Japan’s lower house apologizes to patients


The lower house of the Japanese parliament unanimously and formally apologized Thursday to leprosy patients who suffered decades of systematic discrimination and abuse by the state.

“This body expresses an apology for pain and suffering caused by the discrimination and the restriction of human rights that came from the isolation policy, which was in place for years,” the resolution passed to make the apology said.

“To prevent such misfortune from being repeated… we resolve to take legislative action to restore their honor and to help rehabilitate patients and former patients of leprosy.”

There was no mention of compensation but the government has already said it would pass a law granting financial redress in line with a landmark court ruling last month.

The lower house unanimously approved the resolution, an administrative official of the lower house said.

The upper house was expected to pass a similarly worded resolution on Friday, according to Jiji Press.

The passage of the resolution follows the government’s decision on May 23 that it would not seek to overturn a landmark court ruling forcing it to pay compensation to leprosy patients, many of whom were forced into leper colonies and made to have sterilizations and abortions.

The Kumamoto district court in southern Japan ordered the government on May 11 to pay more than 100 leprosy sufferers a total of 1.82 billion yen (US$15.2 million) in compensation for human rights abuses.

The Kumamoto ruling marked Japan’s first legal judgment on such cases, and shed light on the plight of leprosy patients who suffered systematic state discrimination long after it was established the disease was not contagious.

The lower house resolution said the body accepted its responsibility of failing to stop the discriminatory practice.

The government did not repeal until 1996 its notorious 1953 Leprosy Prevention Law, which resulted in the sterilization of leprosy sufferers and forced abortions of the unborn children of sanatorium inmates.

It also maintained a pre-war isolation policy for leprosy patients dating from 1907.