Tokyo Bar Association

President's Discourse on the International Human Rights Offenses and the Role of Lawyers


April 30, 2021
Kimitoshi Yabuki
President, Tokyo Bar Association

At the UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice held in Kyoto this March (Kyoto Congress), "Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers" were talked about which had been adopted in 1990 at the Eighth UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders ("Basic Principles"). The Basic Principles provide, "Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics." (Principle 16) "Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities." (Principle 17) This is just due to that "Lawyers, in protecting the rights of their clients and in promoting the cause of justice, shall seek to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized by national and international law and shall at all times act freely and diligently in accordance with the law and recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession." (Principle 14)

The Basic Principles further provide "Governments shall ensure that efficient procedures and responsive mechanisms for effective and equal access to lawyers are provided for all persons within their territory and subject to their jurisdiction, without distinction of any kind, such as discrimination based on race, colour, ethnic origin, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, economic or other status." (Principle 2)

As shown above, the Basic Principles make it clear that the lawyers assume the role of protecting fundamental human rights and that Governments shall abide by these principles in order to ensure the role of the lawyers be observed. We, lawyers in Japan, must recognize this role and must be keenly aware of our responsibility in protecting the right to live in peace and other fundamental human rights and must engage in activities.

Our activities shall not be limited within Japan but extended outside, as the UN adopted the Basic Principles. We must take actions for people outside Japan who are suffering from offenses against their fundamental human rights. There are people whose fundamental rights are at stake all over the world. In Myanmar, many citizens have been killed or injured in the course of a peaceful demonstration due to suppression by the national military force. It has been reported that lawyers supporting those citizens are being persecuted and missing. In Hong Kong, lots of people have been unjustifiably arrested for alleged doubt of violation of the National Security Law, and human rights lawyers were reportedly arrested without due cause.

The Tokyo Bar Association keeps eyes on human rights offenses, either within or outside Japan, give continued consideration to what we Japanese lawyers can do, and will act in accordance with the spirit of the Basic Principles.