Suit against the government of Japan filed over the death of Abubakar Awudu Suraj


A press conference at the National Press Club in Tokyo
On the morning of August 5th, a suit against the government of Japan was filed over the wrongful death of Abubakar Awudu Suraj—a Ghanaian killed during a forced deportation last year. The lawsuit was filed by Suraj’s widow and Suraj’s mother claiming compensation from the Japanese government and nine Immigration officials who had accompanied Suraj at the time of his death.

Normally, such lawsuits are filed exclusively against the government. However, documents secured during the preservation of evidence clearly showed that the attending immigration officials had purchased nylon ties (which are not permitted for use as restraints) with their own money and then bound Suraj with them, and turned off the video camera recording their actions partway through the deportation. Such circumstances suggest that their acts of abuse were carried out wittingly—and not through negligence and, for that reason, it was decided that these officials should be charged with responsibility along with the state.

Incidentally, when we first filed the petition for the preservation of evidence, the Ministry of Justice had refused to submit interview and other documents relating to the actions of these immigration officials. It was only due to a subsequent breakthrough court order for disclosure that the documents were later released and the actions of the immigration officials came to light. The Ministry of Justice had effectively been trying to hide facts having a significant bearing on this case.

In the afternoon we held a press conference at the National Press Club in Tokyo. Many reporters joined the conference, including several from The Economist and other international media.