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Editorial: Ordinary people not subject to monitoring under anti-terror bill

  • May 24, 2017
  • , The Japan News
  • English Press

Atrocious criminal acts by international terrorist groups cannot be prevented without mutual investigative assistance with other countries.


A relevant domestic law must be established during the current session of the Diet to make it possible for Japan to become a signatory to the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, thereby establishing a firm security system in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.


A bill to revise the Law on Punishment of Organized Crimes and Control of Crime Proceeds, which is mainly intended to criminalize planning and preparations to commit acts of terrorism and other serious offenses, has passed through a plenary session of the House of Representatives with a majority vote by the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito plus Nippon Ishin no Kai, an opposition party, before being sent to the House of Councillors.


The Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party and other opposition parties criticized the passage of the bill as “steamrolling” but the hours spent for deliberation of the bill have reached 30, a threshold regarded as necessary for important bills. It makes sense that the ruling parties have decided to take a vote on the bill, arguing, “All points of contention have been deliberated.”


Ahead of the vote, the LDP, Komeito and Nippon Ishin no Kai agreed to modify the government bill. The modification called for incorporating in an additional clause a provision to study whether to mandate audiovisual records of interrogations on planning and preparation to commit acts of terrorism and other serious offenses.


If audiovisual recording of interrogations is made mandatory, it will cause concern that suspects will keep silent for fear of reprisals. Whether to mandate the audiovisual recording of interrogations must be studied prudently, but it must be appreciated that the bill has been approved by as many as these three parties.


Deepen public understanding


In lower house deliberations, the opposition camp continued to repeat questions as if they were intended to stoke anxiety.


Despite the government’s explanation that “ordinary people will not be subject to investigation,” the DP and other opposition parties argued repeatedly that it is not clear whether ordinary people will be suspected to have violated the envisaged law unless they are investigated.


Their arguments appear to be aimed at reinforcing the idea that ordinary people are also targeted for surveillance.


Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, an investigation is launched only when suspicion of a crime arises. The envisioned law revision is designed to apply only to organized crime groups. Those unrelated to such groups could not be suspected, and could never be subject to investigation. The opposition parties’ criticism misses the point.


Referring to the 277 criminal acts subject to possible investigation, the opposition has denounced it as “too many.”


The government has emphasized that the crimes subject to surveillance have been selected properly, saying that “subject to investigation are crimes that could be conducted realistically by organized crime groups.”


In connection with acts violating the Copyright Law, the government expressed a view that subject to surveillance “could be the sale of pirated CDs by organized crime groups.” The offense of excavation of graves and damage to corpses has been included in crimes for planning and preparing terrorism because such a crime actually happened overseas involving a terrorist group.


The government is called on to devote itself to enhancing the people’s understanding of the revision bill by presenting concrete examples of its application in the upper house deliberations and by meticulously explaining the importance of the bill.


Anti-terrorism measures must be secured urgently. The government must realize legislation of the bill without hesitating, if necessary, to extend the current Diet session beyond the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election set for July 2.

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