Monday, June 9, 2008

New Life and Hope

A year ago, the first MVFHR affiliate outside the U.S. was launched: the Japanese group Ocean, founded by victim's family member Masaharu Harada and other victims' family members, families of inmates, attorneys and human rights activists.

Our board member Toshi Kazama, who has been an essential support for Ocean, recently returned from a trip to Japan and reports that Ocean is planning to hold its first annual conference this July 26, in Tokyo. Victims' family members and families of inmates will speak, and it promises to be a groundbreaking event in a country that has never held this kind of conference before.

Here's the Japan Times article, announcing the formation of the group, that came out last June (before we were bloggers!):

Masaharu Harada's younger brother was 30 years old when he was brutally murdered in 1983. For years, Harada harbored a hatred against the killer, Toshihiko Hasegawa, hoping he would get the death penalty.

Hasegawa for his part tried to reach out to Harada after his trial began in 1984, continuously writing letters to apologize for his crime. Over nearly 10 years, Harada received about 150 letters from Hasegawa but threw most of them out because he did not want to read any apology from the man who killed his brother.

Yet as time passed, Harada started reading the letters and eventually began to respond to them. And in 1993, just one month before Hasegawa's death sentence was finalized, Harada decided to meet him face to face.

"Our life itself was completely destroyed because of Hasegawa and I was consumed with hatred," Harada told The Japan Times. "Honestly speaking, there is no way I could ever forgive him, even now. . . . But I wanted to know more about the crime and also felt that I had an account to settle with Hasegawa."

Harada met him four times, trying to come to terms with the murder and find out why he committed the crime. But then Hasegawa was abruptly hanged in 2001.

"The government deprived me of my opportunity to interact" with Hasegawa, Harada said. "Through the meetings, I was just beginning to understand who he was."

Based on his experience, Harada recently established Ocean, a support group not only for people victimized by crime but also for offenders and their kin. Harada said Ocean is "a symbol of new life and hope."

"I want Ocean to become a sort of oasis" for crime victims as well as offenders, Harada said. "And I believe it is necessary to create a place for crime victims and offenders to face each other and hold dialogue."

Ocean was created earlier this month with about 20 members, including crime victims and their relatives, as well as lawyers, journalists and academics.

It was launched as an affiliate of the U.S.-based nongovernmental organization Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights, whose members include not only crime victims and family members but also relatives of executed inmates. The group advocates an end to capital punishment. ...

No comments: