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Eugenic surgery victim blasts gov't for citing statute of limitations to deny damages

TOKYO -- A man suing the government over his forced sterilization under the defunct eugenic protection law (1948-1996) argued that the statute of limitations should not be applied to his case as claimed by the state, during an Oct. 18 hearing at the Tokyo District Court.

The central government insisted in court that the 75-year-old Tokyo man has no right to demand compensation as his surgery occurred some 60 years ago, and thus comes under the Civil Code's 20-year statute of limitations.

The man is demanding 30 million yen in compensation for the sterilization operation he underwent when he was a junior high school student and living in a children's self-reliance support facility in Sendai, capital of the northeastern prefecture of Miyagi. The plaintiff claimed he was not told what the surgery was for and that he was forced to undergo the procedure, and argued that it was illegal and violated his human rights.

In the second oral arguments at the court on Oct. 18, the government counsel did not address whether the surgery was illegal, but claimed simply that the Civil Code statute of limitations should be applied to the case.

In response, the plaintiff stated, "I was not informed what the surgery entailed, nor about the potential consequences. I was subject to human rights violations for many years without being able to recognize that it was an illegal act by the state."

He argued that it was impossible for him to learn about the realities of sterilization surgeries and bring the case to court until recently. "I couldn't tell my spouse that I had gone through the surgery. It is unjust for the government to be spared any obligation to provide compensation when it was the one that created a situation hampering victims from filing lawsuits," he told the court.

After the hearing, the plaintiff attended a gathering in Tokyo held by his legal team for supporters of his case.

"I'm shocked to hear that my right to demand compensation was extinguished after 20 years. It is irresponsible for the government to make such an argument after I was forced to endure this pain over the past 60 years," he told the audience.

Honami Okazaki, an attorney representing the plaintiff, blasted the government, saying, "It is unacceptable for the government to insist that it cannot be held responsible for the damage by saying the trial came too late, when it was the government that was responsible for inflicting such pain and failing to provide relief to victims."

(Japanese original by Akira Hattori, City News Department)

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