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HOME  > Past issues  > 2011 April 20 - 26  > Drinking at USF ‘official event’ is regarded as part of ‘official duty’
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2011 April 20 - 26 [US FORCES]

Drinking at USF ‘official event’ is regarded as part of ‘official duty’

April 24 & 26, 2011
Japanese Communist Party representative Akamine Seiken at the Lower House Security Committee on April 21 demanded that the government make efforts to amend a Japan-U.S. agreement recognizing car accidents committed by U.S. personnel who drank alcohol at U.S. military “official events” as having done so while “on duty”.

The 1956 Japan-U.S. joint committee agreement stipulates that the United States has the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over crimes and accidents committed by U.S. servicemen while performing “official duties”.

Akamine referred to the tragedy in which a U.S. military employee “on his way to work” caused the death of a 19-year-old man in a car accident in Okinawa in January. The U.S. serviceman was, however, immune from prosecution.

Akamine stated that the victim’s mother was crying, “Does this country protect only foreign military personnel and not Japanese citizens?”

The government should take the position that Japan has the right of jurisdiction over U.S. crimes in Japan, no matter if they are committed while “on duty” or not.

In a Lower House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting in June 2009, Akamine had also taken up a similar issue. In response to the JCP representative, Umemoto Kazuyoshi, director general of the foreign ministry’s North American Affairs Bureau, agreed with the need to review the 1956 agreement by stating that it is no longer a socially-accepted idea.

However, the agreement still exists.

The foreign ministry official now explained that it is because “the U.S. administration needs to initiate complex procedures” to rectify the agreement.

Akamine said, “You said you would review the agreement two years ago, but nothing has changed. In the meantime, another tragic accident occurred while ‘on duty’ and thus exempted from prosecution.” Akamine again demanded that the agreement be immediately reviewed.

* * * * *

Okinawa prefectural assembly protests non-prosecution of US personnel

The Okinawa Prefectural Assembly on April 25 adopted a unanimous resolution in protest against non-prosecution of a U.S. Navy civilian employee who caused the death of a Japanese man in a car accident in Okinawa in January supposedly while “on duty”.

The assembly will send the resolution to the U.S. ambassador to Japan and the commander of U.S. forces in Japan.

The resolution protests against the decision to drop the charge because the accident occurred while the U.S. personnel was “on duty” although he drove in the wrong lane and crashed head-on into a car driven by a 19-year-old man, resulting in his death.

The resolution demands that the definition of “while on duty” under the Japan-U.S. joint committee agreement be clearly given, that the U.S. government give up its primary jurisdiction over traffic accidents committed by U.S. servicemen in Japan, and that the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces (SOFA) agreement be thoroughly reviewed.

The assembly also adopted a proposal addressed to Prime Minister Kan Naoto for restoration of Japan’s judicial rights over U.S. military personnel.
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