EDITORIAL: Islamic State’s crime must not go unpunished

Asahi Shimbun

February 02, 2015

An incredibly monstrous act by the Islamic State militant group has dashed many people’s hopes for the release of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto.

It posted a video online on Feb. 1 purporting to show the slaying of Goto, a freelance journalist it was holding hostage. It was another heartless announcement of murder, coming one week after the apparent killing of another Japanese hostage–Haruna Yukawa.

The hostage crisis that came into the public eye on Jan. 20 did so as a threat to Japan during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s tour of the Middle East.People walk past television screens displaying a news program about Japanese journalist Kenji Goto on a street in Tokyo

The Islamic State expressed revile for the Japanese government, which had announced humanitarian assistance for those who had been displaced to flee the rule of the group, and threatened to kill the hostages if its demands for ransom or a prisoner exchange were not met. The group’s statements and actions were extremely self-righteous and lacked all sense.

We strongly denounce the merciless, cruel killers and their organization.

BRING PERPETRATORS TO JUSTICE

The fact that this crisis ended in the worst possible way underscores many challenges confronting the international community and Japan.

The Islamic State is notorious for its cold-blooded crimes of capturing foreigners and killing them after issuing warnings. The group usually posts online videos showing its brutal acts.

The group’s deeds are the ultimate violation of human rights and international crimes. It is hard to imagine holding a dialogue or negotiating with an organization that continues to perpetrate such inhuman acts.

However, it is clear that military operations, including U.S.-led air strikes against the group’s strongholds, alone cannot resolve problems caused by the militants.

The question that needs to be asked is why such an organization, whose behavior and thinking are beyond understanding, came into being in the first place.

We cannot help but point out that the war against Iraq led by the United States and Britain despite opposition from other major countries created conflicts among religious sects in the Middle East, compounding the security situation in the region.

The international community has been adhering to the principle of nation-specific efforts to resolve problems, with the United Nations serving as the principal forum for discussions on such initiatives.

However, despite its name, the Islamic State does not fit the widely accepted definition of a modern state. The group seeks to expand areas it rules through the use of violence and flagrant disregard for national borders. The latest hostage incident involving the group underscores afresh the formidable challenge of how to respond to this entity.Ishido, mother of Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist who was held captive by Islamic State militants, speaks to reporters at her house in Tokyo

A report drawn up last year by a U.N. fact-finding committee painted a gruesome picture of the list of atrocities committed by the Islamic State in its rule of terror, including violent thought control and organized sexual violence against women. The report called for the prosecution of the group’s commanders and other members involved in these acts for war crimes and crimes against humanity with the International Criminal Court.

This is no easy task. Still, we believe steps should be taken to increase international pressure to prosecute and punish the Islamic State militants responsible for the atrocities, including the killings of the two Japanese hostages and the earlier beheadings of U.S. and British hostages.

JAPAN’S RESPONSE NEEDS REVIEW

According to remarks made by Abe and other administration officials at the Diet and other venues, a liaison office was set up last August under the prime minister’s office after Yukawa was captured.

In November, the government became aware that Goto had gone missing after entering Syria. The incident was put on a list of cases that required government response.Japan's PM Abe speaks next to Defence Minister Nakatani and Foreign Minister Kishida during an upper house committee session at the parliament in Tokyo

We must face up to the fact that the two hostages were not saved despite all of these actions by the government.

In the first threatening video of the hostage crisis that was posted online, the terrorists set a short 72-hour deadline to meet their ransom demand. However, a considerable amount of time had already passed since the government realized the two had been captured.

In similar hostage cases involving French and Spanish journalists who were eventually released, it is believed that negotiations for their freedom were in progress before reaching the stage at which the hostage takers needed to publicize their threats to kill them.

Discussing Japan’s handling of the case during a Feb. 1 news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government had not made contact with the Islamic State.

Why is this? What was the role of the national security bureau, a new entity established last year, in the government’s response to the crisis?

To prevent similar tragedies, the government should fulfill its responsibility to disclose as much information as possible with regard to these questions, and examine and thoroughly assess how it handled the crisis.IMG_8028

OPEN UP TO DISPLACED REFUGEES

Since the end of the Cold War, the Middle East has become continuously riddled with wars and conflicts.

Unlike many Western nations, Japan has focused on non-military and humanitarian measures, such as aid to refugees, in its restrained involvement in international efforts to deal with situations in the region.

In its video claiming Goto had been killed, the Islamic State issued a threatening message lambasting Abe and identifying Japan as its enemy.

Yet Japan has not taken part in the military campaign against the Islamic State. Its longstanding focus on humanitarian assistance in its efforts to provide support in the Middle East has been widely accepted in the region.

Despite the irrational threat from the Islamic State, Japan should stick to its principle of providing aid to people in the region who have lost their homes and are facing hardship.

As a journalist with a great deal of experience covering the conflict zone, Goto focused his attention not on the outcome of battles but on the lives, joys and sorrows of local people.

The announced killings of the two Japanese hostages are utterly outrageous acts. Such gross outrages are a daily occurrence in the region.

However, these atrocities are not taking place in a far-off place with no serious implications for Japan. It has become a challenge that Japan needs to confront and tackle.

People fleeing war-torn Syria and Iraq are flooding into neighboring countries. The situation is increasing the burden on countries in Europe and elsewhere that accept refugees.

It is clearly time for Japan to open its doors to refugees.

The vast majority of Muslims are moderate, peace-loving people. We must get to know each other more. We then need to offer help to those who need it.

Japan should overcome this hostage tragedy and act in accordance with this principle.

Woman holding a placard reading "Free Kenji" during a vigil in front of the PM Abe's official residence in Tokyo

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