Justice minister vows to undertake sweeping reforms to Japan’s authorized system

Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa believes Japan’s judicial and judicial systems need reforms to adapt to changing times after highlighting deficiencies in the ministry’s administration over the past few years that have generated public criticism in Japan and abroad.

In her quest to change the status quo, since resuming her position as Justice Minister, Kamikawa has vowed to make the system “more familiar” to the public.

In a recent interview, the minister vowed to review longstanding practices in the ministry’s offices in Japan and abroad in order to regain public confidence in the judiciary while “creating a society where no one remains isolated”.

In her agenda, Kamikawa also emphasized improving policies for foreigners living in Japan.

What follows are excerpts from the interview about Kamikawa’s planned steps to reform the justice and justice system.

Rebuilding public confidence through internal reforms

When Kamikawa resumed her position as head of justice in September, she found herself in the midst of the chaos caused by a gambling scandal with a former chief prosecutor, yelling over a controversial bill to extend the legal retirement age of senior prosecutors.

The situation led to the suspension of the bill and his resignation. However, the proposal cast a shadow over the independence of the judicial system and raised concerns about its politicization. On Tuesday, the minister set up an internal working group to review staff practices by revising the records and document management system and introducing a training program for prosecutors to refresh their knowledge of the ethical duties and ideals of their office . The ministry had previously admitted that it had not kept all records of meetings related to decisions to extend the senior prosecutor’s retirement.

The list of challenges to review does not end here, and Kamikawa links the underlying causes of the difficulties to longstanding practices, including a traditional work culture that has suppressed workers’ voices and overlooked many shortcomings. To address the issue, Kamikawa has visited and inspected various facilities under the Ministry’s jurisdiction.

“I believe these voices are critical to improving governance, which will consequently lead to regaining public confidence,” she said. “Even in our daily life we ​​do not always follow certain routines and we also see social changes. So right now the question is whether we are able to keep changes. “

Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa on October 7th inspected the Foreign Residents Support Center in Tokyo, which opened last year to provide legal and other services to non-Japanese residents in order to revise the practices under the Ministry’s jurisdiction. | KYODO

Support for foreigners

Kamikawa also pledged to step up assistance to overseas residents in Japan, recognizing the difficulties faced by non-Japanese residents who have become unemployed or have financial or other challenges affecting their lives and livelihoods as a result of the pandemic.

She suggested foreigners seek advice on employment, visas, law, and other humanitarian issues, noting that the government is providing services to them by providing advisory services in 14 languages, including English and Chinese.

“I don’t think this information has reached many people (who may need assistance),” she said.

Kamikawa added that the Immigration Services Agency (ISA) is enabling those whose residency is expired to extend their residency status so that their prolonged stay is not considered illegal.

The ministry is also keen to present a bill to address issues with detained asylum seekers.

“The proposed changes aim to protect (asylum seekers) who meet the criteria for recognition of refugee status, as well as to revise the conditions to prevent long detention of those who do not meet the criteria but do not quickly get into theirs Home countries can be deported. ” She said.

Kamikawa said she wants to revise the procedure for foreigners who are handed deportation orders if they are not recognized as refugees and improve conditions for detained asylum seekers. She also recognized the negative impact the pandemic had on those detained.

The prolonged detention of asylum seekers has long led to calls for improvements in conditions in immigration detention centers, leading some detainees to go on hunger strikes in protest, some of whom have died.

In response to this criticism, the ISA, which reports to the ministry, revised its supervisory measures in September, which allow foreigners who apply for refugee status and are expected to be detained for more than six months to be released from isolation.

Child benefit after divorce

Since her first term in office, Kamikawa has made a pledge to commit to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by improving access to and promising to improve access to a fair judicial system so that “nobody feels isolated”.

Kamikawa has made helping children trapped in detention battles a priority. She has asked an advisory body to look into changes in the law to cover the cost of child support after the divorce. Japan has been increasingly criticized by human rights activists who have called for legislative changes to introduce a shared custody system as a basic human right. Under current law, joint custody is limited to married couples only and, in most cases, mothers are granted custody in the event of divorce.

“Divorce has a huge impact on a child’s upbringing, and in today’s society it’s hard to say that men are equally involved in the upbringing of their children,” she said.

She also said further discussion is needed to resolve issues arising from child custody disputes over the children of international marriages.

“I want to approach the problem from the child’s point of view and put children first,” said the Justice Minister.

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  • Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa speaks about her mission to restore public confidence in the nation's judicial system RYUSEI TAKAHASHI during an interview on Jan. 19

  • Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa on October 7th inspected the Foreign Residents Support Center in Tokyo, which opened last year to provide legal and other services to non-Japanese residents in order to revise the practices under the Ministry's jurisdiction.  |  KYODO

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