Human Rights and the Tokyo Two

by Allison Kole

June 23, 2009

The rainy season began Tuesday in Japan, and in spite of the heat and humidity at the Greenpeace Japan office, the staff has been working overtime preparing for the June 17th pre-trial hearing for Junichi and Toru.  With this hearing brings the arrival of Prof. Dirk Voorhoof, the defense team’s expert witness, who will be speaking to parliament members, university students, legal experts, as well as the judge in Aomori about his legal opinion regarding the human rights implications in the Japanese government’s case against the T2.  

That Prof. Voorhoof’s opinion will be allowed to be submitted to the District Court of Aomori is both unexpected on the part of the judge and emboldening to the defense’s case.   By submitting evidence regarding the whale meat embezzlement, the defense can provide a backdrop for describing how the action by Junichi and Toru was justifiable and arguably necessary to contribute to a debate of public interest and uphold Greenpeace’s role as an NGO and watchdog for a democratic society.  Prof. Dirk Voorhoof among other accolades, teaches at Ghent University in Belguim in the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences and Faculty of Law, and is an expert on freedom of expression, democracy and human rights.  He will give evidence on some key components of the defenses’ case including the following:

  1. Interference by police and judicial authorities in the case of the T2, would be considered a violation of freedom of expression and information protected under Article 10 of the European Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
  2. Press and NGOs have a similarly strong protection of freedom of expression and information, particularly information that contributes to a debate of public interest.  NGOs retain importance as does media, as watchdogs in a democratic society.
  3. The protection of freedom of expression includes the protection of news and information gathering activities (like the box of evidence acquired for documentation by the T2 and returned to the public).  Additionally, substantial evidence like the box of whale meat is important to ensure sufficient facts in investigative or critical reporting—NGOs need to back up their claims and criticism.  
  4. The European Court of Human Rights has the opinion that the searches at media offices or at the home and place of work of journalists or reporters, is interference on freedom of expression.  An example of this violation is the searches done on Greenpeace Japan and the homes of its staff members.  Searches that damage confidentiality and punishments such as the one Junichi and Toru are facing could deter media and NGOs from filling their role in a democratic society of informing the public of vital information or, in this case, a whale meat embezzlement scandal and government cover-up.  

For a more accurate description of the human rights arguments read the Prof. Voorhoof’s legal opinion to be submitted next week to the District Court of Aomori.

As you can see, the defense team has their work cut out for them, as does the Greenpeace Japan office and the T2 special team.  I am helping where I can in the work to free Junichi and Toru and win the favor of the Japanese public so that they can put whaling on trial.

More on the Tokyo Two trial.

You may want to keep up to date with the International Whaling Commission proceedings beginning June 22nd, a week from Monday.  Junichi Sato, one of the TokyoTwo will be attending.  

Photos: Hisayo, Junichi, and Teall hard at work.  Also shown, photos posted at GP Japan of solidarity events by Greenpeace activists around the world.

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