JAPAN: Two anti-whaling activists were illegally detained in Aomori and now face an unjust trial 

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to support and forward an appeal from Greenpeace on the trial of two anti-whaling activists in Aomori, Japan, who both face an 18-month jail sentence. Please note that the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has reportedly opined that the men’s initial detention breached human rights standards, that their investigation had been in the public interest and their prosecution is politically motivated.

Please adapt the letter below and send it to your government representatives, requesting that the issue be taken up with the foreign minister of Japan.

For more information, please contact Greenpeace India (www.greenpeace.org)

Thank you.
Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

An appeal for support for two Greenpeace activists

This is a joint statement of concern by International Non-Governmental Organisations, urging the Japanese government, as well as governments around the world to ensure that Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki are not unjustly and disproportionately punished for their peaceful, public-interest expose of corruption in the Japanese whaling programme.

We, the undersigned, fully support the following statement and urge the Japanese authorities and all concerned governments and decision makers to protect the rights to protest as outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The continued political prosecution of two peaceful protestors from Greenpeace in Japan is of grave concern.

The rights of individuals and organisations to freedom of expression, the ability to voice opposition to government policies, investigate corruption and expose environmental and human rights abuses must always be upheld. The United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention opined that Sato and Suzuki’s investigation was a legitimate public interest enquiry, their prosecution is politically motivated and their initial detention breached their human rights. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay also expressed concern about the case and the need to protect the ability for non-governmental organisations to investigate governments and corporations.
Despite this, the Prosecutor in Aomori District Court, where the case is being heard has demanded a jail sentence of one year and six months for both men.

The law cannot be used or abused as an instrument of oppression. Punishing dissent and peaceful protest through intimidation and detention without charge is unacceptable in the 21st century.
The willingness of Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki to cooperate with the police investigation into the manner in which they obtained the evidence of their allegations of large-scale corruption within the Japanese government-sponsored Southern Ocean whaling programme must be recognised. It is these allegations that require further investigation.

Please ensure Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki are not unjustly punished, and provide Greenpeace Japan and all other Non-governmental organisations working in Japan with the rights guaranteed under international law to organize and to protest peacefully.



Shri. Mukul Wasnik
Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment
Shastri Bhawan,
New Delhi

Dear Shri Wasnik,


At this point of time, I have written to update you on the disturbing developments in the trial of two Greenpeace activists in Japan, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, who exposed corruption and embezzlement in the government funded Southern Ocean whaling programme. In spite of overwhelming evidence which supports the investigation by the two men, they face an 18 month jail term.

Throughout the course of their trial, the testimony of Sato and Suzuki has remained true to their original allegations and evidence presented to the police and Tokyo District Prosecutor. In contrast, in giving their evidence, the whaling company officials and crew consistently contradicted themselves, each other, their own police statements, DNA evidence, the prosecutor’s claims and the official statements from Japanese authorities.

The case of Sato and Suzuki has generated significant international attention, from senior political figures, including Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, international human rights groups and legal experts. During a recent visit to Japan the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, Navi Pillay also expressed concern about the case particularly with regard to freedom of expression and association. She emphasised the importance of investigations by NGOs to society in general and how their work should be respected. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has recently ruled that the detention and prosecution of Sato and Suzuki has breached several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UN Working Group also stressed that citizens have the right to investigate corruption and oppose government policy. They concluded that the public interest investigation by Sato and Suzuki was a valid one and their rights have not been respected by the Japanese justice system.

It is for the court to now decide on a verdict. If they are sentenced to jail, internationally, it will also raise serious questions about the growing global trend of using the law to silence political opposition.

India’s own history is rich with examples of the civil disobedience movement and as the citizens of the world’s largest democracy, we all deeply respect an individual’s right to protest. Therefore it is important for India and you, in your capacity as Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, to raise India’s concerns with the Foreign Minister of Japan at the sentence that is being demanded in this case. Furthermore, as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is imperative for India to ensure that the tenants of the treaties are upheld universally and internationally. As such I also respectfully request that you also ask the government of Japan ensure the two activists are not unjustly punished and their original allegations are fully investigated.

Yours sincerely,

Thank you.
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Document Type : Forwarded Urgent Appeal
Document ID : AHRC-FUA-011-2010
Countries : Asia,
Issues : Administration of justice, Arbitrary arrest & detention,