United Nations: Japanese Authorities Breached Human Rights of Greenpeace Anti-Whaling Activists
July 6, 2010
The Japanese government breached a series of internationally guaranteed human rights by detaining two Greenpeace activists who had uncovered major corruption in the Japanese whaling program, according to a working group of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, known as the "Tokyo Two", are due to stand trial on February 15th, but it has been revealed that the UNHRC's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) informed the Japanese government in December that the rights of the two men have been breached by the Japanese justice system.
"Junichi and Toru acted in the public interest to expose a scandal that involved corruption in the taxpayer-funded whaling program. Now it is clear that this is not just the opinion of Greenpeace, but also of the competent United Nations body," said Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo. "We expect the Japanese courts to take note of this opinion and judge the case accordingly."
The Working Group noted that Sato and Suzuki had "…acted considering that their actions were in the greater public interest as they sought to expose criminal embezzlement within the taxpayer-funded whaling industry." It recognizes that they willingly cooperated with the police and the Public Prosecutor, that this cooperation was not acknowledged, and that the Government did not itself submit any essential information, such as details of their activities as environmental activists, the investigation they carried out, the evidence they gathered or the help they gave to authorities to formally investigate their allegations.
The Working Group concluded: "The right of these two environmental activists not to be arbitrarily deprived of their liberty; their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and to exercise legitimate activities, as well as their right to engage in peaceful activities without intimidation or harassment has not been respected by the Justice system." As such, the Working Group found that the government has contravened 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. It also took the view that Sato and Suzuki had been denied the right to challenge their detention before an independent and impartial tribunal in fair proceedings, and requested that the remainder of the trial be conducted fairly.
"The decision to engage in this political prosecution was made by the previous government in Japan. The new administration can remedy the shame of this damning opinion by ensuring the trial will now be fair, adhering to international legal standards. In the interest of transparency they should welcome observers from other governments to
the proceedings," said Dr Naidoo, who is traveling to Japan later this week to observe the trial. "Prime Minister Hatoyama must also order a re-examination of the original allegations made by the Tokyo Two," Dr Naidoo added.
Since their initial arrest in June 2008, more than a quarter of a million people have signed a petition to demand justice for Sato and Suzuki, and legal experts including Supreme Court advocates worldwide have expressed concern about the prosecution. International human rights and advocacy groups such as Amnesty International and Transparency International have questioned the legitimacy of the prosecution. A week of protests at Japanese embassies worldwide began today in the run up to next Monday's hearing.
Greenpeace is an independent, global campaigning organization that acts to change attitudes and behavior, to protect and conserve the environment, and to promote peace.
Dr Naidoo's Huffington Post blog can be found here:
In January 2008, Greenpeace began an investigation into whistleblower allegations that organized whale meat embezzlement was being conducted by crew inside Japan's so-called 'scientific' whaling program, which is funded by Japanese taxpayers. The informer was previously involved in the whaling program, and following his advice Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki began an investigation, eventually discovering firm proof that cardboard boxes containing whale meat were being secretly shipped to the homes of whaling fleet crew - and then sold for personal profit. Junichi delivered a box of this whale meat to the Tokyo Prosecutors' Office in May 2008, and filed a report of embezzlement. However, the embezzlement investigation was dropped on 20 June - the same day that both men were arrested and then held for 26 days before being charged with theft and trespass. They are currently facing up to ten years in prison for their actions.
Other contacts: Jane Kochersperger – Greenpeace U.S., + 1 202 680 3798, firstname.lastname@example.org Greg McNevin - Greenpeace International Communications, +81 (0)80 5416 6506, email@example.com Kyoko Murakami - Greenpeace Japan Communications, +81 (0)3 5338 9816, firstname.lastname@example.org Sara Holden – Tokyo Two Campaign Coordinator, + 31 (0) 615 007 406, email@example.com