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27 Oct 2007
[Japan Section]
Region: JAPAN
Topic: Fight Against Terrorism and Human Rights
Sponsored by Amnesty International Japan and Solidarity for Migrants Japan (SMJ)

The introduction of the Japan version of the US-VISIT Program, where almost all non-Japanese residents and re-entrants will have their fingerprints, face photographs, and personal details taken and recorded upon (re-)entry, is imminent.
Although this system, which was approved by the 2006 regular session of the Japanese Diet (Parliament) mainly as a means of combating terrorism, has not in our opinion been properly deliberated and considered by our policymakers.

For example:

1) Is it acceptable for these measures to be adopted without clear legislation regarding the collection, processing, use, and disposal of fingerprints, which is highly personal and biotic data?

2) Is it acceptable to entrust this kind of data, which as fingerprints and photos are of a highly personal and distinguishing nature, to all governmental bodies in this manner?

3) Is the technology behind biometric data collection really all that reliable?

4) Can we truly say that the definition and classification of "terrorist" has been clearly defined by law?

5) Have proper restrictions been put in place so that this information is not given to other governments?

These questions were neither adequately addressed nor answered when this program was passed by our legislators. Further, based upon our legislators' answers and misunderstandings about these measures, it is clear that this program has been adopted without an adequate degree of preparation. Even though a year has passed since this program was approved, the above concerns remain unaddressed.

For these reasons we make this public appeal. We oppose this "Japanese version of the US-VISIT Program", and add the following reasons:

The basis for requiring non-Japanese to give biometric data when entering Japan is the presupposition that "foreigners are terrorists". This is discrimination towards non-Japanese people. With the exception of the Special Permanent Residents etc., taking fingerprints, photos, and other biometric data from almost all non-Japanese is an excessive and overreaching policy. In light of Japan's history of using fingerprinting as a means to control and track non-Japanese residents, one must not forget that thus equating non-Japanese with criminals is a great insult and indignity.

It has also become clear in Diet deliberations that this biometric data will not only be utilized for "anti-terrorism", but also in regular criminal investigations. This use is of sensitive biotic data is clearly beyond the bounds of the original goal of these measures, something we cannot allow our government to do.

Further, there an assumption that this data will be kept on file for at most 80 years, which means it will amount to millions of people being recorded. It goes without saying that keeping this much sensitive data (given that biometric data is the ultimate in personal information) for this long is highly dangerous.

Add the fact that the very definition of "terrorist" is vague, and that it is being applied not merely to people who "undertake action with the goal of threatening the public". People who are "probable agents" of terrorism, or "can easily become probable agents" of terrorism, or who are even "acknowledged by the authorities as having sufficient grounds for becoming agents" of terrorism, are also included. This is completely unclear, and creates fears that Immigration officials will deliberately use this as a means to expand their powers.

Meanwhile, it is nowhere acknowledged that the US-VISIT Program is in any way an effective means of PREVENTING terrorism. In fact, the very model for this system, the United States, has been advised by its Government Accountability Office that the US-VISIT Program has some serious weaknesses.

In other words, the US-VISIT Program, nominally introduced for anti-terrorism purposes, has not been clearly adjudged as fulfilling such purposes adequately. In fact, introducing said system has created clear and present human rights abuses. Even if such system was proposed for the express purposes of "anti-terrorism", any country duty-bound to hold human rights in high regard has no mandate to do this. This point has been stressed several times by the United Nations, and in other international organizations debating anti-terror. It is hard to deny the danger that this means to control foreigners, under the guise of "anti-terror", will lead to a deliberate disadvantaging of specific races, religions, and ethnic groups--in other words, the embodiment of racial profiling and racial discrimination.

This "Japan version of the US-VISIT Program" is thus laden with problems. There is not enough reason for it to be introduced in this version at this time. For this reason, we who have gathered at this symposium strongly oppose this program and demand its cancellation.

October 27, 2007

”Toward further control over foreign nationals?
Japan's anti-terrorism policy and a Japanese version of the "US-VISIT" program” 
Symposium organized by
Amnesty International Japan and Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ)

Co-signed as Arudou Debito, Author, JAPANESE ONLY

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