Three foreign-born residents of Japan will next week file a lawsuit against the government over alleged racial profiling by police, a case that would be the first of its kind, their lawyers said Wednesday.
The three men — one born in Pakistan, an African American, and a Pacific Islander — have been repeatedly questioned by police because of their ethnicity or appearance, their lawyers said in a statement.
“It would be the first lawsuit over operation of racial profiling by police in questioning,” even though suits over police’s excessive questioning have taken place in the past, one of their lawyers, Moe Miyashita, told AFP.
Despite rising immigration, foreign-born residents of Japan account for only 2.3 percent of the country’s population, one of the lowest shares in the OECD.
The man born in Pakistan, who identifies himself only as Zain and is in his 20s, came to Japan at the age of eight and obtained Japanese citizenship with his family at the age of 13.
“In total, he has been questioned about 15 times by the police in Japan,” the lawyers said.
In April and September 2023, he was questioned by a police officer in front of his house, according to his lawyers.
He told the officer that he was a Japanese citizen, but the officer was not convinced.
“The officer asked him to show his residence card and passport, and then searched his belongings,” the lawyers said in the statement.
The two other plaintiffs are Maurice, an African American in his 40s who lives with family members who are Japanese citizens, and a Pacific islander in his 50s who identifies himself as Matthew.
Matthew lived in several countries before marrying his Japanese spouse in 2002 and moving to Japan, where he became a permanent resident.
“In total, he has been questioned about 100 times by the police in Japan, and experienced being questioned twice a day about four times,” the statement said.
In October 2021, a police patrol car that passed him while he was driving made a U-turn and ordered him to stop his car, it said.
After he stopped, the police officer asked for his driver’s licence.
“When Matthew’s wife asked if he had committed any traffic violation, the officer replied, ‘No, it’s rare to see a foreigner driving in this area,'” it said.
They will file the lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court on Monday, seeking compensation.
“We claim that the practice of racially discriminatory police questioning both at institutional and individual levels is unconstitutional and illegal,” the lawyers said.
Japan’s National Police Agency was not immediately available for comment.