legislation, and wiretapping – now being applied to wider fields – should also be allowed to investigate conspiracy crimes.
It is wrong, however, if the government believes that it would obtain information on international terrorism just by joining the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The basis of information exchange is the principle of reciprocity. The government should swiftly create its own intelligence agency. Less than four years are left until the Tokyo Olympics. Terrorists will not wait for Japanese politics to catch up.