In early 2010, two Greenpeace activists went on trial in Japan in an unprecedentedcourt case - one that court papers will register simply as a case of theft and trespassbut which, over the course of the past two years, has become so much more. Corruptgovernment practices, Japan’s adherence to international law, freedom of speech andthe right of individual protest and the commercial killing of thousands of whales are allunder the spotlight. Before the verdict has even been rendered, the United Nations hasalready ruled that, in the defendants' attempts to expose a scandal in the publicinterest, their human rights have been breached by the Japanese government.
'Whaling on Trial'
outlines the key elements of Greenpeace’s investigation of theJapanese government-sponsored whaling programme and the subsequent arrest,detention and prosecution of Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki.For more than 20 years the Japanese government has sponsored a lethal whalingprogramme in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary under the pretext of scientificresearch, following a moratorium on commercial whaling by the International WhalingCommission. Repeated requests by the Commission to end the programme - widelycondemned internationally as nothing more than commercial whaling by stealth - fall ondeaf ears, as successive governments in Tokyo insist that the programme is legitimate.In January 2008, Greenpeace Japan’s Junichi Sato was tipped off by a former whalerthat the so-called research was far from legitimate and was in fact, from deckhands togovernment officials overseeing the programme, riddled with corruption. The story was sufficiently credible and backed by testimony from at least two otherwhalers, so Sato, together with Toru Suzuki, decided to investigate further. Usingstandard research and corroboration techniques employed by investigative journaliststhe world over and protected under the International Covenant on Civil and PoliticalRights, they secured the evidence that substantiated the claims, proving that whalemeat had been illegally shipped from the expedition for personal gain and with the fullknowledge of government officials.Initially, the claims seemed to be taken seriously and the Tokyo district prosecutorbegan his own investigation. However, Greenpeace’s allegations had struck deep intothe heart of the establishment and, one month later, this investigation was shut downwithout explanation on the same day that Sato and Suzuki were arrested.Japan’s subsequent treatment of the ‘Tokyo Two’ is a catalogue of failures - whichhave been specifically and formally condemned by the UN Human Rights Council’sWorking Group on Arbitrary Detention - to adhere to international law and agreementsto which it has given its name and endorsement, as well as its own domestic laws.Police tip-offs to media prior to the arrest, detention without charge for 23 days,questioning without a lawyer present and while being tied to a chair, censorship of basic information requested through Freedom of Information requests and a blanketrefusal to disclose documents that would aid their defence are just some of the notablefailings.
Greenpeace International,Ottho Heldringstraat5,1066 AZAmsterdam,The Netherlands
42-year-oldSuzukispentmanyyearsasaprofessionalmotorcycleracer,competingdomesticallyinJapanandinternationally,mostnotablyin Australia.After9monthsasavolunteer,hejoinedGreenpeaceinlate2007asactionscoordinator,swiftlybecominganintegralpartof theinvestigationthatwouldexposethewhalemeatembezzlementscandal.
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