June 11, 2008
WATCH (Lawyers’ Network for Human Rights Observation around the G8 Summit)
For the forthcoming G8 Summit at Lake Toya in Hokkaido from July 7 to 9, many NGOs and citizen groups are preparing and organizing events relating to human rights, peace, environment and other subjects. Many NGO activists and other civil movement activists from abroad are planning to come to Japan to take part at various G8-related projects.
However, there are reports that the Japanese authorities are handling immigration control very rigidly with regard to the Summit, in several cases even preventing international activists from entering Japan.
In particular, foreign activists who have been convicted of a political crime are required to prove that their crime was political, and provide evidence that they are allowed to enter Japan despite their criminal record, which is according to the political crime exception from the ground for denial of landing as ruled in Section 5 Paragraph 1 Number 4 Phrase 2 Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act ("Immigration Control Act"). Thus, as a condition for recognizing someone as a political criminal, the authorities demand from her/him to submit documents which are extraordinary difficult, if not impossible to produce within an ordinary visa issuance procedure. What's more, of people with a political crime record many are often internationally renowned activists, therefore applying formal and rigid criteria to what counts as evidence of political crimes may damage the credibility of Japanese society.
Recently, a former activist of the African National Congress, Mr. Trevor Ngwane, who was planning to take part at meetings and events related to TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on African Development) from May 28 to 30, was de facto denied entrance to Japan. In fact, Mr. Ngwane has been arrested once in the past, but he was exonerated, so that he currently does not fall under any of the grounds for denial of entry into Japan at all. Nevertheless, on the eve of leaving for Japan, the Foreign Ministry demanded that he produce a certificate issued by the South African Police to the effect that he had never committed any crime. Even though Mr. Ngwane then submitted an affidavit that he had never been punished before, which he obtained from police, the Foreign Ministry denied to issue him a visa under the pretext of obtaining verification, so that Mr. Ngwane could not embark upon his airplane as planned and had to abandon his visit to Japan.
Besides Mr. Ngwane's case, a member of a Korean civil group was denied entry to Japan, sent back to Korea and was allowed to enter only upon her second attempt; also a German NGO activist was rejected at the Otaru Harbour in March. Furthermore, the famous Italian philosopher and political thinker, Antonio Negri, was asked to produce the same documents as in Mr. Ngwane’s case, resulting in the cancellation of his visit. We still feel keenly the astonishment throughout the world about the Japanese government's lack of understanding. We hear that many visa applications are still being examined by the consulary division of the Foreign Ministry.
Associating legitimate civil activities around the G8 Summit with "terrorism" without any justification, and restricting the immigration control systematically is irresponsible behaviour towards international society. International law obligates a state to provide full protection for freedom of expression, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly for civil movements. This obligation applies self-evidently when executing security measures and controls.
We demand that the Japanese authorities respect the rights of political criminals granted in Section 5 Paragraph 1 Number 4 Phrase 2 Immigration Control Act and that the Japanese government does everything in its power to stop hindering foreign NGO activists from coming to Japan.
June 11, 2008