UPDATE (Japan): Call for On-line petition for a justice of a man sentenced to death row by false accusation


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-022-2007

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing to you to call special attention to the on-line petition for  justice to Mr. Kazuo Ishikawa who was originally sentenced to death by the Urawa District Court for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old school girl in Sayama, Saitama prefecture, Japan in 1963 (refer to: FA-020-2006). The petition is organized by the IMADR (The International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism), the Japanese human rights NGO supporting the call for the retrial of this case. The police had allegedly apprehended Mr. Ishikawa because of his Buraku origin without clear and factual evidence. It has also been reported that the police had forced him to confess a rape and murder of a girl by means of a severe interrogation. Mr. Ishikawa’s sentenced was later reduced to life imprisonment by the Tokyo High Court in 1974 on his appeal. He was released on parole in 1994 and since then he has been trying get a review of his case by the Supreme Court and the Tokyo High Court. However his applications have never been accepted by either courts up to now.

To sign this petition to support Sayama International Solidarity Campaign organized by IMADR, please visit http://www.petitiononline.com/sayama/


On 1 May 1963, a 16-year-old high school girl from Sayama city, Saitama prefecture was kidnapped. Her body was found three days later on a farm road near her house. Her family received a threatening letter from the perpetrator who demanded 200,000 Yen for the return of the girl. The letter warned the family not to report a kidnapping to the police, or else she would die.

The post-mortem examination revealed that the victim was raped before she died and the blood type of the perpetrator was identified as Group B.

On 6 May 1963, a carrier man who used to work at the girl’s house committed suicide without leaving any note. He shared the same blood type group as the perpetrator of her rape.

Meanwhile, the police were under pressure to identify the perpetrator of her murder since they had lost a chance to arrest the perpetrator of another kidnap and murder case which happened prior to this incident. Without holding any factual evidence related to the murder, the police targeted the farm workers who were of Buraku origin to find the criminal on the basis that the trace of the perpetrator was distinguished at the piggery that was run by people of Buraku origin.

On 23 May 1963, Mr. Ishikawa (24 years old at this point in time) who was a resident of the Buraku area near a locality where the girl’s body was found was arrested for theft and fighting. However the police interrogated him about the murder of the girl for more than 20 days. He did not confess during those 20 days of interrogation and was released on bail on June 17.

However, later on the same day he was arrested by the charge of murder and rape of the 16-year-old girl. He made a confession about the murder and rape of the girl with two other people on June 20, and later he drew a map of the place where the girl’s bag was thrown and the bag was found accordingly. He also gave a testimony about the girl’s pen and wrist watch and the police found all of them based on the confession that he gave to the police.

On 9 July he was accused of an allegation of rape and abandonment of a corpse. He was convicted and sentenced to death by the Urawa District Court on 11 March 1964.

Later he appealed to the Tokyo High Court by claiming that he was interrogated severely by police and forced to confess to the allegations; that he did not commit the crime but confessed because he was offered a plea-bargain. His first appeal trial was opened on 10 September 1964 and he denied all the allegations of which he was convicted at the first instance.

This became a high profile case and caught the attention of the entire country at that time. Many groups that are especially organized by people of Buraku origin had made campaign against his false accusation.

On 31 October 1974, the Tokyo High Court commuted his sentence to  life imprisonment despite the pleas made by the defence lawyers. The lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court however the application was dismissed and Mr. Ishikawa was sent to the prison in Chiba on 8 September 1976.

On 21 December 1994, Mr. Ishikawa was released on parole after spending 31 years and 7 months in prison. His defence appealed for a review of the case to the Supreme Court in 2005 but this was rejected. They also made the third appeal for retrial of the case to the Tokyo High Court on 23 May 2006.

Mr. Ishikawa was awarded the 18th Yoko Tada Human Rights Award from Yoko Tada Foundation of Human Rights in Japan in December 2006 for his 43 years of seeking justice.


It has been allegedly said that there is a possibility of false accusation made against Mr. Ishikawa due to various factors. The issue is one of discriminative perception against people of Buraku origin of which Mr.  Ishikawa is one.

Mr. Ishikawa is one of about 6 million Buraku people, a social minority group which have been facing discrimination associated with their antecedents’ work such as butchering animals and working as executioners. Buraku discrimination was structured into a caste system that was developed during Tokugawa feudal period (1603-1867) and they were marginalized from the four primary caste groups: warriors, farmers, artisans, and merchants.

When the Sayama case happened in 1963, prejudice against Buraku people was harsher than we see it today. Prejudice against Buraku people makes other people think that Buraku people are violent and rough. When Mr. Ishikawa first confessed the murder of the girl, the media presented as if only the Buraku people could commit such a brutal crime like murder.

The anti Buraku prejudice became less prevalent than before. However, discrimination against them can still be seen in various ways in society. For instance, their job applications have been rejected in some instances their applications to jobs at some companies because of their origin and marriage with non-Buraku origin people is also difficult for them since many of Japanese have a perception that they do not wish to get married to a person of Buraku origin.

The issue of discrimination against Buraku-origin people has been recognized by the United Nations and it reaffirmed that discrimination based on work and descent is prohibited by international human rights law in 2003. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance made a visit to Japan in 2005 and pointed out the lack of effective measures in domestic regulation to counter the issues of discrimination against Buraku-origin people.

Japanese constitution prohibits all kinds of discrimination under article 14. Japan is also party to six major international human rights instruments including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of which both enshrine the prohibition of discrimination on any ground including descent, social origin and birth status.

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-022-2007
Countries : Japan,