The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jane Kochersperger – Greenpeace U.S., + 1 202 680 3798,
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,

United Nations: Japanese Authorities Breached Human Rights of Greenpeace Anti-Whaling Activists


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.


Related news stories

  • GUILTY! Japan's justice system "breached human rights of Greenpeace anti-whaling activists"

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Greenpeace is a global, independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

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