Filed under: Defending our Oceans, Greenpeace Core Values | Tags: human rights, japan, Junichi, tokyo 2, Toru, Whaling
An update from Sarah Burton, Deputy Program Director currently in Aomori, Japan on the first day of the trial.
It was Valentine’s night, and sure there was candle-light but it wasn’t a cozy tete-a-tete. Far from it. There was a bitingly cold wind as we stood vigil holding candles which read “ Justice” while we stood by an ice-sculpture in a square in the Japanese town of Aomori on the eve of the start of the trial of Junichi and Toru.
The sculpture is a figure of Justice with scales weighed by the evidence Junichi and Toru collected and made available to the public prosecutors in Tokyo – disturbing evidence of corruption and embezzlement in the Japanese whaling programme. Nearly two years ago, acting in the public interest, they’d followed up on a whistleblower’s tip-off, conducted their own investigation, and come up with startling evidence. In the process, they collected a box of whale-meat which had been surreptitiously sent from the whaling ship to a warehouse here in Aomori marked ‘cardboard’. More investigations followed, and all the evidence was presented to public prosecutors. In what can only be a remarkable cover-up or the coincidence of the century, a few weeks later the prosecutor called off his investigation on the very same day that our colleagues Toru and Junichi – known by now as the “Tokyo Two” – were arrested (by no less than 75 police!) and charged. As their trial begins the evidence of embezzlement remains ‘on ice’.
Over the intervening period I’ve been out here 3 times to work on the case and surrounding campaign to keep the Tokyo Two out of prison, and to put whaling on trial. I’ve grown close to the two defendants, two men who are without doubt strong, brave, principled and purposeful. Listen to Toru’s own words from his opening statement to the Court earlier today:
“We’re sitting in the dock here in court, but in this hearing, the conduct of the prosecutors and police is what will be under the spotlight. This hearing will show what level of democracy we have in Japan. I will fight this case with the intention to expose the lies which permeate the research whaling industry.”
Meanwhile Kumi,is meeting the two defendants in person for the first time during this visit and is full of admiration for the work they’ve done, and the stand they are taking, to really fulfill the role of civil society in Japan – to strengthen democracy and to represent the public interest.
We’ve all been overwhelmed with the support that the Tokyo Two have garnered around the world in the last 18 months since their arrest, including from hundreds of thousands of individuals, two of whom happen to be Nobel Peace Prize winners Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Betty Williams. This support comes alongside of the fact that no less than the highest human rights body in the world, namely the UN’s Human Rights Council by their Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, is also coming out strongly on the side of the Tokyo Two. Having investigated their case, the Working Group has held that our colleagues considered “that their actions were in the greater public interest as they sought to expose criminal embezzlement within the taxpayer-funded whaling industry.” And found that their fundamental human rights were violated in being arrested, detained and charged in this case.
In their own words:
“The detention of Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki was arbitrary and contravened the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Japan is a State party.”
Today was the first day of their trial and the hearing showed us two things. First, that the crimes and exposed by the Tokyo Two, were committed and continue to be commited in Japan – crimes of embezzlement, corruption and cover-up. How high up that cover-up goes, we don’t know yet. Second, until these crimes are properly investigated we’ll never know the extent of the cover up. But that these crimes must be investigated is a given. We must continue to push for that investigation with everything we’ve got. We owe it to the Tokyo Two, to the whistleblowers who took their own risks to give this information to Greenpeace, and more than anyone else to the people of Japan who deserve to be living in a democracy where (as Junichi said in Court today):
“…individuals have the right to expose scandals…which leads to a more democratic, citizen orientated society.”
We’re with him and Toru all the way! >>Support Junichi and Toru
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