With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision not to appeal, the Kumamoto District Court ruling last month ordering the state to pay compensation to relatives of former Hansen’s disease patients has been finalized. The government now needs to come to grips with its responsibility for the plight of the families — whom the court determined suffered “irreparable damage” due to discrimination and prejudice caused by the state policy of segregating the patients — and take prompt steps to provide them with relief that is long overdue.
In announcing the decision to give up contesting the ruling, Abe said that “although some parts of the court decision are unacceptable, we must not prolong the hardship of the family members” of the former patients. Many officials involved in the case reportedly pushed for appealing the ruling to a higher court. Some cast Abe’s final call as a political decision. It is widely speculated that the prime minister wanted to avoid having his ruling coalition face popular criticism over the human rights issue as the campaign heats up for the July 21 Upper House election.