Noguchi Sentenced to 8 Months

For Press Conference 28 June 2004

The sentencing of Takayuki Noguchi, a member of the Japanese NGO Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR), was held At 10:00AM June 28, 2004 at Chong Zuo Intermediate People’s Court in Nanning, Guangxi in China.

Noguchi was charged with one count of illegally transporting people with the intent of crossing the border (Article 321 of the Chinese Domestic Criminal Code) and an additional count of attempting to assist in illegally crossing the border (Article 61). He was sentenced to 8 months in prison and fined 20,000 RMB (about US$2,778). All his personal goods, including 340,000 yen in cash (about US$3,148), a video camera, and a cellular phone were also confiscated.

As LFNKR has repeatedly pointed out, Noguchi was arrested on 10 Dec. 2003 while attempting to help the two Japan-born North Koreans, who are obviously qualified as refugees according to international law (UN Convention on Refugees). Both North Koreans would surely face severe punishment, including possible death, if repatriated to North Korea. China is signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, an international law which takes precedence over national laws, and China, as a member of the United Nations, and signatory to the Convention, is obliged to observe this international law. However, China still continues to hunt down North Koreans and send them back to their homeland, knowing they will face harsh punishment, including imprisonment in labor camps. This repatriation must be halted immediately in the interests of humanitarianism and human rights.

The Japanese government has consistently focused on the “intent” of the Chinese government, refusing to shift from its position that Noguchi violated Chinese domestic laws and that we must plead with the Chinese government for generous humanitarian treatment of Noguchi. The Japanese government has never raised the issue of international laws with the Chinese government, including those related to the 1951 Refugees Convention and the 1967 Protocol, which China has officially ratified.

It is obvious that this blindness by the Japanese government toward human rights and humanitarianism has only prolonged the detention of Takayuki Noguchi. Furthermore, the fact that Noguchi has been punished in this way by the Chinese government while Japan’s chief government spokesman and Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs officially referred to the detention of Noguchi at press conferences indicates China’s total lack of respect for the Japanese government.

It is extremely unfortunate that Noguchi has had to endure this arrest, detention and trial for an obviously humanitarian act.

LFNKR proposes that the international communitycontinue its efforts to improve the awareness of human rights worldwide and to take direct action for that purpose.

Kenkichi Nakadaira, Board Chairman
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees