On 8 April 2009, Garden Court Chambers hosted a reception for Greenpeace International (GPI) to highlight the shocking case of the "Tokyo Two". Richard Harvey, just back from a mission to Japan for GPI, welcomed Greenpeace's Japanese lawyer, human rights expert Yuichi Kaido, who described how two GP investigators were held for 26 days of morning-to-night interrogations in which they were strapped to chairs and denied the right to have their lawyers present. Their "crime"? They had uncovered evidence implicating high level officials in Japan's whale meat black market.
Following a tip from a whistleblower, the two investigators removed from a courier depot a box addressed to a crewmember of Japan's whaling fleet. The contents of the box were listed as 'cardboard'. In fact, it was 23.5kg of salt-cured whale bacon, worth up to US$3.000. The whistleblower's claims were corroborated through further investigation and interviews. On 15 May, Greenpeace Japan presented its findings at a press conference, and delivered the box of whale meat to the Tokyo District Prosecutor.
The Prosecutor began an investigation but on 20 June he suddenly dropped it. The same day, Greenpeace Japan's offices and the homes of 4 staff members were searched by some 40 police officers, in full glare of the media, who had been tipped off. The prosecution of these two activists and harassment of Greenpeace for exposing embezzlement creates a chilling effect on the role of civil society and the public's right to freedom of information. It raises questions about the Japanese government's commitment to democracy, and echoes concerns raised by the UN Human Rights Commission about "unreasonable restrictions placed on freedom of expression" in the country.
Kaido-san and his law partner Yasushi Tadano were accompanied by Sara Holden, GPI's International Whales Campaign Coordinator and Daniel Simons, Legal Counsel, Campaigns and Actions. Garden Court was also delighted to welcome John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK and Kate Harrison, lawyer for GPUK.
Richard Harvey showed copies of documents Greenpeace had requested from Japan's Fisheries Agency under freedom of information laws. Instead of revealing details of contractual arrangements for the disposal of whale meat, the information was completely redacted. He said: "I have often seen documents like this. My experience has invariably been that the greater the amount of black ink used, the more serious the crimes committed by the government against the public interest. In a democratic society the people have a right to expect accountability and transparency from government. There can be no transparency where vital information is covered up with black ink."
Garden Court assured our Japanese colleagues of our continuing commitment to Greenpeace and confirmed that we will call on the Japanese Government;
- To drop the case against the Tokyo Two
- To guarantee freedom of information under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and
- To commence a thorough investigation into the official corruption they had exposed in Japan's so-called "scientific whaling" industry.