The Tokyo District Court on Thursday ordered a private security firm, its president and three employees to pay a combined 1.1 million yen to each of two Tunisian men over physical abuse the latter suffered in 2000 when they were held at an immigration facility.
According to the ruling, cousins Mouez Thameur, 26, and Hichem Thameur, 24, both students at the time, arrived in Japan for a holiday on June 20, 2000, but were refused entry by immigration officials at Narita International Airport.
While being held for deportation, they were beaten and kicked by Hiroyuki Kawase, Akira Shimagaki and Yuji Hirasawa, security guards at I’m Co., a private security company employed at the time by most of the airlines to handle deportees.
The guards took a total of $600 from the pair in “accommodation fees” to cover costs for the five days they were held until their departure flight. During their detention they were denied access to the Tunisian Embassy and to medical care.
Their money was returned after they filed a report with police.
In August 2001, the two filed a lawsuit demanding that the Japanese government, Turkish Airlines, I’m, its president, Harue Watanabe, and the three guards pay each of them a total of 3 million yen compensation and 600,000 yen in attorney fees.
In handing down Thursday’s ruling, presiding Judge Takaomi Takizawa said the guards’ actions were clearly illegal.
He said Watanabe was responsible as she failed to deter such conduct and the company also bore responsibility as the men’s employer.
However, he rejected the plaintiffs’ claims that the airline and the state were also responsible, saying that under its contract with I’m, Turkish Airlines was not obligated to supervise its work.
The state, although it issues permits to I’m employees to enter restricted areas in the airport, could not be held liable for the incident as it is the airlines’ responsibility to send a person out of the country once an order for deportation has been issued, the judge added.
According to the law, immigration officials are authorized to decide whether a person is denied entry to Japan and to order deportation.
Japanese and Tunisian citizens can stay in each other’s countries for up to three months without a visa. The plaintiffs’ lawyers said that, normally, the two would have been allowed to enter Japan, but immigration officials suspected their real intention was to work here.
Once the decision to deport a person has been made, the airline is responsible for removing them, thus airlines usually have contracts with security firms to ensure that the deportees do not escape before they are put on flights leaving the country.
Even though the law says that airlines should bear the costs incurred in the process of detention and deportation, the International Air Transport Association says airlines can charge the deportees.
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