Extraordinary Force Used to Silence Protesters Critical of G8 and United States Policies

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is monitoring an escalation of repression by Japanese police against protestors of the Group of 8 Summit (G8 Summit) in the Japanese island of Hokkaido, as well as in Sapporo, Tokyo and other parts of Japan.

Pic: Tokyo

The Lawyers Guild, a network of lawyers, legal workers and law students advocating for social change in the US, has teamed up with WATCH, a Japanese legal network created to document police and government misconduct during the anti G8 protests. Both organizations are deeply disturbed at the level of police harassment against G8 protestors.

“What we have witnessed in the streets of Sapporo, Tokyo and in Hokkaido Toyako is part of an ongoing and escalating campaign to suppress the movement for social change and real democracy in Japan,” said Marina Sitrin, professor and member of the National Lawyers Guild.

As G8 leaders meet at their Summit in Hokkaido Toyako, the Japanese police and government manifest their anti-democratic policies with regard to demonstrators and people who oppose the group’s policies "The G8, which claims to oppose poverty and global warming, actually promotes aid to poor countries that forces them into debt and policies that create climate change. The National Lawyers Guild supports the global justice movement against these policies, in Japan and worldwide," said NLG President Marjorie Cohn.

The G8 leaders have publicly cited Iran's nuclear energy program as a military threat, fueling fears of the possibility that the US will attack Iran. After the G8's 2003 declaration on non-proliferation, which specifically targeted Iran, last year's G8 communiqué listed Iran as one of three countries (with Libya and North Korea) posing 'proliferation challenges' to world security, despite the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency's conclusion that there is no evidence Iran has a nuclear weapons program.

“We were surprised by the excessive force used by police in the counter G8 demonstrations," said Ko Watari, of WATCH. “This was a non-violent demonstration where no acts against property or people took place, or even appeared likely to take place.” Three people have been arrested, one Reuter’s cameraman was standing on a public sidewalk when arrested by police; and his video camera was confiscated. The arrest of a sound truck driver followed immediately thereafter. Footage of the driver’s arrest shows him screaming in pain as the police attempted to pull him out of the truck, after smashing the truck window. A later inspection of the confiscated truck by the legal team revealed quantities of dried blood on the steering wheel and dashboard.

“Labor and peace movement leaders are concerned that the police will arrest them for organizing these protests, search their homes and interrogate their family members,” said Dan Spalding, Legal Worker Vice President of the National Lawyers Guild. Japanese law permits police to hold and interrogate suspects for 23 days without formal charges. They are often interrogated for 12 hours in a row, and often forced to sit on their knees all day while in detention, not being allowed to move without permission, even to use the bathroom. It is these sorts of conditions and punitive arrests that the National Lawyers Guild opposes. We call on the Japanese government to respect human rights in Japan.

Founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association, which did not admit people of color, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.