[Editorial]The Supreme Court’s decision on Takae lawsuit is unjustifiable

June 19, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Okinawa Defense Bureau filed a lawsuit against local residents who protested against the construction of U.S. military helipads in Takae, Higashi. The helipads are a condition of a partial return of the U.S. military’s Northern Training Area. The bureau accused the protestors of obstructing traffic.

The Second Petty Bench of the Supreme Court turned down an appeal from one of the residents. The court ordered the resident to stop activities aimed at blocking the construction of the helipads. The resident lost the lawsuit.

The ruling is unjustifiable from the viewpoint of democracy in Japan.

The case attracted nationwide attention as a “SLAPP” suit, a strategic lawsuit against public participation.

The resident opposing construction asserted that he invoked his constitutional rights to express his ideas freely. He regarded the lawsuit by the defense bureau as vexatious and unjust. However, the court turned down his appeal without explaining reasons, asserting that the lawsuit did not go against the Constitution. The court also turned down a petition for acceptance of a final appeal, without explaining specific reasons.

The decision made by the court lacked substance and was not adequately considered. It amounts to an abandonment of its mission to guard the Constitution and uphold human rights.

In the appeal court decision, the judge stated the obstruction of traffic was beyond the limits of acceptability for the government. However, it did not give a specific explanation for the limits of acceptability. The Supreme Court followed that decision.

Conversely, “the limits of acceptability” is an expression appropriated by residents to refer to issues such as noise pollution in lawsuits against the government. According to the principles of constitutionalism and popular sovereignty, the court has mistaken the essential for the insignificant by turning down the appeal from the resident on the grounds that the resident’s activities were over the limits of acceptability for the government.

If the judiciary supports the government ’s stance, it has a big influence on society.

We cannot rule out the possibility the government could sue protesters against building a new base in Henoko, Nago to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma based on the Takae lawsuit.

We fear the court decision in the Takae case will lead to suppressing citizens’ right to express themselves and protest against the government. We are also concerned the Japanese judiciary system will prioritize what the government and big companies want to do over human rights and democracy.

The Act on Protection of Specified Secrets will come into force within this year.
If the judiciary supports the government’s movement to suppress free speech and protest,and strip democracy of all its contents, we have to say the Japanese society will be “doomed.”

However, we must not stop protecting human rights and democracy.
The residents who lost the lawsuit, pledged to keep doing what they have been doing.

We, as an organ of public opinion, will make sure we continue to work to protect human rights and democracy.

(English translation by T&CT)

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