September 10 2022
GENEVA – A U.N. panel dealing with the rights of people with disabilities urged Japan on Friday to end special education that segregates children with disabilities from those without, as part of its recommendations for the country over its policies for the disabled.
The U.N. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities expressed concerns over how an increasing number of disabled children cannot attend regular schools and called on the Japanese government to adopt a national action plan on quality inclusive education.
The committee, composed of 18 independent experts working with the U.N. human rights office, also called on Japan to ensure that all students with disabilities be provided with individualized support at all levels of education.
The review was conducted in late August through an in-person format with the Japanese government. It was Japan’s first time to be subjected to a review since it ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2014.
While highlighting the progress made by Japan in its policies for disabled people, Jonas Ruskus, vice-chair of the committee and co-rapporteur for the country, said at a press briefing that Japan must reverse its “negative trend of (segregated) special education.”
Japan was one of the nine state parties to the convention reviewed by the U.N. panel, along with China, Indonesia, and South Korea, among others.
While the recommendations for policy improvement measures are not legally binding, the committee’s calls are expected to press the Japanese government to take action toward improving the lives and societal participation of people with disabilities.
The committee also expressed concerns over the adverse impact on disabled people placed in residential institutions and psychiatric hospitals for extended periods, depriving them of their life with family and community.
It asked Japan to “end institutionalization” by reallocating its financial resources from residential institutions to supporting disabled people to live independently in the community.
The committee also urged Japan to “abolish all legal provisions, legitimating forced treatment” of persons with disabilities, describing their “involuntary hospitalization” as “discrimination on the grounds of impairment.”
In particular, the U.N. panel cited the 2016 mass murder of 19 mentally impaired people at Tsukui Yamayuri En facility, a care home in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo. It recommended that Japan review the incident and fight against “eugenic and ableist attitudes” in Japanese society that triggered the incident.
In an unusually large number compared with other countries, around 100 people, including those with disabilities, their families and representatives of civic groups, headed to Geneva for the review to voice their concerns to the committee.
Nongovernmental advocacy groups, such as the Japan Disability Forum and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, have also participated in the review process.
Ruskus said Japanese civil society has been “exceptionally active” and “very much involved.”
Japan must submit reports on measures to implement the committee’s recommendations in February 2028. The country submitted in 2016 its first report on its implementation of the convention.