The House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday to compensate current and former Hansen’s disease patients who suffered under the government’s segregation policy.

The bill was immediately sent to the House of Councilors and is expected to clear the Diet by the end of the week.

The preamble of the bill includes an apology for the government’s delay in addressing the problem, causing the Hansen’s disease patients much “suffering and hardship” over the years.

“We regard this awful event with remorse and regret, and express our deep apology,” the preamble says.

Under the bill, an estimated 5,500 people will be entitled to compensation ranging from 8 million yen to 14 million yen, depending on such factors as the length of institutionalization, with the total sum expected to reach around 70 billion yen.

Those entitled to redress have to apply within five years from the law taking effect.

The bill follows the May 11 ruling by the Kumamoto District Court that the state was responsible for allowing segregation to continue by failing to repeal the 1953 Leprosy Prevention Law until 1996.

In a surprising move, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi decided last month not to appeal the ruling.

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