Kayano et al. v. Hokkaido Expropriation Committee: ‘The Nibutani Dam Decision’
International Legal Materials, Vol. 38, p. 394, 1999
41 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2010 Last revised: 17 Jun 2011
Date Written: 1999
On March 27, 1997, the Sapporo District Court issued a decision in the Nibutani Dam case that broke new ground by recognizing Japan's indigenous Ainu people as a distinct ethnic group. The case arose when Ainu landowners, Kaizawa Tadashi and Kayano Shigeru, refused to consent to the expropriation of their land for the construction of a large industrial dam in close proximity to their homes in Nibutani Village. When the Hokkaido Development Bureau tried to force the seizure of their land, Kaizawa and Kayano filed suit.
The decision declared the government's attempt to confiscate the land illegal, although the plaintiffs were denied substantive relief because of the court's application of Administrative Litigation Law. The heart of the decision included extensive historical fact-finding detailing the history of the inequitable deprivations suffered by the Ainu people. It also emphasized the importance of the Saru River to Ainu religion and cultural practices and concluded that the dam project would negatively impact the lives of the Ainu people living in the Nibutani area. The decision ultimately binds the Japanese government under Article 13 of its constitution and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to consider the rights of the Ainu people as an indigenous minority in the nation.
Keywords: Nibutani Dam Decision, Ainu, International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, ICCPR, Japanese constitutional law, indigenous peoples in Japan, Hokkaido, comparative law, Asian law, Japanese administrative law, expropriation, takings, comparative constitutional law
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