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JAPAN: Immigration law would allow Japan to eject refugee status applicants

by Jun Kaneko (Japanese original)


The Mainichi (16.03.2021) – https://bit.ly/31cQSxT – The controversial draft revision to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act is set for deliberation in the current Diet session. One point of contention is the government-submitted draft’s proposal to overhaul current rules not to repatriate foreign nationals while their refugee status applications are being evaluated, and to cap the number of times a person can apply for refugee status.


The rule is based on international law, which stipulates that refugees at risk of persecution in their countries must not be repatriated. But the Immigration Services Agency of Japan believes that because people can file for refugee status as many times as they like, there are individuals who continue to reapply for refugee status to avoid repatriation, and that this trend is a contributing factor in prolonged stays at detention facilities. Therefore, as an exception to the rule, the draft revision would make it possible to forcibly repatriate people who apply for the same status three times or more.


Other countries where exceptions are applied include the U.K., where it is enforced “when an application is submitted without any basis,” and in France, which uses it “when a reapplication is made for the purpose of obstructing deportation.”


Even so, obtaining refugee status in Japan is extremely hard compared to in other countries around the world. In 2019, 10,375 people applied for refugee status in Japan, and just 44 people were granted it. The rate of recognition for refugee applicants in Japan is 0.4%, while it is 26% in Germany and 19% in France. It is also true that people are at times granted refugee status after numerous applications.


According to nonprofit organization Japan Association for Refugees (JAR), of the 212 people recognized as refugees between 2010 and 2018, 19 had applied for the status multiple times. There was even a case in which an applicant filed a lawsuit and won refugee certification while their third application for asylum was being screened.


Should the draft revisions pass the Diet, and the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act is applied to affected foreign nationals, there is a possibility they could be sent back to their home countries and subjected to persecution while still waiting for refugee status applications to be screened.


“The Japanese government should be certifying all refugees as such, but Japan’s refugee protection policy is far from meeting international standards,” Eri Ishikawa, chair of JAR’s board, says. “It’s problematic to add an exception clause to the immigration and refugee law without improving upon that point.”


The difficulty of obtaining refugee status in Japan is down to its definition of refugees. The international convention on the status of refugees defines refugees as people at risk of persecution in their home countries due to issues relating to race, religion, nationality and political views. Japan, however, certifies people who have been leaders of anti-government demonstrations, or who have been singled out and targeted by a foreign government as refugees. It is much harder to prove the latter.


In recent years, oppressed minorities — such as conflict refugees forced from their home country due to the civil war in Syria, the Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar, and Kurds — are on the rise. While individuals may not have not been singled out for attacks, their lives would be at risk if they were to be repatriated, so in the U.S. and Europe, it is not uncommon for them to be accepted as refugees.


Wataru Takahashi, a member of a group of Tokyo-based attorneys involved in detention and repatriation issues says, “Changing a system superficially will not broaden the number of foreign nationals the country accepts. The main reason Japan is closed off to refugees remains intact. Japan should improve its own refugee certification rules, and their quality.”


Photo credits: Mainichi.jp

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JAPAN: Supreme Court to review case about donations to the Unification Church

An ex-member sued to get her donations back, saying she was “psychologically manipulated,” and won. The Church is appealing, claiming religious discrimination.

By Willy Fautré

Bitter Winter (26.01.2021) –https://bit.ly/2KUZ15S -The Unification Church (UC, aka Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, FFWPU), founded by Rev. Moon Sun Myung, and three of its members are appealing to Japan’s Supreme Court a previous judgment in favor of a former UC member, concerning her claim for financial compensation of alleged damages related to donations she made for spiritual services.

The plaintiff is Toshie Y., a Japanese citizen born in 1955 and a former member of the Unification Church. Her husband died in 1998, and her son passed away in 2011. She was deeply affected by this double loss.

Additionally, to the Unification Church, there are three individual defendants in the case:

– Mrs. Namiko Katagiri, a UC believer, made a family tree for free in 2011 for the plaintiff, which is an important element in the UC belief system, which assumes the influence of ancestors in the spiritual world.

– Mr. Yoshihiro Kawachi taught the plaintiff some doctrines of the Church.

– Mrs. Hiroko Matsuhuji was presented as a lecturer of the plaintiff in the previous judgment, which she denies, as she was only taking care of her within the Church.

