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2013 October 23 - 29 TOP3 [CIVIL RIGHTS]

Legal experts issue statements against state secrets bill

October 29, 2013
Japan’s legal scholars on October 28 issued two statements opposing the state secrets bill the Abe Cabinet submitted to the current Diet session, arguing that the bill violates fundamental human rights guaranteed under the Japanese Constitution.

One of the statements issued by a group of 142 researchers dealing with the Constitution and media-related law points out that if the authorities arbitrarily designate as classified a wide range of state information, the public’s right to know will be severely restricted. It also notes that the secrets bill will undermine the base of popular sovereignty by putting limits on the freedom of the press as well as on the people’s right to express their opinions.

A total of 129 experts in criminal law signed the other statement. Pointing to the ambiguity of the bill’s wording regarding penalties on information leakers, it criticized the draft law for “going against due process and the principle of legality which Article 31 of the Constitution guarantees.”

Sophia University Professor Tajima Yasuhiko, one of the initiators of the statement, said at a press conference in the Diet building, “If the state secrets bill becomes law, it will turn Japan into an obsessively secretive and despotic state by allowing the government to monopolize the control of information.”

Murai Toshikuni, the former chair of the Criminal Law Society of Japan, denounced the bill as a form of “military law”. “The fact that the administration is urging the parliament to discuss the secrets bill along with a measure to set up a National Security Council reveals the government’s true aim. We cannot allow the Diet to pass such a bill as the prewar Military Secrets Law,” he stressed.

Aoyama Gakuin University Professor Niikura Osamu condemned the government for moving to place the public under strict control by classifying as secret a wide range of information in collaboration with the United States, as it has been brought to light that the U.S. government has collected information worldwide by employing various means, including illegal wiretapping.
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