06/15/2017, 18.08
JAPAN
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Shinzo Abe's anti-terrorism legislation sparks protests over civil liberties restrictions

After three attempts, the Japanese diet approves controversial bill. For the government, the new legislation is needed to ratify the UN treaty aimed at global organised crime and prevent terrorism at the 2020 Olympics. Critics argue that the law restricts freedom and civil rights and has nothing to do with crime or terrorism.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Japanese Diet has passed controversial legislation introduced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government that gives prosecutors the power to monitor and arrest people in the planning stages of crimes.

Japanese governments had tried three times to pass similar legislation, which opposition, international observers, and legal expert view as a potential threat to civil and political liberties.

After the lower house passed the bill, the upper house used a procedure to end discussions in the Judicial Affairs Committee to get the bill through in a plenary session.

Thousands of people staged a protest around parliament, fearing that the next step may be the revision of the constitution.

The Abe government has argued that the law is needed to ratify a UN treaty aimed at global organised crime as well as prevent terrorism as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Olympics.

Critics argue that the legislation will restrict freedom and civil rights and that it has nothing to do with crime and terrorism but will lead to excessive state surveillance.

For example, the law lists 277 serious offences: they include organising sit-in protest against real estate speculations or the illegal download of music.

According to some of his detractors, Abe also wants to change the constitution that has defined Japan's security policy since World War II, which he considers too pacifist.

Last month, he proposed an amendment to recognise the existence of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces whilst maintaining Article 9, which renounces the right to war and prohibits land, sea and air forces. He wants the change to take effect by 2020.

“This fits Abe’s agenda in the run-up to a prospective national referendum on constitutional revision, and Japan’s possible involvement in future wars,” said Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo.

Others believe that Abe wants to speed up the approval of anti-terrorism legislation only to end parliament's current session in order to avoid discussions of a political scandal that involves him over alleged influence peddling to help a friend’s school project, something that might affect upcoming local elections on 2 July.

Abe reacted angrily at the allegations, saying that the legislation would apply only to terrorist activity and organised crime.

“It’s only three years until the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and so I’d like to ratify the treaty on organised crime as soon as possible so we can firmly cooperate with international society to prevent terrorism,” Abe said. “That’s why the law was enacted.”

Abe used the same arguments against Joseph Cannataci, the United Nation’s special rapporteur on the right to privacy, who wrote an open letter to the prime minister last month expressing concern about increased surveillance under the anti-conspiracy bill.

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