Donations and requests for reimbursement

In April 2013, the plaintiff went to a UC education center named “Caris,” and paid 180,000 yen in membership fees.

The plaintiff also donated 400,000 yen (100,000 yen are roughly 800 euro) for a memorial service for ancestors, 2,800,000 yen for a Blessing Ceremony for herself and her late husband, and 240,000 yen for ceremonies for her late son and late brother. She travelled several times to Korea in order to join the ceremonies.

In October of 2013, the plaintiff donated a further 1,400,000 yen, and received two books of sermons, as memorial gifts, delivered by the founder of the UC: “Holy Scripture of Heaven” and “Scripture of Peace.”

In November 2014, Mr. Kawachi recommended the plaintiff donate 1,400,000 yen for the construction of a UC Training Center in the United States. He also said that those who donate would receive a copy of the “Scripture of True Parents” as a memorial gift. The plaintiff initially donated 630,000 yen, and then planned to make a monthly donation of 30,000 yen, for a total amount of 570,000 yen.

In November 2015, the plaintiff pressed the church to return the donation of 630,000 yen. Later, she asked for the 1,400,000 yen to be returned, saying that she did not need the books “Holy Scripture of Heaven” and “Scripture of Peace” anymore.

In December 2015, after some discussions, Mr. Kawachi accepted to reimburse 2,030,000 yen, on the condition that the plaintiff would sign an agreement saying that she would not claim any further reimbursement.

After these negotiations, the plaintiff stopped attending the church. Later, she found criticisms against the UC on internet and believed that she had been deceived by the UC.

On 30 June 2016, the lawyer of the plaintiff sent a letter to the UC claiming for damages on other previous donations, but the UC rejected the demand quoting the settlement. On 11 April 2017, the plaintiff’s lawyer filed a complaint against the UC and four other UC members for their involvement in the case, and asked for financial compensation of 5,238,290 yen, which included 4,262,082 yen for the loss of the donations, 500,000 yen for the lawyer’s fee and 476,208 yen for psychological damage (Case No.: Tokyo District Court H29 (wa) 12048).

Court procedures

On 28 February 2020, the Tokyo District Court issued a judgment in favor of the plaintiff. On the one hand, it stated that the defendants repeatedly instilled fear in the mind of the plaintiff to manipulate her and extort donations for the Church. On the other hand, it ignored evidence proving her genuine faith and free will when she engaged in religious activities including donations.

It concluded that the activities of the individual defendants were illegal because they deviated from a socially appropriate scope. Such a statement by the Court is a derogatory assessment of the legitimate beliefs of a religious community and an encroachment on its autonomy. It also found that the settlement was invalid because Mr. Kawachi did not include other previous donations in the agreement. In doing so, they were not covered by the settlement.

The defendants appealed to the Tokyo High Court (Case No.: Tokyo High Court R2, ne, 1541). On 3 December 2020, the Tokyo High Court confirmed the decision of the District Court.


The lawyers of the defendants consider that the Tokyo High Court imposed a value judgment on the beliefs of the Unification Church. They deem that attitude as illegal because it encroaches on the autonomy of the Church and opens the door for censorship.

The lawyers contend that it is legal for the Church to teach doctrines to those who show some interest in its theology and agree to participate in the information sessions of its lecturers. Additionally, they stress the plaintiff at that time never manifested the will to leave the Church or to stop attending the lectures, which she could have done if she had stopped believing in the teachings.

The lawyers also object to the accusation of manipulation with fear. According to the doctrine of the Unification Church, the spirits of the ancestors can have a negative effect on their descendants. Similarly, preaching about hell in the Catholic Church has never been considered a manipulation of mind to abusively extort money from believers. They argue that the Unification Church should not be treated differently.

Photo: A rally commemorating the foundation of the Unification Church in Japan. Source: Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

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JAPAN: Deprogramming – Damages awarded in Unification Church case

Victorious in court: Mr. and Mrs. Seo

Japanese judges confirm that kidnapping and detaining believers for the purpose of coercively “de-converting” them is a crime.

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers


Bitter Winter Int’l (29.12.2020) – On 27 November, the Hiroshima High Court in Japan found guilty five persons involved in the kidnapping and confinement of a married couple for the purpose of forcibly de-converting them. The accused will have to pay damages to the victims: 610,000 yen (about 6,100 EUR) to the husband and 1,110,000 yen (11,100 EUR) to the wife.


