• Kyodo

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A newly set up nationwide lawyers’ group said Sunday it aims to strengthen efforts to help people who were sterilized under the now-defunct Eugenics Protection Law, with four or five more individuals considering suing the government in late June.

The group, comprising 184 lawyers from around 40 prefectures, said it will urge the government to formulate legislation for state damages and an apology over the sterilizations, which were conducted on people with disabilities to prevent “inferior” offspring.

Four people filed damages suits against the state in Tokyo, Hokkaido and Miyagi Prefecture earlier this year. The issue has attracted increased attention, with lawyers and ruling party lawmakers studying relief measures for the victims.

The government has maintained that forced sterilization was legal at the time under the law, which was in force from 1948 to 1996.

“The government took no measures, even though it eliminated the eugenics law in 1996, for its discrimination against people with disabilities. That itself is a violation of human rights,” lawyer Koji Niisato, co-representative of the group, told an event in Tokyo on Sunday marking the establishment of the body.

“We want to create a large (organization) to help the victims and secure an early apology and damages payment by the state,” Niisato said.

The individuals who are set to sue the government next month include a husband and wife from Hokkaido.

The body is also seeking the establishment of a panel by the state, with victims comprising more than half its members, to look into why sterilization was viewed as acceptable under the eugenics law and why relief measures for the victims have been delayed, as well as the idea of eugenics itself.

In a speech at the event, psychiatrist Yasuo Okada, 87, who was involved in selecting individuals to undergo sterilization operations at Tokyo Metropolitan Matsuzawa Hospital in the 1960s, said, “Psychiatrists should testify (about the sterilizations.) They should bear responsibility for the past.”

The Eugenics Protection Law authorized the sterilization of people with learning difficulties, mental illness or hereditary disorders to prevent the birth of “inferior” offspring.

Under the law, modeled a law passed in Nazi Germany, around 25,000 people were sterilized, including 16,500 without their consent, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

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