From WEEKLY MDS No.886, May 6, 2005 issue logo

First Anniversary of Direct Petition Campaign for Non-Defended Locality Declaration / Have Ordinance Enacted Now!

Movement spreading nationwide

It is the first anniversary of the initiative by the Citizens of Osaka for Non-Defended Locality (CONDEL) to win a municipal ordinance for non-defended locality declaration, which was the first attempt of the kind among the government-decreed major cities in Japan. In those 12 months, the movement have developed in various cities under the initiative of the nationwide Non-Defended Localities Movement Network, having achieved great results far beyond everybody's expectation.

First, the direct petition campaign has grown into a nationwide movement involving large and small cities alike.

Gaining momentum from the fact that the CONDEL succeeded in collecting signatures exceeding the required number for this great big city with a population of 2,500,000, which meant a significant challenge, this movement has spread to the City of Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture; Arakawa Ward, Tokyo, and the City of Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, during this period. Now the Cities of Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture; Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture; Otsu, Shiga Prefecture; and Kyoto are following the same track. In every locality where the campaign was carried out, the number of collected signatures totaled several times of the statutory requirement. The Nishinomiya Citizen's Committee for Peaceful and Non-Defended Locality Ordinance is set to launch a signature campaign targeting 60,000, the figure equivalent to the number of votes obtained by the mayor of the city. Thus, the movement has reached a level where its initial target is set to overwhelm the municipal assembly. What we see now is the Non-Defended Localities movement emerging as Japan's newborn nationwide torrent for creation of peace.

Objections lose ground

Second, the movement has enabled citizens' voices calling for an ordinance under international law to start demolishing the opposing arguments of the government, local authorities and factions in the respective local assemblies that follow the central government.

The line of argument held by the government and the forces pushing ahead with the drive toward a national emergency system is represented by the following two points argued in the Osaka mayor's opinion statement as well as in sessions of the Osaka City Council: (1) "The appropriate authorities" that may declare localities as non-defended under Article 59 of the Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions shall only be the national government; local public entities are not in the position allowed to issue the declaration. (2) Defense is an affair under direct and exclusive control by the state; it is beyond the scope of the local entities' right to enact ordinances (defined in Article 14 of the Local Autonomy Law that goes "Each ordinary local public body shall have the power to enact a bylaw on any subject contemplated in paragraph 2 of Article 2, insofar as not in conflict with law.")

Despite these arguments, the present state of the matter looks different after going through deliberations in the assembly sessions of the three cities and one ward. The Commentaries on the Protocol I issued by the International Committee of the Red Cross were referenced during sessions of the Arakawa Ward Assembly. Furthermore, the Fujisawa municipal authorities publicly stated; "A local public entity may also declare itself as a non-defended locality provided that certain conditions are satisfied."Also concerning the "constraint" under Article 14 of the Local Autonomy Law, the Fujisawa City Assembly eventually won a reply of the city government saying, "a declaration as a non-defended locality can be one possible measure for responding to a situation of armed attacks." The aspect of the contestation has entirely changed. Now the movement side is proving its relevance step by step, knocking over the bandwagon of the government and municipal authorities. The barricade of objections has started falling down.

Resorting to the power of international law

The Non-Defended Localities movement has created a stage for a leap. The next step to take is to besiege the government and local authorities with networks linking nationwide nodes of the Non-Defended Localities movement, challenging elements within local assemblies that are catering to authority, to establish model cases of a way to establish a non-defended locality ordinance. After sixty years since the end of World War II, Japan has emerged as an occupying nation now and her warmaking power is accelerating the drive to establish a war system that can mobilize all local communities, leveraging the Civilian "Protection" Law. Enactment of a non-defended locality ordinance is urgently needed as a community-based barrier that can deny cooperation for war.

On February 28 this year, Japan also ratified the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions and now it is formally in effect. Article 83 of the Protocol explicitly stipulates that "to disseminate the Conventions and this Protocol as widely as possible in their respective countries and, in particular, to include the study thereof in their programmes of military instruction and to encourage the study thereof by the civilian population, so that those instruments may become known to the armed forces and to the civilian population." The advancement of our movement is secured under this international law. Spread the Non-Defended Localities movement to all local public entities and win enactment of non-defended locality ordinances. (April 22)

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