ハンセン病 司法の差別、決着せぬ

–The Asahi Shimbun, April 26
EDITORIAL: Doubts remain after top court apologizes for leprosy trials
(社説)ハンセン病 司法の差別、決着せぬ

The Supreme Court has officially admitted it made a serious mistake by allowing lower courts to hold criminal and other trials for leprosy patients outside regular courtrooms. But the mea culpa from the top court, which is regarded as the “bastion of human rights,” doesn’t answer key constitutional questions.

The Supreme Court on April 25 officially apologized to former leprosy patients and other people who suffered from this practice, saying it “deeply regrets having degraded the personalities and dignity of the patients and apologizes.”

The top court acknowledged that its approvals of the special separate trials for leprosy sufferers were discriminatory in nature and violated the court organization law.

It is extremely unusual for the nation’s highest court to admit having made a misjudgment concerning judicial procedures and offering such an apology. It took a step in the right direction by examining the issue.

However, the key question in this controversy was the constitutionality of the policy. The top court concluded that the “special trials” didn’t violate the constitutional principle of open trials.

The Supreme Court should ask itself whether this conclusion is acceptable to former patients and their families who suffered from discrimination and prejudices against leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease.

The opinions of the court’s expert panel on the issue, released at the same time, raised two important constitutional questions.

First, the panel said there is no denying that the special trials for leprosy patients violated the constitutional principle of equality under the law. Secondly, the panel argued that it is hard not to suspect that the policy also violated the constitutional principle of public trials.

In 2005, an independent inquiry panel set up by the health ministry had already pointed out similar constitutional questions concerning the practice.

It is difficult to claim that the Supreme Court’s conclusion, issued after many years of failing to respond to the criticism, offers convincing, straightforward answers to these questions.

The health ministry’s panel referred to a controversial murder trial of a man from Kumamoto Prefecture who was said to have leprosy. In this case, known as the “Kikuchi Incident,” the defendant was eventually executed despite claiming his innocence.

The ministry panel said the man had effectively been tried in a closed-door proceeding.

The Supreme Court started looking into this issue after it received a demand for an examination of the legitimacy of the special trials. The demand came from lawyers and former leprosy patients who were seeking a retrial for the Kumamoto man.

Unsurprisingly, an organization of former leprosy patients involved in this campaign has denounced the top court’s failure to acknowledge the unconstitutionality of the practice. The organization said it strongly demands that the court “sincerely admit its own mistake.”

In its probe into the matter, the Supreme Court avoided making any judgment about individual cases on the grounds of the independence of judges.

But flawed judicial procedures could cast doubts on the appropriateness of the trials themselves.

The top court should have scrutinized individual cases for possible relief for victims and restoration of their honor.

The judiciary should seriously consider any request for a retrial from a victim of the system.

The challenge facing the Japanese judiciary is how to use the results of the investigation to promote efforts to eliminate discrimination and prejudices from society.

The Supreme Court should move beyond this apology and continue performing its responsibility to tackle this challenge.

srachai について

early retired civil engineer migrated from Tokyo to Thailand
カテゴリー: 英字新聞 パーマリンク



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