|Sunday, August 24, 2008|
Japanese Government Prepares Special Anti-Sea Shepherd Laws
The Government of Japan will be introducing new legislation before the Japanese Diet to give the Japanese Coast Guard the authority to board foreign flagged ships outside of Japan's territorial waters.
The Japanese government is preparing to submit a bill to revise the penal code or they may pass a specific bill to establish the new laws.
The problem for Japan is that although they have been calling the Sea Shepherd ships and crew pirates for years, this is really name-calling and they have not had any legal basis to back it up.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has not harmed any Japanese crew, nor has any property been damaged or stolen. Pirates use force to steal property. Sea Shepherd does not fall within this definition.
Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which took effect in 1994, signatories are allowed to act against pirates in the open sea. In 1996, Japan ratified the convention, which has been signed by 155 countries.
Japan has the power to act against piracy but does not have the authority to just condemn anyone they don't like as a pirate.
The legislation proposed will specifically label interference with Japanese whaling ships on the high seas as an Act of Piracy. Interference with the ability of the whalers to profit from killing whales will be deemed an act of high seas piracy.
In Japan presently, the relevant existing domestic laws do not allow for stringent antipiracy measures. The law only allows the Japan Coast Guard and others concerned to act and charge pirates in cases in which the Penal Code can be applied. This covers only criminal activities committed aboard Japanese-registered ships and acts committed against Japanese citizens on foreign-flagged vessels.
Contained in the proposed legislation, is the wording to give the government powers to define illegal activities at sea that are subject to punishment.
Included in this are:
Under the new legislation, Japanese Coast Guard would be able to arrest pirates and capture pirate ships, according to the sources.
The Japanese proposal specifically cites Sea Shepherd activities. The following statement appeared in the Japanese media:
When the Sea Shepherd, a U.S. marine conservation organization, interfered with a Japanese whale research ship in February last year, the government was unable to take legal action as the attackers were not identified.
The envisaged legislation, however, likely will enable authorities to arrest the captain of a vessel concerned, even if those who have carried out illegal activities are not identified.
If the Self-Defense Forces engage in patrol activities against pirates, including those aboard foreign-flagged ships, in the Indian Ocean and other locations, it will be necessary to include a provision specifying regulations on the use of weapons by SDF personnel.
As Australia and New Zealand and other pro-whale conservation nations tiptoe around Japan, fearing to offend them, the Japanese government is preparing to use armed force to stop interference of their illegal whaling operations by non-governmental conservationists.
This could mean that Japanese Coast Guard could be boarding Sea Shepherd ships with weapons in the waters of the Australian Antarctic Territory and seizing Australian and New Zealand citizens to be taken back as prisoners to Japan.
Captain Paul Watson's queries to Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett on this possibility have gone unanswered.
"In fact, I have not received a single answer to a single e-mail or letter sent to the Minister since he was elected," said Captain Watson. He refused to meet with or speak with me at the International Whaling Commission meeting held recently in Santiago, Chile. He spoke very cordially with the Japanese and the Norwegians but not with us. On the issue of illegal Japanese whaling he has become very quiet."
On the other hand, former Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell attended the Santiago IWC meeting as a representative for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
"Under Mr. Campbell we had some serious opposition to Japanese outlaw whaling in the Southern Ocean," said Captain Watson. "Mr. Garrett promised that he would be tougher than the previous government. He promised action. He promised results. Instead we got an "agreement to disagree" with the Japanese and no action at all. Instead, Australia is passive aggressively forcing Sea Shepherd out of Australia to appease the Japanese."
Recently the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin was forced to leave Melbourne when the berth that the ship had been using for free for three years was suddenly changed to a $59,000 a month moorage bill. In Brisbane the ship is being forced to pay over $400 a day for moorage.
Meanwhile the Japanese whaling fleet has just returned from the North Pacific where they murdered 211 whales including 100 Sei whales, 59 Piked whales, 50 Bryde's whales and 2 Sperm whales. All these species are either endangered or threatened under international lists on endangered and threatened species.
Despite the extra financial burden of outlandish mooring fees and rising fuel costs, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will be returning to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to do what should be done in a whale sanctuary - protecting whales.