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Brazil will discuss apologies for the internment of Japanese immigrants and descendants after World War II

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mario Okuhara, second from right, and Akira Miyagi, left, attend a press conference in Sao Paulo on Tuesday.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s Amnesty Commission plans to discuss whether to apologize for human rights abuses in the internment of Japanese immigrants and people of Japanese descent after World War II, it has been learned. The matter will be discussed on July 25.

brazil 2
Thanks to Enea Almeida
Enea Almeida

Enea Almeida, chairman of the government advisory body, said in an online interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun that the committee is expected to apologize on behalf of the government.

An estimated 2.7 million people of Japanese descent currently live in Brazil, home to the world’s largest community of people of Japanese descent outside Japan.

If realized, the apology would be the first from the Brazilian government. It would also be an important milestone in restoring the dignity of those who were treated unfairly before the 80th anniversary of the end of the Second World War next year.

“Many people should be aware of the brutal events in which… [Japanese immigrants and their descendants] were persecuted by the Brazilian state for the simple reason that they are Japanese, and the country must guarantee that the same mistake will never be repeated,” Almeida said.

The commission, under the Ministry of Human Rights and Citizenship, has the authority to determine whether the government should pay compensation for human rights violations that occurred under the influence of the military since 1946.

According to Almeida, a majority vote at a meeting attended by at least nine commissioners is required before the government can make reparations.

The apology is believed to relate to the imprisonment of 172 Japanese immigrants and descendants by Brazilian authorities in prison on the island of Anchieta off the coast of Sao Paulo for approximately two years beginning in 1946.

According to documents filed with the government’s Commission on Human Rights Violations, people from the Japanese community were abused and tortured in prison. Some were reportedly jailed for refusing to step in a photo of the Japanese emperor or a Japanese flag during an exercise designed to test their loyalty.

Brazil severed diplomatic ties with Japan when it joined the Allies in World War II. People of Japanese descent were ordered to evacuate the city of Santos during the war.

In 2015, Japanese-Brazilian Mario Okuhara, 49, who directed a documentary about the persecution of people of Japanese descent, asked for an apology without compensation to restore the victims’ dignity.

“Like [the Brazilian government] apologizes, it will restore the dignity of our ancestors and be a great help to their descendants who have settled in Brazilian society,” said Akira Miyagi, member of Brazil’s Okinawa Kenjinkai. He contributed to the Brazilian government’s apology.

The Amnesty Committee rejected the request for an apology in November 2021, but decided to reconsider it after the change of government in January last year.



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