Constitutional Provisions

According to Japan's 1946 Constitution, "All of the people shall be respected as individuals. Their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness shall, to the extent that it does not interfere with the public welfare, be the supreme consideration in legislation and in other governmental affairs."Art. 13, 1946 Constitution.The Constitution is designated

the supreme law of the nation and no law, ordinance, imperial rescript or other act of government, or part thereof, contrary to the provisions hereof, shall have legal force or validity.Art. 98, 1946 Constitution.

The Constitution does not address the police or their ability to use force, but it is stipulated that every person "may sue for redress as provided by law from the State or a public entity, in case he has suffered damage through illegal act of any public official".Art. 18, 1946 Constitution.

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 Not party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints No
CAT Optional Protocol 1 Not party
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party

Regional Treaties

There is no regional human rights treaty to which Japan may adhere.

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

The Japanese Police are entitled to use reasonably necessary force in effecting an arrest. Police officers are trained in a particular form of martial art called “taiho-jutsu” (arrest technique), designed to disarm criminals using batons and their hands, and, only where strictly necessary, firearms. 

According to the 1948 Police Duties Execution Act:

In the event that there are reasonable grounds to deem it necessary for the apprehension of a criminal or the prevention of a criminal's escape, for self-protection or the protection of others, or for suppression of resistance to the execution of his or her official duty, a police official may use a weapon within the limits judged reasonably necessary in the situation.Art. 7, 1948 Police Duties Execution Act.  

This includes the use of a firearm against a person who is

in the act of committing, or is suspected on sufficient grounds of having committed, a violent and dangerous crime which is subject to the death penalty, life imprisonment with work, or imprisonment with work or imprisonment without work for a maximum period of not less than three years, resists a police official's execution of duty regarding such person or attempts to escape, or a third person resists the police official in order to allow the subject person to escape; provided there are reasonable grounds on the part of the police official to believe that there are no other means but to do so either for the prevention of such resistance or escape or for the apprehension of such persons.Art. 7(i), 1948 Police Duties Execution Act.

Similar powers exist with respect to a person who is wanted in accordance with an arrest warrant.Art. 7(ii), 1948 Police Duties Execution Act.Such use of firearms is more permissive than is allowed under international law, which only allows use where strictly necessary against either an imminent threat to life or of serious injury or an impending and grave threat to life.

Use of Force in Custodial Settings

The 2007 Act on Penal Detention Facilities and Treatment of Inmates and Detainees adresses the use of force in custodial settings. Under Article 80 of the 2007 law, prison officers are entitled to carry small arms and light weapons where this is specified by a Ministry of Justice Ordinance. Paragraph 2 of Article 80 provides  for the use of "reasonably necessary" force as follows:

In cases where an inmate falls under any of the cases set out under the following items, prison officers may use a weapon to such an extent as is considered reasonably necessary in accordance with the situation:

(i) Cases where the inmate raises a riot jointly with other inmates, or is about to do so;
(ii) Cases where the inmate inflicts serious injury to others, or is about to do so;
(iii) Cases where the inmate captures the weapon borne by a prison officer or kept in the penal institution, or is about to do so;
(iv) Cases where the inmate maintains the possession of a dangerous weapon against a prison officer's order to surrender it;
(v) Cases where the inmate escapes, intends to escape, or assists another inmate's escape against a prison officer's order to cease doing so, or through assault or by using group force against the prison officer.

Police Oversight

Law enforcement in Japan is subject to the oversight of the National Police Agency. There is no fully independent, external civilian oversight body, although the Human Rights Bureau of the Ministry of Justice is empowered to investigate complaints against public officials, including the police.

Caselaw

Global

Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

In its 2014 Concluding Observations on Japan, the Human Rights Committee did not address police use of force. In its 2013 Concluding Observations on Japan, the Committee against Torture expressed its concern 

about the lack of an independent and effective complaint mechanism for receiving and conducting impartial investigations into allegations of torture and ill treatment of persons deprived of their liberty, including those in police custody, and for ensuring that officials found guilty are appropriately punished.

Regional

There is no regional human rights court with jurisdiction over Japan.

Downloads

Japan Constitution (1946 as amended)

1948 Police Duties Execution Act

2007 Act on Penal Detention Facilities and Treatment of Inmates and Detainees (English translation)

Committee against Torture Concluding Observations on Japan (2013)