Sacrificing Japan's International Image for Alberto Fujimori
John de Boer (University of Tokyo & GLOCOM Platform)
More shocking news was revealed this past week in the Spanish press about the "regime of terror" led by the ex-President of Peru, Alberto Fujimori. In a document presented on 23 July by the current Peruvian minister of health, Fernando Carbone, it was revealed that between 1996-2000 Fujimori ordered the forced sterilization of at minimum 200,000 indigenous Peruvian women. Fujimori, who has been living in Japan for over a year now, continues to evade all calls for extradition to Peru. As the evidence mounts against Fujimori, increasing indignation is being felt in Latin America and Spain towards the Japanese government's refusal to cooperate with the current Peruvian government and justice system that seeks to place Fujimori under trial.
Based on the evidence brought forward by Carbone, Fujimori is now being accused of committing genocide against the indigenous population of Peru. According to news reports, Carbone testified before the Peruvian Congress that over 200,000 indigenous women were forcefully sterilized "under pressure, threat and incentives". Official documents noted that of these a minimum of 18 women died as a result of the treatment.
The health minister testified to Fujimori's direct involvement in this project by citing 56 official documents, which revealed that the Presidential Office was informed of the project's progress on a monthly basis and documented Fujimori's authorization of funds and equipment for the sterilization program.
According to investigations carried out by the ministry of health, the objective of the project was not related to preventing epidemics but to limiting the number of births in the poorest sectors of the economy. In the process, the government failed to adequately inform the women of the consequences that sterilization would have and went so far as to threaten to withdraw all public health services from their families if they refused to undertake the operation. Others were given incentives, such as food and alimentation, if they received the treatment.
In the sense that the program targeted a specific group of people, it is considered to be a form of ethnic cleansing that aspired to prevent the indigenous people of Peru, who happen to be the poorest and most vulnerable, from reproducing. Due to the fact that the women were not informed properly and forced in one way or the other, this program led by Fujimori also represents a violation of the most basic human rights.
As more disturbing facts are revealed regarding Fujimori's direct involvement in crimes against humanity, in addition to the already proven electoral manipulation, alleged embezzlement of public funds, and responsibility in several massacres in 1991-92 (see Media Review #13), a significant portion of the Spanish speaking world and others informed of these facts are growing impatient with Japan's refusal to process the ex-President's extradition. This, coupled with news that Fujimori is receiving VIP treatment from various sectors in Japan, allowed to give lectures at Japanese universities and "living in a manner befitting an ex-President" as Fujimori so proudly declares on his website, is affecting Japan's image overseas. The view from outside is that Japan is protecting a perpetrator of some of the worst kinds of crimes against humanity and in doing so does not respect international law.
For a country that has labored to convince the world of its repentance for atrocities committed in Asia during its imperial rule, Japan's harboring of Fujimori represents several steps back and does no good for Japan as it continues to lecture China and other ODA beneficiaries on human rights. While news of this nature may not reach readers of Japanese media sources, the opinion of 700 million or so people with access to the Spanish language media are definitively influenced by these reports. The Japanese government needs to seriously consider whether its refusal to allow justice to take its course in relation to Fujimori is worth the damage that this case is doing to Japan's international prestige.
- Laura Puertas, "Fujimori orders the forced sterilization of 200,000 indigenous women in Peru", El Pais, 25 July 2002.
- Editorial, "Fujimori, the Sterilizer," El Pais, 25 July 2002.