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Lawmakers to launch group for Japan's 'Magnitsky Act' against human rights violations

The National Diet building is seen in this file photo. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- Japanese lawmakers are launching a multipartisan parliamentary group to establish the Japan version of "the Magnitsky Act," a law that imposes sanctions on foreign individuals or organizations involved in human rights violations.

    Former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and House of Representatives member Shiori Yamao of the opposition Democratic Party for the People announced the initiative on Jan. 27.

    The ruling coalition partner Komeito's Acting Secretary-General Kiyohiko Toyama and lower house member Seiichi Kushida of the conservative opposition Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) were among the lawmakers who attended the meeting of promoters for the legislation held in the Diet that same day. The group is set to hold its first general meeting in early February.

    The Magnitsky Act, named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died in prison after investigating wrongdoing by the Russian government, was enacted in the United States in 2012 to allow the U.S. government to freeze assets and ban entry of individuals and groups involved in human rights violations in Russia. The law has since been revised to authorize sanctions on any parties regardless of country or region in which human rights violations took place.

    Other countries including Canada and the European Union are moving forward to adopt similar laws of their own. Lawmaker Yamao said the situation is becoming one in which "only Japan among the Group of Seven (leading industrial nations) has not set up the legislation."

    Nakatani and Yamao co-chair the suprapartisan Japan Parliamentary Alliance on China and have been working toward forming Japan's Magnitsky Act with an eye on its application to China, which has been increasing pressure on Hong Kong citizens.

    Regarding the parliamentary group set to launch, however, the lawmakers hope that they gain broader support from both ruling and opposition camps by expanding the scope of the legislation's application to human rights violations in foreign countries in general, rather than preparing on the assumption that it will apply to China.

    (Japanese original by Jun Aoki, Political News Department)

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