The Lower House unanimously adopted a resolution Thursday offering an apology to former Hansen’s disease patients for the failure by Diet members to promptly annul legislation that segregated them from society.
The resolution came after a May 11 Kumamoto District Court ruling that the Diet and the government were responsible for the prolonged suffering of Hansen’s disease patients because they failed to repeal the 1953 Leprosy Prevention Law until 1996.
Patients were forced into sanitariums, given limited freedom, were subject to sterilization and in many cases were forced to have abortions.
The resolution, adopted by the 480-seat Lower House, admits “the responsibility (of the Diet) of allowing the segregation policy to remain in place,” but also refers to a 1985 Supreme Court ruling that says Diet members only have limited legal responsibility for rights violations.
The resolution also states that the Diet is “determined to arrange legislation for the rehabilitation of the honor, and salvation, of existing and former patients.”
The resolution, scheduled to be adopted by the House of Councilors today, calls on the government to take swift action to address the issue.
The tripartite ruling coalition and the main opposition force, the Democratic Party of Japan, sought to add the reference of “limited responsibility” of Diet members in the resolution, although the Communists and Social Democrats insisted that the Diet’s full responsibility for the omission be made explicit in the resolution. This delayed the submission of the resolution to the lower chamber from Tuesday.
In 1985, the Supreme Court held Diet members legally responsible for the infringement of people’s rights, but limited this liability to cases of willful omissions on their part.
After the Kumamoto ruling, the government on May 25 decided not to appeal the decision ordering it to pay redress to ex-Hansen’s patients.
Plaintiffs and their lawyers who have filed suits with the Kumamoto court and a district court in Okayama voiced mixed reactions to the resolution adopted Thursday.
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