The Action Committee against Abduction and Confinement
European fact-finding delegation on the issue of abduction and confinement in JapanBetween 1st and 5th August, 25 leaders from 11 European nations visited Japan to take part in the 'European Leadership Conference & Fact-Finding Tour' under the auspices of the UPF. Its participants included: a former prime minister, three former cabinet ministers, two current parliament members as well as religious figures, human rights experts and journalists. They discussed mainly on three topics: (1) Peace and security in the North East Asia - Prospects of the unification on the Korean Peninsula and Japan's roles, (2) Visions and activities of the Unification Movement, (3) Japan's human rights issues, especially the abduction and confinement problem against the Unification Church members. Particularly in focus was the abduction and confinement issue, which was a follow-up of the steadfast efforts by both the Japanese Victims Association Against Religious Kidnapping and Forced Conversion and its European supporters. The head of the association, Toru Goto, visited Geneva twice in March and June this year, and facilitated the UPF to issue a relevant statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council. In fact, the conference in Japan was arranged meticulously with a view to expediting a solution to the abduction and confinement issue in Japan. In one of its sessions entitled "Japan's human rights problems of forcible de-conversion", held on August 2nd in Chiba City, the European leaders could hear from the victims directly and acquaint with the basic and bear facts. Peter Zohrer, Secretary General of the Forum of Religious Freedom in Europe (FOREF) based in Austria, gave the gist of the abduction and confinement in Japan, stressing that is was the outright violation of the International Declaration of the Human Rights. Representing the victims, Ms. Kozue Terada, a Japanese national now living in South Korea, and Mr. Toru Goto, above mentioned, described their experiences vividly. Goto made an impassioned appeal to the audience: "Please help us eliminate the forcible de-conversion by means of abduction and confinement from Japan on the basis of safeguarding the Basic Human Rights and Freedom of Faith as guaranteed by the Japanese Constitution." Ms. Eriko Sugano, the fiancée of 25-year-old Mr. N.K. who is suspected of being under duress, delivered her plight with tears. The day happened to be the 50th day since Mr. N.K. had gone missing. She said that the couple exchanged as many as 10 emails daily since their marriage blessing on October 14th last year. They used to call each other every evening and dated 50 times during the period, even showing his letters to her. Their loving relation was abruptly torn apart on June 14th. According to her, though she visited the Human Rights Department, Ministry of Justice, petitioned to the police through the Diet members, the Tokyo Municipality Assembly members and lawyers as well as by distributing pamphlets and staging street demonstrations, the police would not change their indifferent attitude to their plight. Closing her remarks, she pleaded the European leaders: "Would you please raise your voices not to tolerate such a vicious crime, which may be overlooked in Japan but should not be ignored worldwide. Kindly help put an end to this horrible history!" The European delegation was touched by the raw testimony on the unfolding case. Following the victims' testimonies, two human rights experts offered their comments. Dr. Aaron Rhodes, former Executive Director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights had this to say: "I was moved very much by your testimonies and, frankly, got angry to hear these nightmarish conditions, which have to be definitely tackled. The cases, corresponding to the clear violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, could be a cause for a serious diplomatic problem. We should hold a press conference to disseminate the situation to the wider society." Ms. Marjorie Ferguson, who had been engaged for 30 years in the quest for the human rights under the Amnesty International, offered her advices: "As this is my first encounter to the issue, there is little information disseminated in the world. It would be most effective for your NGO to raise this issue at the U.N. Human Rights Council when Japan is to submit its status report for the Universal Periodic Review. To that end, it is vital to compile the valid testimonies." On August 3rd, a symposium was convened by Japanese and European experts under the theme, 'Freedom of Faith and Human Rights' at the Democracy Memorial Center, an affiliated institution to the Diet. They tried to extract wisdoms to solve the issue of the abduction and confinement. In the end, the symposium offered the Japanese participants an opportunity to recognize the serious violation of the international norms and standards of the human rights, while the European delegation could deeply grasp the peculiar situation in Japan. From the Japanese side, Masayoshi Kajikuri provided the status report, while Professor Emeritus Hisayoshi Watanabe of the Kyoto University, a journalist on religious affairs Chu Muroo, and the former member of the House of Representatives Jin Hinokida offered their respective opinions on the issue. Summing up the views of the European side, former Defense Minister of the Netherlands, Willem Van Eekelen pointed out: "Japan has excellent human rights records on the whole excepting for this issue of the forced conversion. If Japan wishes to secure the high level of global appreciation on the human rights, the media must expose this issue in earnest." Antonio Stango, Secretary General of Italian Helsinki Committee pointed out that the cases in which violence and torture were applied did violate the International Convention on Human Rights and said: "Non-governmental organizations or international institutions should investigate the cases of the forcible conversion and publish a necessary statement." A German theologian, Dr. Marco Frenschkowski stated: "I am really astonished by the fact that the forcible deprogramming that had been terminated by 1980s in Germany is still practiced in Japan. In Germany, it is widely acknowledged that the forcible deprogramming is not only illegal but totally useless, thus is not practiced at all by now." On August 5th 3 o'clock pm, a press conference was held on the subject of "Unification Church and freedom of faith" by the Foreign Press Club of Japan, where Toru Goto and two European experts spoke to the press. One of them, Hasan Muratovic, former Prime Minister of Bosnia, explained his status as a participant in the European Leadership Conference and the fact-finding tour. He announced 'The Tokyo Declaration', which appealed the Japanese government to put an end to the criminal and abusive practices of forced de-conversion through abduction and confinement. Dr. Aaron Rhodes, mentioned above, commented: "From the standpoint of a human rights expert, this issue is very simple, as it denies the equality under the law. The victims are denied of their equal rights to be protected by law." Asked why the Japanese media keep silent to this issue, a Japanese journalist offered his comment by saying, "This affair must involve the in-fighting among the parties concerned. It is thus sensitive and hard to discern good or bad." But Mr. Muratovic cautioned that "The media is primarily responsible to inform, not to evaluate, the facts." Nonetheless, the fact that the FCCJ exposed the abduction and confinement at its press conference, where authoritative European experts voiced their views, will stimulate the overseas media to take up the issue and may break through the wall of silence among the Japanese media.
Japan Victims' Association against Religious Kidnapping & Forced Conversion