We strongly protest against the detention of the two activists of Greenpeace

by Kate Smolski

July 3, 2008

A group of Japanese lawyers watching over human rights abuse around the G8 Summit has issued a statement about the arrest and detention of Greenpeace activists. The activists were arrested after exposing a whale meat smuggling scandal in Japan.

The following is the lawyers’ statement:

Lawyers’ Network for Human Rights Observation around the G8 Summit (WATCH)

On April 20, 2008, Aomori Prefectural Police and Tokyo Metropolitan Police Public Security Division arrested two Greenpeace Japan activists for theft and trespassing. The activists are accused first of stealing a cardboard box that contained the meat of a whale harvested by a Japanese scientific whaling ship, and which had been stored in a delivery company in Aomori; and secondly they are accused of handing over the stolen whale meat to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office. The police also searched Greenpeace offices as part of their investigation.

According to the arrested activists, their act was not a mere act of theft or trespassing, rather it was intended as a denouncement of the embezzlement of whale meat by the crew of a scientific whaling ship financed with tax payers’ money. Furthermore, the activists had already submitted a report in which they disclosed the details of their plan. Also they had declared that they were willing to appear at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office anytime. There was therefore no reason to suspect that they would conceal evidence or that they would flee; this removes the justifications for the detention of the two activists.

Despite this lack of legal premises for detention, the Aomori Prefectural Police and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Public Security Division are still detaining the activists, an act which is unjust, illegal and illegitimate.

This spectacle on the eve of the G8 Summit has provoked expressions of concern in different parts of the society. Both mass media and activists are concerned that the police intend to intimidate the whole civil movement. The evening paper of Niigata Nippo as of June 20th says: "It is disturbing that there could be a link between the arrests and the G8 Summit. The police behavior can be interpreted as a warning against radical civil organisations which do not refrain from illegal acts to achieve their aims. If this assumption is true, it is very alarming (…) The implementation of law should be strict, but with no political intentions."

It is clear that the police intend to intimidate the civil movement before the G8 Summit by carrying out disproportionate control, even if it means risking international protests on the eve of the Summit. The fact that the Public Security Police lead the investigation underlines this stance.

The arrest of the two activists is not only a human rights violation with regard to the unjustifiable arrest, detention and investigation, but also a challenge against the freedom of expression. Police repression against the activists’ denunciation obstructs the legitimate activities of both Japanese civil society and international society and is therefore internationally unacceptable and subject to global criticism as an affront to humanity.

The Lawyers’ Network for Human Rights Monitoring around the G8 Summit is concerned that this incident will obstruct the use of freedom of speech, the protest activities and the denunciation activities concerning crimes against public interest. It thereby strongly demands that free activities and free spaces granted in the Japanese Constitution de jure be guaranteed de facto.

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