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Japan: Japan Federation of Bar Association criticizes penalties written into reform proposal for Covid-19 special measures

"コロナ特措法などの改正案、日弁連が罰則に反対「差別助長する」「正当な補償を」", 22 Jan 2021

[Japanese-to-English translation by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.]

On 22 January 2021, the cabinet decided on a proposal to strengthen Covid-19 measures with reforms to the National Action Plan for Pandemic Influenza and New Infectious Diseases.

The reform proposal, brought forth by the government and the ruling party, includes orders to reduce business owners’ operational capacity and time. It also institutes penalties when such orders are not followed and criminal sentencing for Covid-19 patients who are denied hospitalization.

The Japan Federation of Bar Association, who has been increasingly vigilant about growing discrimination against those infected with Covid-19, held a press conference on the same day of the cabinet decision. At the event, it opposed the reform proposal, stating that “the introduction of easy penalties is unnecessary”…

The organization gave three main reasons for opposing the introduction of penalties:

  • Categories of conduct (actus reus) that can be penalized are unclear
  • Questions over the effectiveness of criminal punishment
  • Risk that the reform proposal would contribute further to discrimination and prejudice

In addition, the Human Rights Protection Committee Chair, Mr. Kawakami Shiro, pointed out…that Covid-19 patients and those at risk of infection should not be excluded from society, but should rather be considered entities that need to be protected…