More than 500 people in Tokyo and about 200 in Fukushima Prefecture began legal action against the Japanese government Tuesday, arguing that security laws brought in by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe violate the country’s Constitution.
One of the lawsuits filed with the Tokyo District Court seeks to block the deployment of Japanese Self-Defense Forces personnel under the laws, while the other calls for 100,000 yen in damages for each of the plaintiffs.
The suits are the first of several planned nationwide by a group of legal experts and others against the legislation expanding the SDF’s role overseas, which came into force last month after being enacted in the Diet in September last year.
Also Tuesday, a roughly 200-strong group sought state compensation over the security laws at the Iwaki branch of the Fukushima District Court.
The legislation, allowing Japan to use force to defend the United States and other allies if they came under attack, even if Japan itself is not attacked, followed the Abe Cabinet’s reinterpretation of the Constitution in July 2014 as allowing the country to exercise the right to collective self-defense.
Several individuals have brought legal action against the state, seeking the scrapping of the laws or their declaration as unconstitutional, but have seen their cases dismissed before reaching deliberation.
“This time the suits are in respect of specific harm, so they shouldn’t be able to be rejected,” Yozo Tamura, a lawyer and former Nagoya High Court judge, told a press conference after filing the Tokyo suits on behalf of the group.
Plaintiff Yoko Shida, a law professor at Tokyo’s Musashino Art University, said she is genuinely harmed by the laws.
“Figuring out how to teach this interpretation of the Constitution, which is so different from those that preceded it, is causing confusion in the classroom,” Shida said.
Plaintiffs in the Tokyo suit argue that the exercise of the right to collective self-defense violates Article 9 of the Constitution and has the potential to cause irreparable damage.
Article 9 states Japan forever renounces war and will not maintain armed forces as means of settling international disputes.
The group is also seeking monetary damages for the infringement of the plaintiffs’ right to live in peace, claiming that the potential for SDF deployments to lead to civilians being caught up in war or terror attacks is causing them to live in fear.
According to the group, survivors of World War II air raids on Japan and former inmates of labor camps in Siberia are among the plaintiffs.
The group is planning to file similar cases in more than 10 other district courts across the country, including in Osaka, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Opposition parties, including the Democratic Party and Japanese Communist Party, have made it their goal to collectively campaign for the scrapping of the laws in the lead-up to the House of Councillors election this summer.