Three foreign residents sue Japan for police racial profiling practice News
Three foreign residents sue Japan for police racial profiling practice

Three foreign-born Japanese residents have filed a statement of claim against the Japanese national and local governments for the alleged police practice of racial profiling. Each of the applicants sought damages of 3.3 million Japanese Yen.

The three applicants are Pakistani, African-American and Pacific Lander respectively, who also are either Japanese citizens or permanent residents. In the statement of claim, the applicants outlined several instances where individuals were stopped and questioned solely based on their appearance without any legal basis. The applicants also cited a survey conducted by the Tokyo Bar Association in 2021, stating that 85.4% of Japanese residents who experienced police questioning within five years had a foreign origin. In addition, 76.9% of them claimed that they could not think of any sufficient probable cause that warranted a police stop, noting that a sufficient probable cause is necessary for a police officer to exercise his legal right to stop and question under Article 2 of the Police Duties Execution Act.

The applicants also identified internal police guidelines that encourage racial profiling. For instance, the applicants claimed that junior police officers in Aichi Prefecture were encouraged to prosecute foreigners with any legislation and to hold a firm belief that foreigners have committed an offence without exception.

The applicants asked the court to declare the illegality of the racial profiling practice. It includes the violation of the right to equality before the law and the right to private life protected by the Constitution of Japan. The applicants also relied on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as Japan is the signatory to both international treaties.

‘Racial profiling’ refers to public actions based on stereotypes about race, colour, ethnicity, ancestry, religion or place of origin, or a combination of these, rather than on a reasonable suspicion. The US Embassy also warned US citizens in 2021 of several racial profiling incidents in Japan.

Local media have reported that this lawsuit is the first lawsuit that seeks to challenge the legal validity of discriminatory practices perpetrated by the Japanese governments.