Abe apologizes to kin of ex-leprosy patients

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Chikara Hayashi, right, the leader of the plaintiffs’ group, sits in a room at the Diet Building in Tokyo on Friday as he watches a news conference announcing a statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe regarding former leprosy patients.

Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe released a statement Friday to apologize to family members of former leprosy patients who suffered discrimination under the state’s past isolation policy for sufferers of the disease.

The statement, adopted by the Cabinet, came after the government decided not to appeal a Kumamoto District Court ruling last month that ordered the state to pay damages to relatives of former leprosy patients to compensate for the discrimination.

“The government deeply reflects [on what it had done] and offers heartfelt apologies,” Abe said in the statement.

Abe also expressed his intention to meet family members of former leprosy patients.

“It is a grim reality that there existed extremely harsh prejudice and discrimination against not only patients and former patients but also their family members,” the statement said of the now-defunct isolation policy.

While pointing to “significant legal problems” in the latest ruling, the statement stressed that the government’s decision not to appeal is an unusual judgment.

In the statement, Abe vowed to resolve related problems as soon as possible in order not to prolong the hardships of the family members any longer.

Friday is the deadline for appealing the district court ruling, which ordered the state to pay a total of ¥376 million in damages.

The statement promised to pay compensation based on the ruling, to be finalized after the deadline.

It also said the government will consider taking relief measures that will also cover former leprosy sufferers’ kin who did not join the lawsuit.

On Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the government will “consider details as soon as possible.” He was mum on the range of people eligible for the planned compensation.

Abe’s statement also said the government will strengthen its human rights awareness and education activities related to leprosy.

The government released another statement, saying that the ruling has legal problems that affect the basis of the interpretations of the state redress law and the Civil Code.

Specifically, it said the ruling contradicts the government’s interpretation over the starting point for the statute of limitations for the right to claim damages, causing huge impacts on the rights and duties of nationals.

On Tuesday, Abe announced the government’s intention to accept the ruling without saying whether the state was responsible or whether any apology would be made.Speech

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