The following information is based on the Amnesty International Report 2021/22. This report documented the human rights situation in 149 countries in 2021, as well as providing global and regional analysis. It presents Amnesty International’s concerns and calls for action to governments and others.

JAPAN 2021

Ethnic minorities and LGBTI people continued to experience stigma and discrimination. Legislation allowing for the indefinite detention of undocumented foreign nationals remained in place. Detainees were denied the right to adequate medical care.


Japan hosted the delayed Olympic Summer Games 2020 against a background of rising numbers of Covid-19 cases and hostile public opinion. On 3 September Yoshihide Suga announced his resignation as prime minister amid public anger at the government’s handling of the pandemic.


Long-standing discrimination continued towards Japan’s ethnic Korean minority, especially those deemed to be aligned with North Korea. In July, the Supreme Court dismissed a claim for damages filed by a Pyongyang-related school and some of its graduates over the government’s decision to exclude such Pyongyang-related Korean schools from a programme to provide tuition subsidies for high schools. Four cases on the same issue had previously been rejected by other courts.

LGBTI people’s rights

In May, after intense negotiation between the ruling and opposition parties, a statement that “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is unacceptable” was added to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) proposed bill to promote public awareness of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, during the LDP’s internal process of approving the cross-party bill, many discriminatory remarks were made by conservative LDP lawmakers about the proposed addition. Following a public outcry at the remarks, an executive member of the LDP announced that they would not submit the bill to Japan’s National Diet. It was still pending at the end of the year.1

The government took no steps towards the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. However, in March, the Sapporo District Court ruled in a lawsuit brought by three same-sex couples that the government’s failure to recognize same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The plaintiffs were among 13 couples who had filed similar lawsuits on Valentine’s Day in 2019.2 A total of 141 local municipalities had introduced ordinances or guidelines that acknowledged same-sex unions by the end of the year.

Pressure increased from civil society to reform the Act on Gender Identity Disorder by removing requirements that contravene rights under international law for individuals seeking to change their legal gender. Under the Act, anyone wishing to change their legal gender was required to be unmarried, aged over 20, without minor children, and sterilized or otherwise unable to reproduce. They were also obliged to undergo surgery so that their genitalia more closely resembled that of their new legal gender and were required to undergo psychiatric assessment and receive a diagnosis.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Authorities continued to subject asylum seekers and irregular migrants to indefinite detention and ill-treatment including inadequate medical care in immigration detention facilities. In March, a 33-year-old Sri Lankan woman, Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali, died while in immigration detention. An investigative report released by the government’s Immigration Services Agency in August admitted flaws in the medical care system.

Authorities continued to use the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act to indefinitely detain undocumented foreign nationals, including irregular migrants and asylum seekers, until their deportation. In February, the government submitted an amendment bill to the Act. The bill maintained the presumption of detention, and proposed amendments did not provide for maximum periods of detention and continued to deny due process to individuals by failing to allow for judicial review of detention orders. Moreover, despite very low rates of acceptance of asylum applications – under 1% annually since 2012 – the bill included provisions that allowed the authorities to deport detained asylum seekers after a limited appeals procedure. The government withdrew the bill in May following domestic criticism and international pressure.

In September, the Tokyo High Court found that a decision to deport two Sri Lankan men the day after their asylum claims were rejected was unconstitutional. It ruled that the immigration authorities had essentially deprived the men of the right to appeal and ordered the state to pay ¥600,000 (approximately US$5,300) in compensation.

Death penalty

Three death row inmates – Yasutaka Fujishiro, Mitsunori Onogawa and Tomoaki Takanezawa – were hanged on 21 December, in the first executions since 2019. All three men had been found guilty of murder. Yasutaka Fujishiro suffered from a personality disorder. Mitsunori Onogawa and Tomoaki Takanezawa were waiting for the results of requests for retrial at the time of their execution.3

Iwao Hakamada, who spent 47 years on death row and endured long periods of solitary confinement having been found guilty of murder in 1968, remained out of prison on temporary release awaiting a retrial following a Supreme Court decision in 2020. His case and original trial highlighted ongoing concerns about the use of torture by the police to extract “confessions”.

Japan Newsroom

June 6, 2021 • Report

Governments Must Stop Conniving with Fossil Fuel Industries to Burn Our Rights

The world’s richest governments are effectively condemning millions of people to starvation, drought and displacement through their continued support of the fossil fuel industry, Amnesty International said today. The organization’s new policy briefing offers a damning assessment of global failures to protect human rights from climate change, and outlines how human rights law can help hold governments and companies to account.

December 9, 2018 • Report

Oppressive, sexist policies galvanize bold fight for women’s rights in 2018

Women activists around the world have been at the forefront of the battle for human rights in 2018, Amnesty International said today as it launched its review on the state …

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

May 20, 2013 • Report

Annual Report: Japan 2013

Japan Head of government Shinzō Abe (replaced Yoshihiko Noda) Police abuse and irregularities in police interrogations took place in Japan's criminal justice system. The authorities continued to reject calls for …

July 5, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Japan 2011

Head of government: Naoto Kan (replaced Hatoyama Yukio in June) Death penalty: retentionist Population: 127 million Life expectancy: 83.2 years Under-5 mortality (m/f): 5/4 per 1,000 The daiyo kangoku pre-trial …

March 19, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Japan 2010

Head of government Hatoyama Yukio (replaced Aso Taro in September) Death penalty retentionist Population 127.2 million Life expectancy 82.7 years Under-5 mortality (m/f) 5/4 per 1,000 Executions continued until August …

February 19, 2021 • Press Release

G7 Leaders Are Shooting Themselves in the Foot by Failing to Tackle Global Vaccine Access

Ahead of the virtual meeting of G7 leaders hosted by the UK government on Friday, February 19, Amnesty International has warned that failure to ensure global access to vaccines represents an abject moral failure that will ultimately harm rich countries.

February 10, 2020 • Press Release

Explainer: Seven ways the coronavirus affects human rights

The outbreak of the coronavirus (2019-nCov) that started in the Chinese city of Wuhan (Hubei province) in late 2019 has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO). …

June 7, 2019 • Press Release

Climate activists Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement honored with top Amnesty International award

Climate change activist Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement of school-children have been honored with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2019, the human rights organization announced …