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Japan passes controversial anti-terror law

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In order to prevent any possibility of a terrorist attack ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan passed a controversial anti-terror law on Thursday that sparked street protests and warnings from critics that it would stomp on citizens’ privacy rights and lead to over-the-top police surveillance.

The upper house of parliament passed the conspiracy bill early Thursday morning after a full night of debate by sleepy parliamentarians and unsuccessful efforts on the part of Japan’s weak opposition to block it.

Thousands of demonstrators protested outside the legislature over the bill which criminalises the planning of serious crimes. Rights groups, Japan’s national bar association and numerous academics have opposed the bill, saying it is so broad it could be abused to allow wiretapping of innocent citizens and threaten privacy and freedom of expression guarantees in the constitution.

US surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden and Joseph Cannataci, UN special rapporteur on the right to privacy, have both criticised the law.

What does the new law says?

The law, which criminalises the plotting and committing of 277 acts, amends an existing law against organised crime syndicates. It bans the procurement of funds or supplies and the surveying of a location in preparation of any of these offences.

An entire group – defined as two or more people – can be charged if at least one member is found to have been plotting the crime. It also bans the expansion or maintenance of illicit interests of organised crime groups.

Japan has signed a UN convention against transnational organised crime, but not yet ratified it. The government said the new law was needed for ratification to go ahead. Mr Abe told reporters the law would allow Japan to “firmly cooperate with international society to prevent terrorism”.

What kind of crimes are banned?

The new law bans not only the plotting and involvement in some serious crimes like terrorism but also lesser offences such as

  • Copying music
  • Conducting sit-ins to protest against the construction of apartment buildings
  • Using forged stamps
  • Competing in a motor boat race without a licence
  • Mushroom picking in conservation forests
  • Avoiding paying consumption tax

 

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Neha Katoch

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