12 July 2017

News Story: Japan's anti-conspiracy law takes effect amid civil rights concerns

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A Japanese law penalizing the planning of a range of crimes took effect Tuesday, with the government insisting that it will help thwart terrorism even as concerns linger among the public that enhanced police power could lead to suppression of civil liberties.

Under the law, which the ruling parties rammed through the Diet last month, terrorist groups or other criminal organizations will be punished for planning and preparing to commit 277 crimes. It brings a major change to Japan's criminal law system that had basically applied penalties only after crimes had actually been committed.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has framed the law as an essential tool for tackling terrorism in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and necessary to ratify a U.N. treaty on international organized crime. Japan is the only country among the Group of Seven countries that has yet to ratify the convention despite signing it in 2000.

But opponents including legal experts have warned that the definition of terrorist groups and other organized criminal groups is vague, leaving room for anyone to be punished. They also criticized that the law's application on offenses included those that seem to be unrelated to organized crimes, such as forestry product theft.

The government has denied arbitrary punishment by investigative authorities, saying that what constitutes a crime is specified under the law and is also checked by courts.

The bill deliberated at the Diet was more commonly known as the "conspiracy bill" in a reference to three similarly worded bills that had sought to introduce a conspiracy charge.

Read the full story at The Mainichi