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Japan PM denies government urged shrine to honor war criminals

[JURIST] Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe [official website, English version] denied Thursday that the Japanese government had pressured a Shinto shrine to honor war criminals after the National Diet Library [official website] released documents suggesting that the government was deeply involved in the decision. A document dated January 1969 shows the Yasukuni shrine [shrine website; JURIST news archive] consulted the government about listing the names of 14 top war criminals, including wartime premier Hideki Tojo [Wikipedia profile], without publicizing their inclusion. Another document dated April 1958 indicates the welfare ministry asked the shrine to list the names of hundreds of lower-ranking war criminals so that their inclusion would not be noticeable. Abe said the government only provided information and that the shrine, which is a private institution, made the final decision on which names to list.

The Yasukuni shrine honors over 2.5 million deceased Japanese soldiers, including leaders labeled by the allied powers as WWII war criminals. In February, eleven South Koreans filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] asking the Tokyo District Court to order the removal of their relatives' names from the shrine. Last year, a Tokyo judge dismissed [JURIST report] a lawsuit filed by South Korean families seeking damages for affronting the dignity of South Korean soldiers by recording their names in the shrine, but the judge said including the names on the shrine was a standard administrative procedure that did not harm the plaintiffs or violate their ethnic or religious dignity. Plaintiffs in several other lawsuits have argued [JURIST report] that visits to the war shrine by former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi [official profile] violated the principle of separation of church and state contained in the Japanese constitution [text], but Japanese courts have largely ruled in the former prime minister's favor. AFP has more.

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