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Conspiracy Bill

The Return of the Conspiracy Bill

SNA (Tokyo) — According to a leak from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to introduce a new version of the Conspiracy Bill to the ordinary Diet session now scheduled to open on January 20.

This would mark the fourth time the Conspiracy Bill has been submitted to the Diet; the previous three occasions having come in the 2003-2005 period under then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Shinzo Abe, both in his short-lived first term of 2006-2007 and since his return to power in December 2012 has been a consistent advocate of the legislation. While his administrations have never yet submitted the legislation to the Diet, they are known to have been close to doing so several times before. Indeed, they almost did so in the last Diet session last autumn, before deciding to prioritize ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Advocates of the bill portray it as a necessary step to fulfil the terms of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime that Japan signed in December 2000 but never ratified. In the coming Diet session, the Abe government is likely to focus almost exclusively on the notion that this legislation will keep the public safe from terrorism ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Previous versions of the bill, however, have criminalized around three hundred potential offenses, including such matters as planning a theft, so in fact it goes far beyond terrorism and conventional definitions of organized crime.

The most effective opponent of the Conspiracy Bill has been the Japan Federation of Bar Associations. This lawyers’ organization is likely to lead the opposition once again.

Critics point out that the Conspiracy Bill is highly reminiscent of the prewar Peace Preservation Law of 1925, which was used widely to oppress opposition political movements as well as labor unions.

It is the historical experience of wholesale government abuse of these laws which has made the criminalization of conspiracy a political nonstarter in the postwar decades.

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