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Gov't, opposition clash over UN expert's letter slamming 'anti-conspiracy' bill

Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Sohei Nihi asks a question about the "anti-conspiracy" bill during a May 29, 2017 House of Councillors session. (Mainichi)

The government and opposition have clashed over a letter by a U.N. special rapporteur criticizing Japan's so-called "anti-conspiracy" bill on the grounds that it could affect fundamental public freedoms.

In his letter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy Joseph Cannataci, stated, "The proposed bill, in its current form and in combination with other legislation, may affect the exercise of the right to privacy as well as other fundamental public freedoms given its potential broad application."

The open letter was addressed to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and released on the website of the U.N. Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. The Japanese government, which is pushing to enact the bill, protested that the content of the letter was "clearly inappropriate."

The bill to revise the Act on Punishment of Organized Crimes and Control of Crime Proceeds would criminalize preparation for terrorism and other crimes by changing the conditions that constitute conspiracy. The government maintains that the bill is necessary in order to sign the U.N. Convention on Transnational Organized Crime.

Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Sohei Nihi criticized the government's stance. "It says a revised bill is indispensable for the convention, but then takes a hostile view of criticism. There's no way that can pass," he said. He added that the government should hold talks with the special rapporteur.

Abe pointed out that Cannataci had in another letter to the ambassador of a representative office in Geneva said that he based his position on an unofficial English translation of the bill, and that he was prepared to amend his position if he saw the Japanese government's translation, and if he was wrong on any aspect.

"He expressed his view without hearing any explanation from the Japanese government," Abe said.

During the recent Group of Seven summit in Italy, Abe spoke with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and Guterres told him that Cannataci's position was not something that reflected the overall view of the United Nations.

Regarding Cannataci's letter, Abe stated, "The letter is unilateral. To provide an accurate explanation, I will explain the matters of inquiry in the letter."

Cannataci's letter was dated May 18. In it he also wrote, "In particular I am concerned by the risks of arbitrary application of this legislation given the vague definition of what would constitute the 'planning' and the 'preparatory actions' and given the inclusion of an overbroad range of crimes ... which are apparently unrelated to terrorism and organized crime."

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