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Top>People>Would You Like to be Involved in Activities for Legal Technical Assistance?


Would You Like to be Involved in Activities for Legal Technical Assistance?

Fumie Fukuoka
Professor, Government Attorney, International Cooperation Department, Research and Training Institute, Ministry of Justice

1. Desire for legal technical assistance

“I will help make legislature for founding and developing Eritrea.”

Last September, I returned to my hometown in Yokohama after having been working in Osaka for some time. At my home, I discovered a clipping of a nostalgic newspaper article in the desk drawer in my room.

That newspaper article was written in 1997, mentioning an interview with a lawyer, Ms. Kanae Doi, when she was a college student.

Ms. Doi is introduced at the beginning of the article: “She is a female college student, and the youngest person to pass the national bar examination. For one year starting this spring, she will take part in developing laws in Eritrea, the youngest independent country in Africa.”

Eritrea had just become independent in 1993, and after establishing a constitution, it was beginning to develop its laws. The article goes on to say how Ms. Doi knew about this, and came up with voluntary work in Eritrea to create a draft for amending criminal law.

When I first read this newspaper article, I greatly admired Ms. Doi for passing the national bar examination during college and taking actions to get involved with legal technical assistance by directly negotiating with the Minister of Justice in Eritrea. At that time, I was a high school student, but I had been aiming to become a legal professional since the days of upper grades of elementary school. I stuck this newspaper clipping to the wall in front of my desk. It was my dream to pass the national bar examination as soon as possible and participate actively in the legal field in international society, and so I studied as hard as I could.

Upon discovering this newspaper article from 20 years ago, it brought back feelings of a time when I was filled with motivation. I realized that I had been interested in the activities for legal technical assistance for 20 years, and once again I was happy that my wish had come true and I was able to find my current job.

2. Significance of prosecutors to conduct legal technical assistance

I belong to the Ministry of Justice Research and Training Institute’s International Cooperation Department (ICD), which was founded in April 2001 as a department dedicated to legal technical assistance. It had been active in Osaka for about 16 years, but in October 2017, it was relocated to the newly-established International Justice Center in Akishima City, Tokyo.

After being involved with investigations/trials for about 12 years as a prosecutor, I was transferred from the Akita District Public Prosecutor’s Office to the ICD in April 2017, and six months after that, I was transferred from Osaka to Akishima. As a prosecutor, I am accustomed to relocation. Each time I move, the new place becomes like another hometown. Although I am accustomed to this kind of change, I was astonished by the amount of domestic and foreign business trips in the first 10 months of working for the ICD. However, I reaffirmed that the most important thing is to actively go out and meet with people directly. When I worked as a prosecutor, it was important to visit the scene of a crime and examine the articles of evidence for myself, and also to talk with the suspects, victims, and witnesses as well as the police officer in charge. I realized that by doing this, I gained far more than I did by simply reading the investigation record over and over again. This is true for my current job as well.

In May of last year, when I first traveled on business to Cambodia, a country in my charge, even though I gained information by reading a lot of materials in advance, it was incomparable to the amount of information I got by actually visiting places and connecting with the locals. Also, my current job requires me to work with more people than I did when I worked as a prosecutor, and to contact and coordinate between many related organizations or parties. Rather than exchanging multiple phone calls or emails, contact and communication goes much smoother after meeting and talking to someone in person at least once, and getting a feel for their personality.

My previous job as a prosecutor consistently ties into my current work.

3. The importance of using a common language for communication

The other day, an Annual Conference on Technical Assistance in the Legal Field was held, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice Research and Training Institute.

The Annual Conference on Technical Assistance in the Legal Field is a meeting where organizations and parties involved in legal technical assistance participate in discussion and information exchange. The theme of this year is “Japan’s Legal Technical Assistance-What ‘message’ can it carry?” Japan has been conducting activities for legal technical assistance for about 20 years. A lecture and panel discussion were held to discuss whether any messages were conveyed through these activities, going beyond tangible results, and what kinds of messages can be conveyed in the future.

As preparation for this meeting, I was blessed with the opportunity to take a business trip to New York and meet guest speakers from the United Nations, etc., and what I heard was the following:

“Japanese people need to use English more often when they publish their work. Whether it is the average person or a researcher, when most people search for something, they type in the English keyword. For that reason, Japanese should use English. If they don’t, their contents will not even show up in the search.”

When I heard this, I thought that those words were exactly right. In our department, too, although we update the website as frequently as possible, currently it still takes a long time to complete, and when it comes to submitting information in English, it takes even more time to have it checked by a native speaker, etc.

However, in order to send a message, it is a big step to first get as many people as possible to know of its existence. That is why I thought once more that I would always strive to publish things in English, even if it would take time in the beginning.

4. The message I wish to convey

In addition to Ms. Doi, there is someone else I look up to who taught me the appeal of legal technical assistance. This person was my senior prosecutor, and was sent to Cambodia and worked there for about two years as a long-term expert, supporting human resource development at schools training Cambodian judges and prosecutors. In addition to talking about her experiences in a lecture during my training, she was featured in a series of law magazines. With that lecture and those magazine articles, she strengthened my desire to someday be involved in the activities for legal technical assistance. I try to always keep in mind the words of my senior in that article: “We have to think about what will remain in Cambodia when Japan someday stops its support.” Support eventually comes to an end, and we must think and act in a way so that the supported country is able to develop on its own after the support is ended.

In the same way that Ms. Doi and my senior prosecutor had an impact on me, communication might catch the attention of someone who until then was unknown, and be able to have a big impact on that person’s life. That would be wonderful. In the future, as I continue working, I would like to send a message by carefully considering who I can send messages to through my activities, what kind of messages are conveyed and how they can be conveyed more effectively.

The activities of the ICD are listed on this website. If anything should interest you, please have a look.

Fumie Fukuoka
Professor, Government Attorney, International Cooperation Department, Research and Training Institute, Ministry of Justice
Fumie Fukuoka was born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1981. She graduated from the Department of International Law and Business in the Chuo University Faculty of Law in 2004. She was appointed as a prosecutor in 2005. After working at the District Public Prosecutor’s Office in places such as Yokohama, Kushiro, Tokyo, Sendai, and Akita, she began working for the Ministry of Justice Research and Training Institute’s International Cooperation Department in April 2017, and engaged in legal technical assistance in Southeast Asian countries. Countries currently in her charge are Cambodia and Mongolia.