Opinion of the UN Human Rights Council's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Publication - 8 February, 2010
The formal opinion of the UN Human Rights Council's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention rendered with regard to the treatment of the Tokyo Two- Greenpeace activists who exposed corruption in the Japanese government-funded whaling programme- by the Japanese authorities.

Executive summary: The UN Human Rights Council's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that the Japanese authorities have breached articles 18, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It also expresses concern that articles 2, 10 and 14 of the ICCPR, relating to the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial, have not been respected.

Established in 1991, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is a UN-mandated body - residing under the Human Rights Council in Geneva - that investigates cases of alleged arbitrary arrest and detention that may be in violation of international human rights law. The Working Group is made up of respected human rights experts from Senegal, the Russian Federation, Pakistan, Chile and Norway, who are chosen for their expertise in legal matters and for their independence.

Any concerned individual or group can request an investigation. This party is subsequently referred to as the 'source'. The 'source' for the complaint about the treatment of Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki was Amnesty International, who submitted the case for investigation in March 2009. Following six months of inquiry, Opinion No. 9/2009 (Japan), was adopted by the Working Group on 1 September 2009. In accordance with the established methods of the Working Group, the Opinion was first communicated to the government of Japan, giving it the chance to respond, and subsequently passed to Amnesty International on 12 January, 2010. The opinion is available to the public and will also be included as an Annex to the Working Group's next annual report to the Human Rights Council, in March 2010.

The government limited its response to an explanation of Japan's criminal justice system and claiming, without substantiation, that the 'source' was factually incorrect. The Working Group did not concur. The findings of the Working Group fall into category II - which is defined as 'When the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights or freedoms guaranteed by articles 7, 13, 14, 18, 19, 10 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, insofar as States parties are concerned, by articles 12, 18, 19, 21, 22, 25, 26 and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights'.

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Number of pages: 8

See also:

Whaling On Trial - a full report by Greenpeace on the case of the Tokyo Two and the Japanese whaling programme.