Names Of Disabled Victims In Knife Attack In Japan Being Kept A Secret, Police Draw Criticism

A horrific event during which an attacker with a knife took the lives of 19 disabled individuals at a group home in the mountain town of Sagamihara, Japan, was made even more tragic and chilling when the assailant told the police his intention was to “eliminate the disabled from the world.” Of the victims, 26 survived, yet those affected by the act remain unknown; at least until now, that is.

The Onos, who live in Zama, a suburb of Yokohama, want the world to learn more about their son, who is autistic and has the mental capacity of a toddler. He is one of the 26 survivors, yet authorities have kept quiet about all of the victims who were impacted by the worst mass killing in Japan since World War II. The assailant wished to erase those human beings from the planet, and now the authorities are assisting him in ensuring this is the case by refusing to make mention of the victims and mourn their loss.

The New York Times shares about the decision by authorities, and how their decision is being received.

“The police in Kanagawa Prefecture have declined to release the identities of the victims, citing the families’ desire for privacy, in a decision that is increasingly drawing criticism around Japan.”

The advocates for those with disabilities state that withholding names of the victims is sending a message and affirming a view in the specific culture that considers those with disabilities to be lesser beings. The publication states, “[k]eeping the victims hidden, even after their deaths, these advocates say, tacitly endorses the views of those — including the assailant — who say disabled people should be kept separate from the rest of society.”

Mr. Ono simply wishes that families whose loved ones were impacted by the attack would insist that the names are released, and stated, “I want to create a world in which people are not ashamed of their disabled family members.”

Professor of disability studies at Ritsumeikan University in Kyote, Osamy Nagase, noted that the public is showing approval of the attacker’s view of the victims, that being that they “didn’t deserve life.” He went on to say, “If we want to pay respect to those 19 victims, they cannot remain nameless. They cannot remain faceless.”

From the viewpoint of a foreigner who is unaware of the usual handling of such a tragedy in the nation, one might think that this is simply the manner that crimes of this magnitude are all handled. It is, however, not the case. An attack on five elderly people last year and a stabbing spree that left seven dead back in 2008, resulted in victims’ named being released within days.

Within the nation, the decision to not disclose the names of the victims has been criticized by a number of disability rights organizations and by many media outlets. An editorial in Tokyo Shimbun read, “The families’ feelings should be respected, but we need to know their names and keep the memories of how they lived and lost their lives.”

House of Representative member, Seiko Noda, also a mother of a disabled son, spoke with another paper and stated that by not releasing the names of victims it “denies their entire lives.”

The news outlets in Japan, did, however, provide extensive coverage about the attacker, Satoshi Uematsu, 26, who resigned from Yamature-en in February, spent a few weeks in a psychiatric hospital and then went on the violent spree after breaking into the facility in the middle of the night, going from room to room, and slashing throats of the residents as they slept.

It is reported that months earlier, the assailant had sent a letter to politicians asking them to consider the euthanasia of disabled individuals and sharing a precise plan to kill them.

[Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images]