Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Just what are human rights in Japan?

I was a bit surprised (just a bit, not a lot) when I read reports of the Supreme Court's comments in its ruling on the Nationality Law recently when it stated that citizenship was necessary for receiving basic human rights in Japan. One would assume that any modern democracy would want to guarantee those to any human being in its society---tourist, resident, bum, whatever. What kind of government would assume that denying human rights to anyone in its borders was acceptable?

Colin P.A. Jones writing for the Japan Times was apparently somewhat intrigued by the Court's wording too:

For those who thought that the sole criterion for enjoying basic human rights was, well, being human, Japan's Supreme Court apparently has a different view. Both because this type of phrase is repeated several times and because the opinion cites several human rights conventions (including the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child) in arriving at its conclusion, it is hard to believe that it is just a judicial "oops." Do human rights mean something different in Japan?

I think they do, at least for some of the elite running the government. They often seem to view human rights as something selfish that the peons whom they lord over should not press for too much.

Jones goes into detail here as to what human rights may actually mean in Japan.

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