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Japan seeks to target terror attacks as criminal conspiracies

  • January 18, 2017
  • , Nikkei Asian Review , 5:00 p.m.
  • English Press

TOKYO — The Japanese government is planning to halve the number of crimes subject to a bill aimed at penalizing people involved in plotting serious offenses, focusing on acts related to terrorist attacks and other organized crimes.


The government is in a rush to enact the bill. However, the reduction came in response to a demand from Komeito, the Liberal Democratic Party’s junior coalition partner, which wanted to trim the number of crimes delineated in the bill. 


Japan’s government is currently working to revise the law against organized crimes by establishing a charge of preparing a terror attack or other crime that narrows the requirements for it constituting a conspiracy. The proposal will slash the number of offenses designated as such to around 300 from 676 under the original proposal.


Of the 300 or so counts, 167 are directly linked with a terrorist attack, including murder, arson, hijacking and the use of chemical weapons. Others included are related to organized crimes, such as the import or export of stimulant drugs and human trafficking. 


Crimes that are not necessarily considered to be the act of a terrorist organization, such as criminal negligence that is not planned in advance and the violation of election laws, are not included in the revision to the bill. 


Enacting the law is a prerequisite for Japan to join the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which urges member countries to have in place legislation punishing those who take part in planning serious crimes that carry a penalty of no less than four years in prison. 


Details prove divisive


The Ministry of Justice believes that the country still meets the conditions for signing the treaty even after it decreases the number of crimes. The ministry, which is conducting negotiations with the ruling parties, is pushing for enactment of the revised bill during the ordinary Diet session to be convened on Friday.


However, it is possible that Komeito will call for further reductions. The party has claimed that the broad range of crimes covered under the bill may lead to improper investigations.


Opposition parties also have staunch objections to the bill. 


Opinions on the matter among experts are divided as well. 


Isao Itabashi, senior analyst of the Council for Public Policy, said it is important for the government to conclude the treaty as soon as possible.


“If there are concerns among the public, the government needs to implement brakes, such as narrowing down the number of crimes,” he said.


But Tetsuya Fujimoto, a professor emeritus of Chuo University, said it would be “difficult to reduce the number of crimes from 676 in light of upholding the international rule.”

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