In July 2014, Koji Seo and Yuko Seo were kidnapped by their own families for forcing them to leave the Unification Church founded by Reverend Sun Myung Moon (UC). The whole operation was then masterminded by Pastor Mamoru Takazawa, a well-known recidivist in these matters.

As a rule, in Japan, the few cases that managed to reach a court were never recognized as criminal cases. Seo’s case did not escape “the rule.” They finally managed to file a civil lawsuit in May 2016.


The accused


Originally, eight persons were in the dock:


  • Masako Seo, the mother of plaintiff Koji Seo
  • Etsuji Seo, the father of plaintiff Koji Seo
  • Yasuhiko Yamane, the father of plaintiff Yuko Seo
  • Yumi Yamane, the mother of plaintiff Yuko Seo
  • Miyuki Kubo and her husband Masahiro Kubo
  • Pastor Mamoru Takazawa and his assistant in the deprogramming, Atsuyoshi Ojima.


However, two of them died during the proceedings. Pastor Takazawa passed away in 2015 before the civil lawsuit was filed in May 2016, and Etsuji Seo died before the first judgment by the Hiroshima District Court was issued on 18 February 2020.


Miyuki Kubo was instrumental in convincing the parents to kidnap and confine their (adult) children. She also played the role of guardian in the confinement apartment under the direction of Pastor Mamoru Takazawa, for the purpose of forcing Koji and Yuko Seo to leave the UC.


Masahiro Kubo, her husband, was an accomplice in the kidnapping and transporting of the couple.


Who was Pastor Takazawa?


Pastor Takazawa recognized his involvement in several court cases of abduction and deprivation of freedom for the purpose of de-conversion.


In the final decision of the case brought by Kozue Terada against her kidnappers —her parents, Pastor Takazawa and Atsuyoshi Ojima (a lay assistant at a Lutheran Church) —, the Osaka High Court (9th Civil Section) ruled on July 22, 2004 that Kozue Terada’s parents and Takazawa had jointly perpetrated an illegal act by imposing “persuasion sessions” against her will, in a situation where she was under physical restraint, and condemned them to jointly pay 200,000 yen (about 2,000 EUR) for depriving Kozue Terada of her freedom of movement (joint tort). Ojima was declared innocent on the grounds that his persuasion activity had been limited to a “conversation,” which was not illegal.


Final judgment


In a previous ruling issued by the Hiroshima District Court on February 18, 2020, the defendants were ordered to pay the following damages: 1,160,000 yen (about 11,600 EUR) to the husband and 1,650,000 yen (about 16,500 EUR) to the wife. “It can be said that the deeds of the plaintiffs’ parents are vicious crimes and are not justified,” the court said.


The defendants decided not to appeal the judgment of the High Court, which is therefore final.


The Hiroshima High Court (source: Supreme Court of Japan).


The first case when the Japanese courts sentenced kidnappers and deprogrammers was the well-known case of Toru Goto, who was abducted and confined during 12 years and five months, from September 1995 to February 2008. On November 13, 2014, the Tokyo High Court issued a ruling ordering five people (three close relatives of the victim, an Evangelical pastor, and another person) to pay damages to Toru Goto. His brother, sister-in-law, and younger sister were ordered to pay together the total amount of 22 million yen (about 220,000 EUR). The professional deprogrammer, Mr. Takashi Miyamura, was ordered to pay 11 million yen (110,000 EUR).


As the confinement period of Mr. and Mrs. Seo was less than a week, the damage estimation can be considered much better in comparison with Toru Goto’s case.


“The Report of the UN Human Rights Committee on Japan in 2014 had a very influential role in the decision of the Japanese court. It was the result of your efforts and we appreciate it very much,” said Norishige Kondo from the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification-Japan (FFWPU-J) to Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF).


In December 2011, HRWF published a report titled “Japan: Abduction and Deprivation of Freedom for the Purpose of Religious De-conversion” based on interviews of UC victims conducted in Tokyo, Seoul and Barcelona in 2010-2011. And in July 2013, HRWF contributed to the 111th session of the UN Human Rights Committee with a report titled “Abductions and confinement for the purpose of religious de-conversion”.


After the case of Mr. and Mrs. Seo, the Unification Church, which claimed over 4,000 cases of kidnapping and deprogramming attempts from 1966 to 2011 with a peak for the years 1987-1995, did not have any more incidents to report.

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