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Shortly after Denmark began telling Syrian refugees that parts of Syria are "safe" and stripped them of their temporary protected status, I talked to a 31-year-old refugee who voluntarily returned to Syria from Jordan in December 2020. He told me…
A streetview of destroyed buildings in a city

Still Major Emitter Despite Coal Phase Out Announcements

“Glasgow must be the COP that consigns coal to history.” Those were the words in July of Alok Sharma, president of the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26). With world leaders gathered in Glasgow this week, the need to phase out coal has never…
Steam billows out of the cooling towers of a coal-fired power plant in Huai'an in east China's Jiangsu province, July 20, 2021.
On July 12, Jordan's infamous State Security Court, which routinely runs roughshod over defendants' due process rights, convicted a former high-level official and a little-known royal family member of "sowing discord" and "inciting opposition to the…
Silhouettes are cast on a Jordanian national flag in Amman, Jordan, November 30, 2016. 

Tokyo's Passive Diplomacy Will Only Embolden the Tatmadaw, Which Continues to Commit Grave Abuses with Impunity

Since the Myanmar military seized power on February 1, the Japanese government has expressed its “grave concerns” over the coup. It has called on the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, to “swiftly restore Myanmar’s democratic…
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi (left), Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (center), and Finance Minister Taro Aso (right) attend a Cabinet meeting in Tokyo on February 24, 2021.
An uptick in coronavirus cases in Japan has prompted a new state of emergency declaration and sparked debate here about the upcoming Olympics in Japan. The International Olympic Committee and health and sport authorities will work out the feasibility…
A staff member adjusts a banner for a press conference to launch international signature campaign for the enactment of the "LGBT Equality Law" as a legacy of the Tokyo Olympics Thursday on October 15, 2020, in Tokyo.
All over the world, gold and diamond mining are risky operations, and sometimes people and the environment are harmed in the process. For over a decade, Human Rights Watch has documented child labor, environmental destruction, and violence by government…
A pearl necklace is displayed over a gray sign that reads "Mikimoto"
Before 31-year-old Kyoko Takahashi (a pseudonym) got married, she and her fiancé never discussed which surname they would use. Even as they discussed the many other aspects of the future they were planning together, the burden she would subsequently…
Traditional wedding ceremony at Meiji Shrine, Tokyo | Image: Jon Connell/Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0
When I was a sophomore in 2014 at Mount Holyoke College, a women’s college in Massachusetts, our college president announced that transgender women would be able to join our student body. I and the other students who had assembled to hear the…

The beer conglomerate's business interests in Myanmar indirectly link it to the Tatmadaw's rights abuses

Take a walk, watch television, or use the subway. Do any of these activities in Japan and you will likely come across a Kirin advertisement. Since its inception in 1885 as Japan Brewery, Kirin has grown into a household name in Japan, and…
Rohingya refugees gather after being rescued in Teknaf near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, April 16, 2020.

Taking a tough, meaningful stand against Beijing is not easy, but Tokyo must continue to demonstrate the depth of its commitments to human rights

In recent weeks Japan has taken a stronger stance against the Chinese government’s human rights abuses. The Japanese government joined a G-7 statement strongly urging the Chinese government to “reconsider” imposing national security…
 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, June 18, 2020.

While other democracies have recoiled in horror, Japan has continued to pour overseas aid into Myanmar

Ichiro Maruyama, Japan’s ambassador to Myanmar, started a firestorm in December when he said he was “praying” for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to side with Myanmar and rule that genocide had not occurred against the country’s long persecuted…
Drowned out by the noise of the Rugby World Cup and overshadowed by the deadly devastation wrought by Typhoon Hagibis was a meeting between Japan’s leaders and an alleged war criminal, which went largely unreported by the media and unnoticed by the…
Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese politician, diplomat, author, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1991), meets Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Akasaka Palace in Minato Ward, Tokyo on October 21, 2019. Aung San Suu Kyi comes to Japan to attend an enthronement
Braving the sweltering summer heat, more than 100 businesspeople gathered in central Tokyo on Aug. 6 to get the latest update on Myanmar’s economy. Participants were showered with promises of lucrative investment opportunities in…
Myanmar's Ambassador to Japan Thurain Thant Zin speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017.

Tokyo is fighting a losing battle for Hun Sen’s support, and selling its own legacy in the democratization of Cambodia short.

In a dimly lit ballroom at a Tokyo luxury hotel, Sok Chenda Sophea, the secretary general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia and the minister attached to Prime Minister Hun Sen, persistently asked about 200 Japanese…
2017asia_cambodia_hunsen Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen attends the celebration marking the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia November 9, 2017.

An Outdated, Abusive Law Is Upheld, Yet Undeniable Doubts Were Raised

In January, Japan’s Supreme Court ruled that the country’s law requiring that transgender people be sterilized to obtain documents reflecting their gender identity was constitutional. The ruling was a blow to the plaintiff, a trans man…
Participants March during the Tokyo Rainbow Parade. On October 22, hundreds of activist groups throughout the world will gather to mark the 8th annual International Day for Trans Depathologization.

As Vietnam’s largest bilateral donor, Japan is in a unique position to raise human rights issues

For Vietnamese activist Nguyen Chi Tuyen, it was supposed to be just another day in Hanoi. In the morning, he dropped off his son at elementary school and was driving his motorbike home when a group of men surrounded his bike. Nguyen, known as Anh Chi,…
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shakes hands with Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, January 16, 2017.
When Human Rights Watch in November criticized the Japanese government’s ineffective “quiet diplomacy” surrounding the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, netizens on one of Japan’s most popular mainstream websites were swift to criticize. “Aren’t you…
A Rohingya woman walks through Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, March 22, 2018.
Last week Tokyo’s municipal government passed a bill that prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. In doing so, the city not only demonstrated its commitment to equal rights for all, but also to making…
Yuriko Koike, governor of Tokyo, speaks in an interview in Tokyo, Japan on Monday August. 20, 2018.