UN working group calls on Japan to set up national human rights institution

A working group of the UN Human Rights Council calls on Japan to establish a national human rights institution, among a wide range of recommendations.

The Working Group on Business and Human Rights has released a report based on its first survey conducted in Japan between July and August last year.

The report says the group is deeply concerned about "the lack of a national human rights institution in Japan," and its absence "can substantially encumber access to justice and effective remedy." It calls for establishing such an institution.

The report also refers to the issue of the gender gap in wages and the underrepresentation of women in executive positions, as well as wages and health of workers engaging in the decontamination and decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. It also pinpointed long working hours in the animation industry.

Comments by the Japanese government have also been made public alongside the report. Tokyo says it believes some of the statements in the report "contain matters that appear to be factually incorrect or one-sided assertions."

Lawyer Ogawa Ryutaro, who is the secretary general of international NGO Human Rights Now, said he thinks the working group presented many proposals calling on the government to improve systems so that companies can fulfill their responsibility to respect human rights. He also said although the report is not legally binding, it is necessary to take the stipulations seriously and make efforts to narrow the gaps with international standards based on the recommendations.

The report is expected to be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in late June.