2003 Report by the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Theo van Boven


769. By letter dated 2 September 2002, the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information on the following individual cases.

770. Patrick Loughlin, a British national who has been living in Japan since 1993, was reportedly arrested on 30 October 1999. He is reported to have been accused of “grievous bodily harm leading to death” and sentenced on 31 March 2000 to four year’s imprisonment. He has so far been held at the detention centres of Kariya and Okazaki and he was detained at Nagoya Detention Centre at the time of writing, where he is believed to have been submitted to severe beatings, to a restraining belt which almost led to suffocation and to periods of solitary confinement. He is also believed to have suffered sleep deprivation, dietary restrictions and lack of proper medical attention.

771. Abdul Amir Befkin, an Iranian national currently serving a 12-year imprisonment sentence in Haramicho, Fuchi-Shi, is reported to be in a poor condition. Before being detained he was weighting about 75kg but he is now believed to weight 37 kg and to be on a wheelchair. He is reportedly suffering from a disease which affects his stomach and prevents him to eat properly.

772. By letter dated 13 November sent jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information according to which migrants may be at risk of ill-treatment by immigration authorities during interrogations at Special Examination Rooms and by private security guards in detention facilities located in Narita Airport and other Japanese ports of entry, in particular at airport premises known as Landing Prevention Facilities (LPFs) and at an “Airport Rest House” outside the airport side. It is alleged that foreign nationals have been strip-searched, beaten or denied food by security guards. Some LPF detainees are also believed to have been held incommunicado and not been allowed to communicate with independent legal advisors or with their consular or diplomatic missions. Reportedly, in many cases, detainees at LPFs have been denied medical treatment by staff of security companies and by immigration officials. Some detention cells located in the LPFs and where migrants have been held for several weeks are reported to have no windows.

773. It was also reported that asylum-seekers have had their requests for asylum rejected without an adequate examination of their case and without consideration of the risks they may face if deported. Many asylum seekers are alleged to have been denied access to interpreters and lawyers, even during interviews, and to have been forced to sign documents written in languages they do not understand and without having been informed of their contents. It is alleged that by signing these documents the asylum-seeker may agree to waive his or her right to appeal against decisions taken by the immigration officials. Migrants and other foreign nationals detained in the LPFs were reportedly not properly informed of their rights. For instance, according to the information received, the detainees were only informed verbally by immigration officials at entry ports about their refugee status determination process but they are not given written information on the asylum procedure in a language they understand.

774. The Special Rapporteurs have also transmitted information according to which foreign nationals, including migrants, were transferred from Special Examination Rooms of the immigration authorities to their detention facilities and back from the detention facilities to the air carriers on the day of their flight by private security companies. It was reported that private security companies have been contracted to monitor those detained in the LPFs. At least one of these private companies was believed to have asked the detainees to pay for their “accommodation”. It is alleged that detainees that have refused to pay have been strip-searched. Force is also reported to have been used by staff of the security company against detainees who protested these requests. The Special Raporteurs have been informed that no investigation on these allegations has been carried out by the authorities.

775. Finally, the Special Rapporteurs reported that in many cases, the denial of entry as well as human rights abuses are linked to the nationality of the person. It is reported that since 11 September 2001, several asylum seekers have been refused entry into Japan only because they came from countries such as Afghanistan or the Middle East region. According to the information received, from 11 September 2001 and 30 April 2002 at least 14 Afghan asylum-seekers have been denied entry into Japan at Narita Airport. They were allegedly detained at the Narita Airport LPF for as long as several weeks and later transferred by the immigration authorities to the East Japan Immigration Centre in Ushiku. Their claims for refugee were all rejected and deportation orders were issued. However, the Special Rapporteurs have been informed that in May 2002 almost all Afghan asylum seekers in Tokyo were granted provisional release.

776. In that connection, the Special Rapporteurs advised the Government that they had received information regarding Ali Ahmad an Afghan asylum-seeker member of the minority Shia community, who had reportedly been detained at the LPF in Kansai Airport, Osaka, in September 2001. He was involved in fighting against the Taliban forces. His asylum claims have been rejected. An order to leave Japan was reportedly issued two days later. He was allegedly transferred to an Immigration detention room within Kansai Airport. Because the immigration officers yield at him, he was so scared to be subjected to physical violence that he signed all documents that he was asked to sign, including a document waiving his right to appeal the decisions taken by the immigration officials. On 18 February 2002, five months after the first deportation order had been issued, he was reportedly granted a provisional release. During the first three months of his detention, Ali Ahmad lost 35 kilograms.

Urgent appeals

777. On 14 March 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent an urgent appeal on behalf of at least 19 Afghan asylum-seekers who were reportedly at risk of being forcibly returned to Afghanistan. Deportation orders were said to have already been issued for almost all of them. Many were believed to be from the Hazara ethnic group, who were reportedly persecuted when the mainly Pashtun Talibans were in power. They were interrogated on 17 September 2001 about any links they might have with Osama bin- Laden's Al-Qaeda organisation. They were reportedly arrested in October and most of them are held at Higashi-Nihon Immigration Centre in Ushiku. All nine men's applications for refugee status were reportedly refused in November. Many of those detained are reportedly in deteriorating mental and physical health, and detention is likely to worsen their condition. Several detainees are reportedly suffering from eating disorders and some from acute weight loss.

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small logo   This report has been published by Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights on August 2, 2005.