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Japanese court refuses to compensate victims of forced sterilization due to statute of limitations

Japanese court refuses to compensate victims of forced sterilization due to statute of limitations
The state is not liable to pay extra compensation to forced sterilization victims once the 20-year statute of limitations expires, a court in Japan has ruled, despite recognizing the defunct eugenics law to be unconstitutional.

Casualties of the draconian 'Eugenic Protection Law', which allowed involuntary sterilization of people with disabilities from 1948 to 1996, lost hope for justice on Tuesday after the Sendai District Court ruled out compensation for two victims, claiming that their time limit to take legal action against the state had long expired.

“We’ve been fighting this for 20 years, but this result has left me speechless,” NHK quoted one of the victims, who goes under the alias 'Junko Iizuka,' as saying after both plaintiffs rushed out of the courtroom with a banner reading ‘Unfair verdict.’

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Iizuka, now in her 70s, underwent sterilization at the age of 16. She and another plaintiff, 'Yumi Sato', who was forced to undergo the medical procedure at the age of 15, filed lawsuits last year seeking a combined sum of ¥71.5 million ($650,000) in compensation from the state for violations of their human rights.

The central government argues that the victims lost their right to demand compensation decades ago. Last month Tokyo apologized and offered to pay each victim ¥3.2 million ($29,000) to compensate for their “physical and mental suffering.”

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“We have arrived at this decision of 'unconstitutional,' but it is meaningless if it fails to help the suffering of the victims,” Koji Niisato, the chief lawyer for the plaintiffs, told reporters, stressing that the legal team will appeal the verdict.

The ruling was the first of about 20 compensation lawsuits filed in seven district courts across Japan that have been brought by victims of forced sterilization. Around 25,000 people were sterilized in the country under the law, including some 16,500 people who were forced to undergo the surgery against their will.

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