A JAPANESE court has upheld the government’s decision to ban dual citizenships after the law was challenged over its legality.
In what is believed to be the first judicial decision on the matter, the Tokyo District Court made the ruling after hearing arguments from lawyers for eight plaintiffs and also from the government’s side.
Presiding judge Hideaki Mori said dual citizenship “could cause conflict in the rights and obligations between countries, as well as between the individual and the state.”
The eight men and women in their 30s to 80s, who were born in Japan but now live in Europe, claim that a legal requirement that Japanese who gain foreign nationality must give up their Japanese citizenship, violates the Constitution.
Six of them have acquired Swiss or Liechtenstein nationality, while two others plan to obtain Swiss or French nationality to facilitate their work and lives.
All are hoping to maintain their Japanese citizenships.
According to a Kyodo News report, the government argued that the plaintiffs’ claim takes no note of national interests, as permitting dual citizenship would enable people to have voting rights or diplomatic protection in other countries.
Japan’s nationality law states that Japanese citizens who acquire non-Japanese nationality on their own, automatically lose their Japanese nationality.
This effectively bans dual citizenships.
The plaintiffs also claim that the law was originally designed for purposes such as avoiding overlapping military service obligations imposed by multiple nations.
As many countries in the world, including the United States, now allow dual citizenships, the clause stripping people of Japanese nationality violates the Constitution, which guarantees the right to pursue happiness and equality under the law, the plaintiffs argued.
“The court did not seriously consider the feelings of Japanese living abroad,” Swiss resident Hitoshi Nogawa, 77, who led the plaintiffs, said following the ruling.
The issue of dual nationality in Japan drew global attention when tennis superstar Naomi Osaka, who had both Japanese and US citizenship, selected Japanese nationality just before turning 22 in 2019.
She was born to a Japanese mother and Haitian father.
The law requires those who acquire dual nationalities under 20-years-old to choose one by age 22; and those who obtain them at age 20 or older to select one within two years.
The nationality law also requires Japanese citizens who obtained foreign citizenship to notify the government that they were giving up Japanese citizenship.
However, as there are no penalties involved, many Japanese are believed to have maintained multiple passports after obtaining other citizenships.
About 518,000 Japanese are estimated to have permanent residency status in other countries as of Oct 2019, but the government has been unable to confirm how many of them hold multiple citizenship.