Japan Continues to Harbor Man Wanted by Interpol
John de Boer (GLOCOM Platform)
Interpol reissued a global arrest warrant for the ex-president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, on 9 March 2003. Fujimori thus remains a fugitive in 181 countries wanted in relation to charges including embezzlement, murder and kidnappings that took place during his tenure as the president in Peru. Germany, Costa Rica, Italy, Switzerland and Spain have already confirmed their intention to arrest Fujimori on sight when and if he enters their territory. However, despite these serious charges, which amount to crimes against humanity, Fujimori continues to enjoy freedom, special courtesy and prestigious company in Japan where he fled in November 2000 to seek refuge.
The Japanese media responded to this warrant over the weekend in a serious tone with all three major dailies (Yomiuri, Mainichi and Asahi) warning of increased international pressure on Japan to extradite the fugitive. The Mainichi newspaper was particularly up front about the case headlining with the phrase "Jindo Hanzai", citing crimes against humanity (9 March 2003). Nevertheless, both the Japanese Foreign Ministry (MOFA) and the Prime Minister's office dismissed the charges stating that, "Japan had not received an official extradition request from Peru", making clear that it had no intention to act until it did so (Stephen Lunn, "Japan told to arrest Fujimori", The Australian, 10 March).
According to Peruvian sources including the Justice Minister Fausto Alvarado and the Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, the 700 page extradition request is currently being translated into Japanese and will be sent to Japan in June or July (El Comercio, 9 March 2003; El Mundo, 26 December 2002). Doubts remain however as to whether the Japanese government intends to cooperate at all. The Japanese MOFA spokesperson (Hatsuhisa Takashima) has repeated time and time again that Japan and Peru have no extradition treaty ("Japan says no plans to act on Fujimori for now", Reuters, 9 March 2003).
Having awarded Fujimori Japanese citizenship in a record time of two weeks after his escape, the Japanese government is viewed internationally as having collaborated actively in Fujimori's evasion of these charges. News reports documenting the fugitive's stylish apartment in one of Tokyo's most sought after districts, his frequent dining with top level Japanese bureaucrats and friendly relations with a number of LDP politicians simply feed suspicions that Japanese authorities have no intention of handing over the fugitive to face trial in Peru (see Stephen Lunn, The Australian, 10 March 2003; also Weekly Media Review #58: "Sacrificing Japan's International Image for Alberto Fujimori", 30, July 2002); Weekly Media Review #13: "Pressure on Japan to Extradite Fujimori", 10 September, 2001).
Reflecting this sentiment, an article published in the Peruvian daily El Comercio on 9 March quoted Peruvian Justice Minister Fausto Alvarado as stating that, "Peru is working to give Japan no option but to hand over Fujimori" by taking every step possible to close all doors ("Ministro de Justicia estima que se acerca extradicion", El Comercio, 9 March 2003). The Interpol warrant represents one step in this direction. The warrant, which is valid internationally, binds Japanese authorities to arrest Fujimori and place him in custody until an extradition process is complete. The Peruvian government has also requested the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights to ask the Organization of American States to adopt a resolution that calls for Fujimori's trial on charges of crimes against humanity ("Piden que la OEA se pronucie sobre Fujimori", El Comercio, 6 March 2003).
Apart from the 25 massacred civilians, the hundreds of millions of stolen public funds, the 200,000 indigenous women who were forcefully sterilized (18 of whom died in the process), the whereabouts of over 800 people who went missing during Fujimori's "regime of terror" (El Pais, 25 July 2002) are unknown.
The international community along with Peruvian authorities and the public want Japan either to "withdraw Japanese citizenship or put Fujimori on trial [in Japan] for crimes committed in Peru". According to Japan's ambassador to Peru, Yubun Narita, "criteria indicates that if a Japanese citizen is wanted overseas for acts that are considered to be crimes in Japan, the fugitive can be tried in Japan as a Japanese citizen for crimes that were committed overseas" (Mario Castro, "La nacionalidad como frontera", El Comercio, 9 March 2003).
It is simply a matter of time before international law and justice catches up with this fugitive forcing Japanese authorities to respond. Nevertheless, Japan's international image and moral authority will be greatly damaged if it continues to prevent justice from taking place. What kind of moral authority will Japan have if it harbors a fugitive wanted for crimes against humanity?