A plan recently devised by a team of Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers to grant financial aid to victims of crimes perpetrated by the Aum Supreme Truth cult can be regarded as an extremely unusual measure.
The plan would require the government to pay compensation, in the form of consolation payments, to Aum’s victims that should otherwise have been provided by the cult. We believe there is a need to do so, given that the victims of Aum’s terrorist attacks have not been given sufficient compensation.
No one can tell when acts of terrorism will take place. To provide against an emergency, it is necessary for the government to consider specific measures aimed at aiding victims of all terrorist attacks.
The LDP team’s plan outlines a bill designed to aid victims of various Aum-related crimes. The cult does not have the financial means to pay compensation. This means the victims likely will be unable to receive the full amount of compensation owed to them by the cult. With this in mind, the LDP team has proposed the government pay 2.5 billion yen in solatium, equivalent to the amount Aum has not yet paid.
The doomsday cult has been found criminally responsible for such serious crimes as a sarin gassing incident in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994, and a sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995.
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In 1996, Aum was declared bankrupt because it lacked the financial means to compensate its victims for the damage they suffered. The group’s debts then totaled about 5.1 billion yen, including the 3.8 billion yen it owed in compensation to victims of its crimes and their bereaved families.
Bankruptcy to be finalized
The figures point to the seriousness of the group’s crimes and the gravity of the problems ensuing from these incidents.
For years, Aum’s bankruptcy administrator has sold the cult’s facilities and implemented other steps to raise money that could be used to compensate the group’s victims. However, the damages paid by Aum to its victims total a modest 1.3 billion yen. The cult’s bankruptcy procedures are expected to be completed in March.
Under the circumstances, it appears little progress will be made in financially aiding the victims.
More than 10 years have passed since Aum carried out its crimes. Admittedly, crime victims can already be aided by a state-run system aimed at aiding victims of random street murders and other unforeseeable accidents. However, Aum’s victims cannot expect to receive sufficient aid under this system
U.S. quick to act after 9/11
The U.S. government has paid an average of 200 million yen each in compensation to families of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the nation under special legislation created for that purpose.
Meanwhile, measures to pay the victims of Aum-related crimes a massive amount of compensation must be complemented by efforts to convincingly explain why doing so is essential.
In emphasizing the need to establish a law on compensation for Aum-related crime victims, the LDP team has cited the peculiarity of the offenses committed by the cult. Some LDP members have insisted on citing specific reasons for the creation of the law, including the fact that Aum’s crimes were aimed at overthrowing the state, and that their victims had been sacrificed for the state. They also have noted that the victims have made every effort to gain compensation by suing the cult for damages.
The LDP plans to submit the bill to next year’s ordinary Diet session. Meanwhile, the leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan also is considering submitting a similar bill to the legislature.
Both the ruling and opposition parties must join hands in promoting talks on how to compensate the victims of terrorism and create a law on such compensation as soon as possible.
Acts of terrorism must be nipped in the bud, first and foremost. But it also is important to ensure proper measures are in place to swiftly aid victims if such crimes occur.
After studying the results of discussions by the LDP team, the Justice Ministry, the National Police Agency and other related government organizations should work to lay down the necessary guidelines and other principles concerning such issues as what kind of crime victims should receive financial aid.