Monday, November 24, 2008

"Govt to revise laws on family courts

"The central government is likely to revise the domestic relations law, which stipulates judicial procedures concerning mediation and arbitration by family courts, it was learned Saturday.

"The planned revision is expected to clarify the handling of cases by family courts, which has been largely left to their discretion, and aims to standardize procedures and enhance transparency.

"The justice minister will give a summary draft of the revision in February to the Legislative Council, an advisory panel to the minister, to seek panel members' opinions.

"The law concerns issues handled by family courts, such as inheritance and guardianship, but excludes such cases as juvenile crimes and divorce lawsuits.

"The number of cases dealt with under the law is increasing yearly, and reached about 580,000 cases in 2007.

"The current law details what subjects are eligible for court trials, but many other procedural issues--such as whether to permit public access to or copying of family court trial records, and whether to allow trial testimony by all those concerned with a case--have been left to the discretion of each family court, which has raised criticism.

"In one case filed with a family court regarding the division of budgetary expenses by a married couple, the wife appealed to a higher court, but the court did not notify her husband of the appeal, leading the higher court to issue a decision against the husband's interest.

"The Supreme Court judged in May that the court should have notified the husband of his wife's appeal by sending a written letter and acknowledged a procedural problem in how the case was handled.

"The Legislative Council members are expected to discuss such issues as whether to ensure an occasion for the family courts to hear opinions of people involved in cases that tend to involve disputes, such as inheritance-related ones.

"The central government is also likely to revise a separate law on noncontentious cases since that law has rarely been updated since being enacted in 1898."

By Yomiuri Shimbun (11/23/2008), Link to article (last visited 11/24/2008)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Tokyo war crimes trial

"Wednesday marked the 60th anniversary of the verdicts handed down by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. The Tokyo war crimes trial found 25 Japanese politicians and top military officers guilty. The convicted war criminals included wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo and six others who were sentenced to death and hanged.

"Even though the trial was held long ago, it is still the subject of bitter controversy. In his controversial essay that justified Japan's past colonial rule and military aggression, Toshio Tamogami, who was ousted as Air Self-Defense Force chief of staff for going against the official government position on the issue, argued that the Tokyo trial's acknowledgment of Japan's war crimes still deludes Japanese people as if mind control is at work.

"How one views the Tokyo trial and its Nov. 12, 1948, verdicts has a direct bearing on the issue of whether a Japanese prime minister should refrain from visiting Yasukuni Shrine, the Shinto facility in Tokyo which honors convicted Class-A war criminals along with the nation's war dead. The controversy over the trial is inseparably linked to politics.

"Debate on the Tokyo trial tends to be charged with emotions. What we should understand first, though, is the indisputable fact that the Tokyo trial is an extremely complicated subject. Debate on the trial from the simple black-and-white viewpoint of whether it was "victors' justice" or "civilization's justice" never leads to an assessment that can convince everyone. Trying to settle the controversy on the complex topic by framing it as a simple question of right or wrong will resolve nothing.

"Let us clarify key issues. It is true that there were some serious problems with the Tokyo trial. Critics question the legitimacy of the trial by pointing out that the defendants were charged with crimes that didn't exist in international law in the period leading up to and including World War II, such as "crimes against peace" and "crimes against humanity." It was, the critics say, improper application of a retroactive law.

"The Tokyo war tribunal punished Japan's war crimes but didn't consider American acts of dubious legality, such as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bench was composed only of justices from the Allied powers. And the selection of the defendants was arbitrary and not based on clearly defined criteria.

"On the other hand, the important historical roles played by the trial should not be forgotten. It cast an illuminating light on how Japan embarked on the course of war and held Japanese leaders accountable for the national disaster. This helped the nation put its wartime past behind it and thus paved the way for postwar progress.

"By accepting the judgments of the tribunal as it regained sovereignty, Japan was able to return to the community of nations. Along with the Nuremberg Trials, which tried leaders of Nazi Germany for war crimes, the Tokyo trial contributed to the development of international law to address war crimes.

"It is necessary to acknowledge both the positive and negative aspects of the Tokyo war tribunal. The wise approach would be to try to derive the full benefit from the positive roles it played while paying attention to its flaws.

"Even if the trial process was imperfect, that doesn't negate the fact that Japan invaded its Asian neighbors and eventually plunged into a reckless war with the United States, causing immense human casualties. The trial's flaws do not diminish Japan's guilt or responsibility.

"There should be no more attempts to dredge up nationalistic sentiments by focusing only on elements of history that are favorable to nationalistic views. Globalization has made it impossible for Japanese to continue living in myths embraced only by a handful of their countrymen.

"How can Japan be respected by the international community if it keeps blaming others for its mistakes?"

By Asahi Shimbun (Editorial, 2008/11/14), Link to article (last visited 2008/11/16)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Relax rules to allow more organ transplants

"How wide has the organ transplant brokerage business for Japanese spread abroad?

"The Japanese police have started investigating an organization that brokered organ transplants in China for Japanese recipients.

"Japan's Organ Transplant Law, which prohibits providing or brokering organs for profit, also can be enforced when Japanese are found to have violated the law abroad. The police must investigate thoroughly to determine the full extent of this case.

"However, the investigation into the organ transplant brokerage organization began under rather complicated circumstances.

"A Japanese man, who headed the organization, was arrested in China for allegedly violating provisions implemented last year to prohibit the selling and buying of organs. But a Chinese court did not prosecute the man for the illegality of his organ brokerage business. Instead, he was found guilty of falsely advertising his organ transplant business and was deported to Japan on Tuesday.

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"Test of Japan-China cooperation

"It is said that more than 10,000 organ transplants are conducted annually in China, with most of the organs taken from death-row inmates. Since organ transplants there are not based on good-will donations from those who are designated as brain-dead following an accident or through natural causes, it is easy to imagine that money is paid under the table for the organs.

"Such circumstances in China might have played a part in the Japanese man not being prosecuted over his role in the organ transplant brokerage business. Since China did not prosecute him, the Japanese police now have good reason to investigate what he did in that country.

"Whether the police can charge him with a criminal offense essentially depends on the cooperation of Chinese investigative authorities. This will become the first case to test an agreement on criminal investigation cooperation between Japan and China that is set to go into force at the end of this month.

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"Law doesn't fit situation

"Behind the brokering of organs abroad is the fact that it is very difficult to receive an organ transplant operation in Japan.

"Only 76 transplant operations have been carried out using organs from brain-dead donors since the Organ Transplant Law was implemented in 1997 because extremely strict regulations--not found in any other country--are imposed on such transplants in Japan.

"In addition to consent from donors made on special cards or in other forms of writing, permission is needed from the families of brain-dead people to have organs transplanted. Also, under the regulations, only those aged 15 or older are deemed capable of giving consent for donating their organs. This means it is almost impossible for babies and toddlers to receive heart and other organ transplants in Japan because the organs of people aged 15 or older are too big.

"This forces many people, including babies, toddlers and even adults, to travel abroad to receive organ transplants.

"Several bills to revise the Organ Transplant Law have been submitted to the Diet, including one that would allow organ transplants through the agreement of family members if consent of the brain-dead person cannot be obtained, which is similar to laws in many other countries.

"However, it is strange why lawmakers are not deliberating on these bills.

"While Japan restricts the transplant of organs from brain-dead donors in this country, the Japanese are going abroad to receive organs--essentially they are buying the organs. This situation should not last forever."

By Yomiuri Shimbun (Editorial, 11/14/2008), Link to article (last visited 11/15/2008)