Greenpeace echoes UN call: Japanese Authorities Breached Human Rights of Anti-Whaling Activists

Press release - February 12, 2010
Greenpeace activists in Manila today called on the Japanese government for justice for two colleagues arrested in Japan in 2008 for anti-whaling activities. The activists delivered a letter to Japan’s Ambassador to the Philippines and placed models of whale tail fins in front of the Embassy of Japan carrying messages calling for a fair trial and a fresh inquiry into Japan’s whaling industry.

Greenpeace activists in Manila called on the Japanese government for justice for two colleagues arrested in Japan in 2008 for anti-whaling activities.The activists, wearing masks of Junichi Sato & Toru Suzuki (the “Tokyo Two”), delivered a letter to Japan's Ambassador to the Philippines and placed models of whale tail fins in front of the Embassy of Japan with messages calling for a fair trial and fresh inquiry into Japan's whaling industry.

The activity in the Philippines caps a week of protests at Japanese Embassies worldwide in the run up to the trial of activists, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, known as the "Tokyo Two"¹, which begins on Monday, February 15. Sato and Suzuki were in the process of exposing a scandal that involved corruption in the taxpayer-funded whaling program when they were arrested. Investigations into allegations of embezzlement in the whaling industry were dropped when the Tokyo Two were arrested, leading to fears of a government whitewash.

According to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the Japanese government breached a series of internationally guaranteed human rights by detaining the two. 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 system2.

"Junichi and Toru acted in the public interest to expose a scandal that involved corruption in the taxpayer-funded whaling programme. Now it is clear that this is not just the opinion of Greenpeace, but also of the competent United Nations body," said Mark Dia, Deputy Campaigns Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "We expect the Japanese courts to take note of this opinion and judge the case accordingly."

WGAD 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 took note that the two 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 the two's activities as environmental activists, the investigation they carried out, the evidence they gathered, nor 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, WGAD 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 Greenpeace International Executive Director, Dr. Kumi Naidoo, who is travelling to Japan to observe the trial. "Prime Minister Hatoyama must also order a re-examination of the original allegations made by the Tokyo Two," Dr. Naidoo added3.

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.

Greenpeace is an independent, global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment, and to promote peace.

Other contacts: Greg McNevin - Greenpeace International Communications, +81 (0)80 5416 6506, Kyoko Murakami - Greenpeace Japan Communications, +81 (0)3 5338 9816, Sara Holden – Tokyo Two Campaign Coordinator, + 31 (0) 615 007 406, In the Philippines: Mark Dia, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Deputy Campaign Director: (+632) 4146512 local 113, +639178430549, JP Agcaoili, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Media Campaigner: +63917 6312750, (+632) 4146512 loc 121,

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Notes: 1 In January 2008, Greenpeace began an investigation into whistleblower allegations that organised whale meat embezzlement was being conducted by crew inside Japan's so-called ’scientific‘ whaling programme, which is funded by Japanese taxpayers. The informer was previously involved in the whaling programme, 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. 2 The full Opinion of the Working Group can be found at: 3 Dr Naidoo’s Huffington Post blog can be found here: