Protest to the Kanagawa Prefectural Police over illegal entry and search of a Roman Catholic church and arrest of a foreign resident

July 5, 2012

To: Chairman of the Kanagawa Prefecture Public Safety Commission

Chief of the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Headquarters

Letter of Protest

We are organizations of believers and citizens working to support human rights and provide lifestyle counseling for foreigners living in Japan.

Around 12:30 on May 27, 2012, the Kawasaki City Harbor Police entered the Kaizuka Catholic Church grounds, questioned a congregation member of Philippine nationality and immediately arrested him for the crimes of having no passport and breaching the obligation to carry an alien registration card at all times and present it when requested.

Kawasaki City Harbor Police officers started questioning the congregation member after having entered the grounds of the church without the permission of Father Takashi Motoyanagi, the parish priest and administrator of the church. Despite Fr. Motoyanagi’s protests to withdraw from the church grounds on the basis of freedom of religious practice and belief, the police officers remained on the church grounds and continued questioning the congregation member before finally arresting him.

These acts interfere with the religious activities of a religious corporation permitted to conduct religious activities under the Religious Corporation Act, as well as these acts infringe on the freedom of religion guaranteed under the Constitution of Japan (Article 20).

Additionally, the entry did not constitute preventing harm, controlling damage, assisting victims or other grounds permitting entry by the police onto land or buildings of others under Paragraph 1 of Article 6 of the Police Duties Execution Law. The officers overstepped their authority.

Furthermore, this entry was zealously conducted by the police in a gathering place for lawful religious services of the church despite Paragraph 3 of Article 6 of the Police Duties Execution Law stipulating that “police officers shall not interfere with the lawful business of the person concerned” in making an entry pursuant to their duties. Police officers violated this paragraph not only by interfering with proceedings of the gathering, but also by gravely threatening and causing much discomfort for the persons involved.

We are outraged by this entry and search. In particular, there has been the persistent questioning of foreigners near train stations and on the streets under the “Plan to Halve the Number of Illegal Overstayers” being conducted with a focus on law enforcement authorities since around 2000. This policy is lamentable for spreading the tendency to overlook foreigners’ rights. The mistaken impression that if the party concerned is a foreigner, entry and questioning may be conducted not only in that person’s residence, but also anywhere the person goes, has been cultivated among local police officers and it seems that this mistaken impression is behind the current incident.

We are approaching an era in which the population of residents of foreign nationality will greatly increase and it is necessary to strive to live together while appreciating our differences. It is our sincere hope the police will also try to conduct their activities in a manner in accordance with such an ideal.

Kawasaki City Harbor Police have admitted that the entry was inappropriate and have apologized to the Kaizuka Catholic Church. However, this incident involves your supervisory liability as the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Headquarters, so we seek appropriate measures be taken so such actions will not occur again and make the following requests.

1. Please present specific measures from the viewpoint of protection of religious freedom, so that such a case does not reoccur and inform all police officers of such measures.

2. Please cease intimidation of participants and interference with religious activities, including questioning or passport checks around religious institutions, or on the roads to such institutions.

3. Please stop entering shelters for emergency assistance of persons of foreign nationality who are the victims of domestic violence. Please stop crackdowns on the offices and meeting places of citizen groups and labor unions conducting activities for the protection of foreigners’ human rights.

Please create awareness of respect for the human rights of citizens of foreign nationality and provide training for this.

Catholic Commission of Japan for Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move
National Christian Liaison Committee on the Issue of the Basic Law for Foreign Residents
Council for Multicultural Society with Foreign Citizens in Kanagawa
(Participating organizations)