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Press Release: UN Universal Period Review Fails to Break Through “Blackout” on Religious Discrimination in Japan


HRWF(Brussels/Geneva, Nov. 1, 2012) – While Japan was lightly criticized for discrimination including religious discrimination during its UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 31 October 2012, the international community failed to note the refusal of Japanese authorities to protect the human rights of thousands of members of minority religions who have been violently abducted by family members and forced to change their religion, Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) reported today.

“Despite having objective evidence of gross negligence by the authorities concerning kidnapping and coercion of Japanese citizens, UN delegations ignored the issue and thus helped Japan maintain its strategy of denial,” said Willy Fautre, president of HRWF, which undertook research on the issue and published a report on “Abduction and Deprivation of Freedom for the Purpose of Religious De-conversion” in late 2011. Human Rights Without Frontiers and other organizations made submissions on the issue to the UN prior to the UPR review and met with numerous UN delegations to ask that the issue be raised with Japanese authorities.

Around eighty (80) delegations took the floor to comment on Japan’s human rights record during the review. They mentioned Japan’s continuing use of the death penalty, problems of migrant workers, child pornography and Japan’s alleged failure to apologize and compensate for wartime atrocities, among other issues. Most praised Japan for its support for the UN and cooperation with the UPR procedure.

While the United States government published information about the problem in its report on international religious freedom, officials were silent about it during the UPR, despite religious freedom being a “foreign policy priority.”

“The international community missed a crucial opportunity to break through a media and civil society blackout on religious discrimination in Japan, which would have helped Japanese authorities and society come to terms with a serious problem,” said Aaron Rhodes, an international human rights activist who helped organize HRWF’s report.

Patricia Duval, a Paris-based lawyer and specialist on the freedom of religion, who also contributed an analysis of applicable international human rights law to the report, said the failure to raise the issue during the UPR reflected a more general problem of state-to-state human rights procedures, in which bi-lateral relations and other national interests tend to distort states’ obligations to defend individual human rights.

“Independent experts in the UN Human Rights Committee, as well as the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, need to engage strongly on religious discrimination in Japan,” she said.


HRWF’s report is available online at

For more information: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Willy Fautre­­­­­­­­ (Brussels) +32-2–3456145 or 32 478 202069
Aaron Rhodes, (Hamburg) +49-170-323-8314
Patricia Duval, (Paris) +33-6-32-95-72


Kidnap and forced confinement survivor, Mrs. Mitsiko Antal, presented a video testimony to the conference about her ordeal.  It can be viewed here: