JAPAN: UN panel on racial discrimination to question Japan gov’t over Okinawa policy

A view of Air Station Futenma. (Mainichi)

A view of Air Station Futenma. (Mainichi)

GENEVA — The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has asked the Japanese government about what it’s doing to protect the human rights of Okinawans in light of the contentious plan to relocate a U.S. Marine airfield inside the prefecture.

The Japanese government must respond to the inquiries by July 31. The U.N. panel will then take Japan’s answers into account at an August meeting to examine whether the plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago infringes on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It is highly likely that the U.N. committee will urge the Japanese government to review the relocation plan in such a way as to protect the rights of the Okinawan people.

The U.N. committee decided to take action after the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), a non-governmental human rights organization with a U.N. liaison office in Geneva, joined hands with an Okinawan NGO to report on Feb. 10 that the Futenma relocation plan violates the racism convention.

The governments of Japan and the United States decided in February to separate the stalled Futenma base relocation from a planned shift of U.S. Marines to Guam, allowing for a lessened but not elimination of the U.S. military burden on Okinawa Prefecture. The NGOs urged the U.N. panel to implement “Early-Warning Measures and Urgent Procedures” formulated in 1993 to “prevent (the government) from gravely violating the (racism) convention and effectively deal with the issue.”

The U.N. committee had formed a working group of five human rights experts from member countries to discuss whether to accept the requests from the NGOs. On March 6, all of the 18-members of the committee discussed the issue and decided to send a questionnaire to the Japanese government in order to confirm what Japan has to say regarding the NGOs’ appeals. The decision was formalized on March 9.

Pointing out that the Futenma relocation plan and the planned construction of helipads in Higashison-Takae in Okinawa — part of a bilateral deal to return part of the U.S. training ground — could infringe on the racism convention, in its questionnaire the U.N. panel asks the Japanese government how it plans to respond to the voices of local residents.

Click here for the original Japanese story

(Mainichi Japan) March 13, 2012

Source: The Manichi Daily News

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