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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 January 11 - 17  > ‘Conspiracy bill’ will punish citizens for their thoughts and beliefs
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2017 January 11 - 17 TOP3 [POLITICS]

‘Conspiracy bill’ will punish citizens for their thoughts and beliefs

January 13, 2017
Akahata editorial (excerpt)

The Abe government plans to submit to the Diet a bill to criminalize acts of conspiracy to commit crimes. The bill will significantly expand the scope of crimes under the Organized Crime Punishment Law to regulate what the government calls “terrorism preparation crimes”. A similar bill had been presented to the Diet three times, but was killed each time due to strong public criticism pointing out that it violates basic human rights. With the ordinary session of the Diet scheduled to convene on January 20, the Abe government is seeking to submit this controversial bill with an intent to pass it in the Diet session. This indicates that Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s political stance became even more high-handed than it was in the previous Diet session where he steamrolled through bills to ratify the TPP free-trade pact, reduce public pension benefits, and lift a ban on casino gambling.

The nature of a conspiracy bill is to punish people just for discussing a plan to commit crimes. The government explains that only those who actually carry out preparations for crimes will be charged with conspiracy to commit a crime. However, the definition of “preparation for crimes” is vague because the government admits that in a case where a group of people talk about a plot to do some unlawful acts, the whole group will be deemed punishable even though only one of its members actually engages in crime preparations. This means that people who take no action could face conspiracy charges.

The government claims that only organized crime syndicates will be investigated for conspiracy crimes. However, it also states that if two or more people form a group to commit a crime, they will be regarded as an organized crime syndicate. There is no guarantee that the government will refrain from arbitrarily stretching its definition of “organized crime syndicate”.

The government considers criminalizing acts of conspiracy in regard to 676 serious crimes that are punishable with imprisonment of four years or more. Once a conspiracy crime bill is enacted, people could face a higher risk of suffering from unwarranted police investigations and false accusations.

Modern penal laws have a principle that basically only an act of committing an offense should be punishable because even if a person says something about committing a crime, it does not mean that this person will actually commit a crime. This is an important principle intended to avoid punishing people for their thoughts and beliefs. The recent government move goes against this principle.

To criminalize conspiracy and control acts of discussing and planning crimes might enable law enforcement officers to use wiretapping and GPS tracking devices more frequently in their investigations. These investigation methods would violate innocent people’s privacy, encourage the use of informants, and cause filing of false charges.

The Abe government’s attempt to enact a conspiracy bill is part of its move to turn Japan into a war-capable country. The urgent need now is to block Abe’s reckless politics.

Past related articles:
> Gov’t again considers presenting renamed conspiracy bill [August 27, 2016]
> Gov’t seeks to impose severe penalties for conspiracy [December 12, 2013]
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