The House of Councilors unanimously endorsed a resolution Friday offering an apology to current and former Hansen’s disease patients and admitting the Diet’s failure to promptly annul legislation that segregated them from society.
The resolution is worded exactly the same as the one adopted unanimously Thursday by the Lower House.
It says the Diet is determined to craft legislation for the rehabilitation of the honor, and salvation, of existing and former patients of Hansen’s disease.
But the resolution also notes a 1985 Supreme Court ruling that limits the legal responsibility of Diet members for willful omission by failing to make necessary legislation.
The resolution follows a ruling by the Kumamoto District Court on May 11 that the Diet and the government were responsible for the suffering of leprosy patients by failing to repeal the 1953 Leprosy Prevention Law until 1996, despite prevailing medical opinions from the 1960s that no segregated institutionalization was necessary for treatment.
Under the law, patients were forced into sanitariums and given limited freedom. They were also subject to sterilization and in some cases forced to have abortions.
The government said it cannot accept the May 11 ruling by the Kumamoto court, which acknowledges the broad legal responsibility of Diet members even for unintentional omission, by referring to the 1985 Supreme Court decision.
In 1985, the Supreme Court ruled that while parliamentarians are legally responsible for the infringement of people’s rights, this is only limited to cases of willful omissions on their part.
Despite this and other points it sees as problematic from a legal perspective in the Kumamoto ruling, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said at the time that the state will not file an appeal, given the pain and suffering of former and current leprosy patients and their advanced age.
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