SAITAMA – A special antiterrorism law enacted in 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States has survived its first legal challenge.
The Saitama District Court on Wednesday dismissed a suit challenging the law’s constitutionality.
The ruling was handed down amid growing concerns that Japan, which earlier this month enacted its first war-contingency laws, is steadily expanding the scope of Self-Defense Forces activities.
The 253 plaintiffs had sought nullification of the law, claiming it violates the Constitution’s recognition of the right of people around the world to live in peace and its renunciation of war as a means of settling international disputes. They also had demanded 2.53 million yen — 10,000 yen each — in damages in the suit, which was filed in July.
In addition, the plaintiffs demanded that the government order the Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels that had been dispatched to the Indian Ocean under the law to return home.
Presiding Judge Tateo Toyoda dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims, saying that the court “does not have the power to rule on whether a law is unconstitutional.”
The plaintiffs said they would appeal the ruling shortly.
“The court merely followed political circles rather than maintaining the independence of the judiciary,” one of them said.
During the proceedings, the court did not allow the plaintiffs to bring in constitutional scholars and military affairs commentators to testify when it suddenly called off procedures in March after holding only three sessions.
In response, the plaintiffs challenged the judges, but the claim was denied by the Tokyo High Court.
The law allows the SDF to lend rear-area support to the U.S.-led military campaign in and around Afghanistan.
Under the law, Japan dispatched the MSDF’s state-of-the-art Aegis destroyers and other vessels to the Indian Ocean for six-month tours of duty.
In a statement, the plaintiffs argued: “The SDF activities under the law should be considered military activities and the exercise of the right to collective defense, as they have enabled the U.S.-led forces to continue military action.”
They also insisted Japan’s provision of support for military action in and around Afghanistan violates an international convention on the rights of children, because the U.S. and British bombing of the country has worsened the living conditions of Afghan children.
“Our constitutional right to live in peace cannot be realized by the sacrifice of innocent Afghan people and children who have faced bloodshed,” they said in the complaint.
“Japan has already been involved in military action by providing logistic support to the U.S.-led forces,” said Takashi Suga, head of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, following the ruling.
“The judges should have heard what the plaintiffs have to say more closely, given the current circumstances of this country.”
Keiichiro Ichinose, another lawyer, said, “The court denied the plaintiffs’ right for litigation.”
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi submitted to the Diet a bill to extend for another two years the antiterrorism law, which is due to expire Nov. 1, along with a bill for Japan to send the SDF to help rebuild postwar Iraq, where sporadic fighting continues.
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