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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 April 20 - 26  > Ex-leprosy patients reject apology from Supreme Court over special courts
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2016 April 20 - 26 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Ex-leprosy patients reject apology from Supreme Court over special courts

April 26, 2016
The Supreme Court on April 25 apologized for its past mistake of illegally allowing the holding of trials for leprosy (Hansen’s disease) patients in isolation facilities and other locations. Former leprosy patients rejected the apology on the grounds that the top court avoided recognizing such trials as unconstitutional.

In response to demand from former Hansen’s disease patients, the Supreme Court in 2014 began investigating the issue of “special courts” in facilities where patients suffering from the disease were confined under the government’s compulsory isolation policy.

On this day, the top court released an investigation report. In the report, the court acknowledged that the use of the disease as a reason for its permission to carry out trials outside standard courtrooms constitutes an abuse of Clause 2 Article 69 of the Court Act. However, regarding another issue of whether the court’s permission violates the principle of equality under Article 14 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court only said that that is “strongly suspected”.

The Court Act states that the Supreme Court may authorize court sessions at different places in special circumstances where courtrooms are unavailable for various reasons, such as following a devastating disaster. Using this provision, between 1948 and 1972, the court permitted the holding of 95 special trials on leprosy patients.

Following the release of the report, three organizations of former leprosy patients held a press conference at the National Sanatorium Kikuchi Keifuen in Kumamoto Prefecture where many special trials were held.

Shimura Yasushi, 83, the leader of a plaintiffs’ group in a lawsuit filed by ex-leprosy patients for state compensation, criticized the top court’s report recognizing the special courts as illegal, but not unconstitutional, and said, “It is insufficient and unacceptable.”

Past related article:
> Families of ex-Hansen disease patients in court call for society free from discrimination and prejudice [February 19, 2016]
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