Wrongful Conviction of Greenpeace Activists by Japanese Court


Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki exposed the blackmarket trade in whale meat in the course of a Greenpeace investigation into Japanese so-called ‘scientific’ whaling. Crewmembers of a taxpayer-funded whaling ship were illegally selling the priciest cuts of whale meat.

Junichi and Toru intercepted a box of whale meat in a storage depot in the port of Aomori. They presented their findings at a press conference, delivered the box to the prosecutor’s office in Tokyo and offered the judicial authorities their cooperation to further uncover the smuggling ring. Instead of investigating these black market activities, the Public Prosecutor dropped the investigation and arrested Junichi and Toru.

The ‘Tokyo Two’ were convicted of theft and trespass on 5 September 2010, and sentenced to one year, suspended for three years. Greenpeace rightly describes this result as wholly disproportionate and unjust, and they will appeal.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has said that the detention of Sato and Suzuki was unjustified and contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, especially Article 19 of this Covenant guaranteeing the right to express, impart, receive and seek information. Japan is a party to this treaty.

The Haldane Society joins other international human rights groups in condemning the prosecution, as the ‘Tokyo Two’ clearly had no intention to steal whale meat, but rather, in the public interest, to expose unlawful practices in the Japanese whaling programme. Under international human rights law, peaceful protest by NGOs, investigative reporting by journalists and others, whistle-blowing and participation in public debate on matters of interest for society should be guaranteed and protected by public authorities.

In the international court of public opinion, the ‘Tokyo Two’ were found not guilty long ago. By the principled way in which they have fought their case, Greenpeace’s activists have turned Japan’s normally establishment-oriented media completely around. When they were arrested over two years ago, the media all wanted to know why the ‘Tokyo Two’ refused to apologise for their conduct. Today, the press is demanding that the prosecutor explain why he has failed to investigate the misconduct that Greenpeace exposed.

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