Political Debate on the revision to the public prosecutors office law
(May 2020)

The ABE Cabinet proposed a revision to the public prosecutors office law in the Diet, resulting in heated political debate between the ruling bloc and opposition parties. Subsequently, over 6 million critiques and protests have been launched on social media targeting the ABE Cabinet and the ruling coalition.

Under the law in force, Prosecutor General must retire at 65 years of age while prosecutors retire at 63 years of age. This revision bill is as follows. First, to raise the retirement age of prosecutors from 63 to 65. Second, the Deputy Prosecutor General and Superintending prosecutors reaching 63 years of age have to step down to give way to rank-and- file prosecutors. Third, the Prosecutor General who reaches 65 years of age, Deputy Prosecutor General and Superintending Prosecutors 63 years of age are able to continue in their positions for an additional 3 years when the Cabinet deems fit.

The opposition parties protested by arguing that if the revision bill is enacted, the public prosecutors office could be compromised by the Cabinet which would violate the independence of prosecutors and the separation of powers.

For instance, in 1976, the public prosecutors office arrested and indicted former Prime Minister TANAKA Kakuei on suspicion of bribery from Lockheed Corporation. At that time, this was an unprecedented scandal. The opposition insists that this revision of the bill will bend the public prosecutors office through political power.

On the other hand, it is needless to say that the public prosecutors office belongs to the Cabinet. Even in Japan, there have been many reported cases of false accusations. For example, Ms. MURAKI Atsuko, a past administrative vice-Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, was arrested and indicted on suspicion of forgery of official documents in 2009. However, through the trial, evidence of the indictment turned out to be a fabrication by prosecutors. This was a horrible crime committed by prosecutors.

As a consequence, Ms. MURAKI was found innocent by the court, where on the contrary, the prosecutors in charge of this case were arrested and the Prosecutor General resigned taking responsibility for this incredible crime. Even the public prosecutors office is forbidden to violate human rights.

I think that the purpose of this current revision bill is not to violate the independence of prosecutors or the separation of powers, but instead, to protect human rights by the Cabinet control over the public prosecutors office.

However, the ABE Cabinet and the ruling bloc, the LDP and KOMEITO decided to suspend this bill until the extraordinary Diet in fall, taking peoplefs bitter protests into consideration.

By Yuzuru Takeuchi