Questioning U.S. Support for Japan’s National Security Moves

(Published in JURIST – Forum, Sept. 2, 2015)

AbeKerry-smallOn August 30, tens of thousands of Japanese citizens demonstrated outside of the Diet (parliament), and in other cities across Japan, protesting against draft national security legislation that would expand the permissible operations of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). The bills are the culmination of an effort by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to expand Japan’s role in international collective security efforts. To do so, however, the government has sought to “reinterpret” Japan’s constitutional limits on the use of military force, in a manner that circumvents the formal constitutional amendment process, and thereby undermines the rule of law and constitutionalism in Japan.

It is this process as much as the substance of the bills that has provoked the protests and triggered a constitutional crisis in Japan. Yet these developments have been largely welcomed in US policy circles. The objectives may be in America’s short-term interest, but a deeper understanding of the issues and a longer-term perspective would caution against US endorsement of this illegitimate process.

Constitutional Background

To understand the issues one has to begin with the constitutional limits. Article 9 of the constitutionrenounces war as a sovereign right of the nation, and the threat or use of force for the settlement of international disputes (Art. 9(1)). It also prohibits the maintenance of armed forces or other war potential (Art. 9(2)). These provisions have been consistently interpreted by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau (CLB) (which is loosely analogous to the US Office of Legal Counsel) and successive governments since the early 1950s, as meaning that Japan was entitled to use force for individual self-defense in the event of an armed attack on Japan; and that Japan was thus entitled to maintain a minimum level of armed forces necessary for such defense. This understanding was also implicitly confirmed by the Supreme Court in the Sunagawa decision, the only decision it has rendered on the issue. But the CLB has also clearly maintained that Art. 9(1) means that Japan is prohibited from any participation in collective self-defense as authorized by Article 51 of the UN Charter, or other collective security operations as authorized by the UN Security Council under Articles 39 and 42 of the UN Charter. … Read more…

The Morality of Opposing Release of GITMO Detainees

(Cross-posted on Tumblr, Jan. 15, 2015)

It was announced this week that a number of Republicans, Senator McCain prominent among them, are seeking to pass legislation to prohibit further releases. The Paris attack last week is being used as a pretext. The specter of detainees “returning to the battlefield” and engaging in new acts of terrorism is the primary argument.

It was announced just today that five more detainees were released from Guantanamo Bay, some 6 years after they were cleared for release by an inter-agency review, and as much as 13 years after they were initially detained. The majority of detainees still at Guantanamo Bay are not terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization, and of course have not been charged with any crime. But Republicans want to ensure their continued and indefinite detention. … Read more…

Undermining the Rule of Law – Tokyo Shinbun Interview

(Interview with Yoichi Takeuchi, in the Tokyo Shinbun, Jun. 30, 2014)

Martin-TS.Interview-Jun.2014

法の支配揺るがす ≪解釈改憲≫ 米の法学者はこう見る(東京新聞6月30日)

安倍政権は集団的自衛権の行使容認に向け憲法9条の解釈変更を7月1日にも閣議決定しようとしている。米政府や識者の多くは日本に集団的自衛権の行使容認をかねて働き掛けており、支持している。だが、政府の独断による解釈改憲は「日本の法の支配を揺るがす」と異を唱える法学者もいる。米中西部カンザス州のウォッシュバーン大学法科大学院のクレイグ・マーチン准教授(53)に聞いた。(アメリカ総局・竹内洋一)

-第1次安倍内閣の当時から解釈改憲には反対を主張してきた。その理由は。

「解釈改憲は憲法の改正規定を犯している。時の政権が不都合な条項を思い付きで簡単に変えられるなら憲法はもはや最高法規ではなくなる。『法の支配』を支える最も基本的で本質的な原則にも反している。法の下の平等だ。改正手続きを無視して解釈改憲を閣議決定すれば、内閣を法の上に置くことになる」

-閣議決定までの手続きも有識者会議や与党協議だけだった。

「憲法に定められた国権の最高機関である国会、違憲審査権を持つ最高裁には諮られていない。内閣の独断で改憲を宣言するのは、完全に違法で無効だ。憲法改正には国会での審議が必要だ。選挙に勝利した与党の協議でも、違法な手続きは正当化されない」

-安倍政権は「日本を取り巻く安全保障環境の変化」を憲法解釈を変える理由の一つに挙げているが。 … Read more…

When Should We Violate International Law in Order to Enforce It?

(Published in The Huffington Post, September 10, 2013)

Lady Justice Bronze_full

The looming military strikes on Syria are being justified as necessary to enforce and maintain a fundamental international law norm, namely the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. It is quite clear that in the current situation, and in the absence of U.N. Security Council authorization, such strikes will also themselves violate a fundamental norm of international law, namely the prohibition on the use of force against sovereign states (see here for my own discussion of the legality issues).

At first blush the argument that one should violate the law in order to enforce it seems absurd, encouraging a counterproductive form of vigilante justice at best. But it does raise the question — are there times when we should violate international law in order to enforce it? Or more explicitly in the Syrian context: under what conditions and according to what criteria would it be justifiable to violate the fundamental rule prohibiting the use of force against sovereign states, in order to enforce the fundamental rule prohibiting the use of chemical weapons? Are there some practical responses that might provide some guidance for policy makers?

It must be acknowledged that there are some situations in which we accept that it would be justifiable to violate the law, or at the very least in which the circumstances would mitigate against our full condemnation of a violation. Such justification, in the form of exceptions, defenses, and reduced punishment, is indeed built into most domestic legal systems, and is part of most conceptions of justice. … Read more…