Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his government will not appeal a court ruling that ordered it to pay damages to families of former patients of Hansen's disease.
The Kumamoto District Court in southwestern Japan ordered the central government on June 28 to pay about 3.5 million dollars in damages in a lawsuit filed by more than 500 plaintiffs across the country.
The plaintiffs are the families of patients who contracted leprosy and were sent to isolation facilities under a now-defunct state policy.
The plaintiffs said that they suffered discrimination and their family ties were destroyed due to the policy.
The court is the first to rule that the state is responsible for damage inflicted on the families.
On Tuesday morning, Abe met Health Minister Takumi Nemoto and Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita to discuss the matter before the Friday deadline for filing an appeal.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Abe said that although the government finds part of the ruling difficult to accept, it should not prolong the families' unspeakable pain.
The prime minister said that he therefore made the rare decision not to appeal and instructed the relevant ministers to respond accordingly.
Lawyer Atsushi Suzuki of the defense team for the families said that the defense and plaintiffs welcome Abe's decision as the government's first step toward acknowledging its responsibility.
He added that he wants the government to hold discussions with the plaintiffs on measures to eliminate discrimination and prejudice against them as well as on how to compensate them.