Photo/IllutrationThe Upper House plenary session passes the anti-conspiracy legislation on June 15. (Takeshi Iwashita)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Despite objections at home and from abroad, the Diet on June 15 enacted anti-conspiracy legislation that allows law enforcement authorities to arrest and punish people even in the planning stages of a crime.

With the support of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, junior coalition partner Komeito and opposition party Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), the bills, which revise the law on punishment of organized crimes, received 165 votes in favor, versus 70 against, in the Upper House plenary session in the morning.

The Lower House passed the legislation on May 23.

But to pass the bills in the Upper House, the LDP and Komeito used an “interim report,” a procedure stipulated under the Diet Law to omit voting at conventional committees.

Four opposition parties criticized the ruling parties for using this procedure that ended discussions at the Upper House Judicial Affairs Committee.

“It is abnormal to discontinue deliberations to implement voting at the plenary session,” said Toshio Ogawa, chairman of the Upper House caucus of the main opposition Democratic Party.

Japanese law enforcement authorities have been able to arrest and punish people only after they have committed crimes. The anti-conspiracy legislation enables them to do so even if a crime has not been committed.

Opponents have said current laws already have stipulations that can punish the act of preparing such crimes as terrorist acts, and warned that the new legislation could lead to a surveillance state and trample on human rights.

Three previous incarnations of the legislation failed to pass the Diet largely because of such concerns.

But this time, the government emphasized the law was necessary to prevent acts of terrorism. It also explained that enacting the law would be indispensable to conclude the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

“With the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics being held three years from now, we want to conclude the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime as early as possible and cooperate firmly with the international society to prevent acts of terrorism,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at his office in Tokyo after the passage of the legislation.

Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda also said: “I think that (the public’s) understanding (of the legislation) has deepened. I have made explanations earnestly and sincerely in a limited period.”

On the other hand, Renho, leader of the Democratic Party, said: “Even with the Diet’s passage of the anti-conspiracy legislation, the people’s anxiety will not disappear. Rather, the passage will increase their anxiety.”

A U.N. special rapporteur earlier raised concerns that the anti-conspiracy legislation could invade privacy and restrict freedom of expression. The Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party and some other smaller opposition parties demanded the legislation be abolished.

The opposition parties submitted a no-confidence motion against the Abe Cabinet to the Lower House on the night of June 14.

The Lower House voted down the motion in its plenary session held before dawn on June 15. The ruling parties then passed the anti-conspiracy legislation in the Upper House plenary session.

The Upper House spent 17 hours and 50 minutes deliberating the legislation, compared with 30 hours and 25 minutes in the Lower House.

Many concerns remained unresolved, including whether the general public would be subject to investigations, and whether authorities could expand their interpretation of the legislation.

In addition, much of the current Diet session has been focused on a scandal over a veterinary medicine faculty planned by the Kake Educational Institution, which is headed by a close friend of Abe. Questions about the apparent political pressure used to speed up the approval process of the faculty also remain unanswered.

With the passage of the legislation, the Diet session will likely end on June 18 as scheduled without an extension.

“The use of the interim report led us to believe that the ruling parties took into account Abe’s desire not to receive any more questions about the Kake issue,” Renho said.

The anti-conspiracy legislation is expected to be promulgated on June 21 and put in force on July 11.