Pressure on Japan to Extradite Fujimori
John de Boer (University of Tokyo)
The Washington Post, the BBC, the Associated Press and Reuters were among the many influential news agencies describing the increased international demand that Japan extradite the disgraced ex-President of Peru, Alberto Fujimori. Every news release reporting on the filing of murder charges against Fujimori by Peru's attorney general (see below) highlighted Japan's unwavering stance against his extradition. Most revealing of all was a Washington Post article entitled, "Defiant Fujimori Finds Safe Haven Among Japanese," (September 2, 2001). The article detailed how a Japanese support group that included politicians such as Shintaro Ishihara and Torao Tokuda, a legislator and founder of the Tokushukai Medical Corp., was financially, socially and politically pampering this alleged murderer.
"The charges levied against Fujimori amount to crimes against humanity," says Amnesty International, the largest human rights organization in the world with over one million members. Fujimori has been accused as being responsible for the notorious 1991 murder of fifteen partygoers in Lima, the 1992 killing of nine students and one professor from La Cantuta University and the brutal killing of a female intelligence officer in 1997. The attorney general claimed that the ex-President knew, approved and rewarded the Grupo Colina, an army death squad, for carrying out these crimes. After leading a country that has one of the worst human rights records in the world for ten years, these charges are likely to be the first in a series to be brought up against the ex-President. In this environment, pressure on Japan to act according to international law is certain to escalate.
Despite this impending reality, news sources indicate that many Japanese are ignorant towards the international scandal that Fujimori represents. The very few who know of Alberto Fujimori only associate him with the hostage taking incident at the Japanese embassy in Peru. Global news sources also claim that there are powerful people who actively support Fujimori in Japan. According to the Washington Post article cited above, "he (Fujimori) meets regularly with wealthy benefactors who are making it possible for him to live, as he put it, "in the manner of an ex-president" in this expensive city. A Society to Support Fujimori, with membership in three levels -- roughly $800, $4,000 and $8,000 -- has met in exclusive restaurants more than 20 times this year to introduce him to potential patrons. They easily passed their initial target of $175,000 for the support fund, and some reports say the total is close to $1 million." The media does not stop here, reporting that Japan has allowed Fujimori to be surrounded by his entire family. "His mother is here for medical treatment; his sister and brother-in-law, who until last year was the Peruvian ambassador to Japan, were recently, granted citizenship. A son works in Tokyo and his daughter, Keiko, arrived in early August for what she said was a visit." (Washington Post, September 2, 2001) Amidst the barrage of criticisms, the Japanese government remains adamant in its refusal to extradite the ex-President retorting that the lack of an extradition treaty between Japan and Peru and the fact that Fujimori is a Japanese citizen annuls Japan from this responsibility. An official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quoted as stating that, "there was no room for political judgement," on this issue (Reuters, August 28, 2001).
No matter how legally justifiable Japan's reasons for non-extradition may be domestically, most major foreign news sources that help shape international public opinion have focused their attention on the special treatment that the exiled president continues to receive from Japanese. Considering the growing momentum behind the international campaign against the impunity of human rights violators (Pinochet, Milosevic), Japan's commitment to the protection of human rights, as is enshrined in the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights to which it is a signatory, will rightfully be put in question.
- Craig Mauro, "Homicide Charges Against Fujimori," The Associated Press, September 6, 2001
- "Peru Files Murder Charges Against Fujimori," Reuters, September 6, 2001
- Kathryn Tolbert, "Defiant Fujimori Finds Safe Haven Among Japanese," The Washington Post, September 6, 2001
- Masayuki Kitano, "Japan Says Fujimori Extradition Stance Unchanged," Reuters, August 28, 2001