Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Highly awarded Sadako Ogata – former UN refugee chief – dies at 92

October 29, 2019

Sadako Ogata the first woman to head the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has died at the age of 92 on 22 October 2019. I served under her for many years and have the greatest admiration for her. Sadako Ogata worked on some of the largest crises of the decade during her time in service from 1991 to 2000, including the Kurdish refugees fleeing from Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, the Balkans War and the Great Lakes region of Africa. Before joining the UN, she was an academic – serving as dean of the faculty of foreign studies at Sophia University in Tokyo in 1989, where she had been a professor since 1980. She was well respected by UN staff and world leaders alike, and was described by her colleagues as a “five-foot giant” for her formidable negotiating skills and ability to confront hostile factions. From 2003 to 2012, Ogata was the head of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, overseeing efforts to provide assistance to those in developing countries.

Back in Japan, she also criticised her country’s low acceptance of refugees. “Japan has to set up a situation to welcome people… those who are in need, in serious need… I think we should be open to bringing them in,” she said in a Reuters interview in 2015. “[To say] Japan does not have resources, that’s nonsense.

She rightly received a lot of recognition while alive, including:

1994   Franklin Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award

1994   Prize for Freedom (Liberal Int’l)

1994   International Human Rights Law Group Award

1995   Liberty Medal

1995   Freedom Award (refugees)

1997   Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership

2001   Indira Gandhi Prize

2015   In Pursuit of Peace Awards.

In March 2020 Japanese TV station NHK broadcast a programme on Mrs Ogata:

Sasakawa Yōhei of Japan wins International Gandhi Peace Prize 2018

January 26, 2019

On January 16 2019, the government of India announced that the International Gandhi Peace Prize for 2018 would go to Nippon Foundation Chairman Sasakawa Yōhei, for his efforts toward eradicating Hansen’s disease (leprosy) in India and elsewhere around the world.

Nippon Foundation Chairman Sasakawa Yōhei.
Nippon Foundation Chairman Sasakawa Yōhei.

Sasakawa, now 80, has worked for more than half of his life to combat Hansen’s disease and the social stigma associated with it. Serving in recent years as the World Health Organization’s Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, he has focused in particular on India, which has the world’s largest population of sufferers of the disease, making repeated visits to the colonies where they were historically segregated and promoting measures to restore their economic autonomy and combat prejudice against them in society.

Asked for comment, Sasakawa remarked: “It was a tremendous honor to receive word of this recognition in this, the 150th year since the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, who strove during his life to secure proper treatment for Hansen’s disease sufferers.”

For more information on this award and 3 others with Gandhi in their name see:’s-sasakawa-yohei-wins-international-gandhi-peace-prize-for-hansen’s-disease-work.html

Malaysian Bar unanimously carries a motion in support of human rights defender Charles Hector

April 19, 2011

On 12 March, the Malaysian Bar Association has come out – surprisingly strongly and unanimously – in support of Charles Hector, who is facing a legal suit by a Japanese company after he highlighted the plight of Burmese workers at the Malaysian plant of Asahi Kosei.  As this motion is a most interesting illustration of how the UN Human Rights Defenders Declaration can be invoked at the national level, I add the full text, taken from A good example to follow by other bar Associations around the world and to be promoted by the International Bar Association.
Full text of the Motion regarding the legal suit against Charles Hector Fernandez:. 

(Proposed by M Rajkumar and seconded by Gladys Liew Kim Leng, dated 4 Mar 2011)


1. Having noted that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, wherein, amongst others states in Article 1 that “Everyone has the right to individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international level”.

2. Article 6 of the said UN Declaration does also specifically state that, “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others … [to] freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms…”

3. Having noted also that lawyers have a statutory obligation reflected in the Legal Profession Act to uphold the cause of justice without fear or favour.

4. Charles Hector Fernandez, a human rights defender and activist of more than 20 years, and also a lawyer, being also a former member of the Bar Council, is alleged to have caused to publish, impart and disseminate to others information which he received from 31 migrant workers of Burmese nationality, who allegedly were at the material time working in a factory in Selangor.

5. The information he received was with regards to alleged violations of human rights and workers’ rights and alleged unfair treatment of the said workers.

6. Noting also that Charles Hector did firstly send an email on 8 February 2011 to the said company about the information received, giving a reasonable opportunity for the company to clarify matters, and after waiting for a reasonable time for a response, he did cause the information received to be posted on the Charles Hector Blog at

7. A media statement concerning the human rights violation of the said workers was also issued on 11 February 2011, whereby the number of organisations and civil society groups that jointly issued the said statement now stands at more than 80.

8. In response, the company threatened legal proceedings and thereafter commenced a suit on 14 February 2011 against Charles Hector, a person who had merely highlighted the alleged human rights violations. Such action is deplorable, and may put fear/deter and/or have a negative impact on other human rights defenders, organisations, ‘whistle blowers’ and other individuals who come into information and/or allegations of such violations and cause them to refrain from acting on such information. This will certainly also cause greater injustice especially when these human rights violations affect the most marginalised in our society, including workers and migrant workers, who do largely depend on others to come to their defence and assistance.

9. Noting also that public interest also places an obligation on any person that knows of any human rights violations to not just stand by but to take the necessary steps to see that such violations end, and to ensure that the victims do get justice. This principle is also recognised, and is also evident in many laws in Malaysia, including the Whistle Blowers Protection Act 2010, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999, and Criminal Procedure Code.

10. The Company has proceeded to file a suit against the person who highlighted the issue to them and to the public.

11. Noting also that a legal suit has been filed, the company being the plaintiff can at any time cause to withdraw the said legal action against Charles Hector.

12. Without touching on the validity and/or sustainability of the cause of action and/or the right of the company to commence the legal suit, in the interest of justice, recognising also the right to freedom of expression and/or opinion, respecting also the inherent principle that encourages persons having any information about alleged violations of rights to disclose it, it is felt that it is best that the company does not continue to go after the ‘whistle blower’ but rather to commence the necessary investigations and do the needful to ensure that all rights of workers that work in the company are not violated, and justice is upheld.

THEREFORE, it is hereby resolved that:-

A. The Malaysian Bar shall render all necessary and reasonable assistance and support to Charles Hector Fernandez, as deemed fit by Bar Council.

B. That the Malaysian Bar do the needful research and submit proposals for the enactment of new laws and/or the amendment of existing law that will protect all ‘whistle blowers’ and human rights defenders that highlight human rights violations allegedly propagated by state and non-state actors against persons in Malaysia, both from the perspective of civil and/or criminal liability having regard, amongst others, to the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The motion, as amended, was unanimously carried.