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HOME  > Past issues  > 2009 May 20 - 26  > Bilateral ‘secret agreement’ is preventing U.S. servicemen committing crimes in Japan from being prosecuted
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2009 May 20 - 26 TOP3 [US FORCES]
editorial 

Bilateral ‘secret agreement’ is preventing U.S. servicemen committing crimes in Japan from being prosecuted

May 23, 2009
Japan’s prosecutors have dropped most crime cases committed by U.S. military personnel and their dependents in Japan, according to a Justice Ministry document which the Japan Peace Committee obtained recently based on the Freedom of Information Act.

Akahata editorial

Japan’s prosecutors have dropped most crime cases committed by U.S. military personnel and their dependents in Japan, according to a Justice Ministry document which the Japan Peace Committee obtained recently based on the Freedom of Information Act.

The number of U.S. military personnel who committed crimes while not on duty during the period 2001-2008 was 3,829, but 3,184 (about 83 percent) of them were never prosecuted. The rate of non-indictment in Japan is much higher for U.S. military personnel than that for criminal cases in general, which is 50 percent. This proves that the 1953 Japan-U.S. secret agreement stipulating that "[T]he Japanese authorities do not normally intend to exercise the primary right of jurisdiction” over their crimes "other than in cases considered to be of material importance to Japan" is still in force.

Unusually high ‘non-prosecution’ rate

The document released by the Justice Ministry, which contains National Public Prosecutor's Office data on crimes committed by U.S. military personnel and their dependents in Japan, for the first time brought to light the whole picture of how prosecutors have dealt with these crimes.

This is a valuable document that will help expose how illegitimate it is for Japan to have renounced its primary right of jurisdiction over crimes committed by U.S. military personnel in Japan under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement that gives U.S. forces special privilege.

During a period of eight years, about 70 percent of U.S. military personnel who committed felonies, including murders, robberies, and robberies that resulted in deaths, were indicted. It is disturbing to know that 30 percent of suspects in such serious crimes were not indicted.

As regards other types of crimes, it cannot be overlooked that the rate of non-indictment has been extraordinarily high. This means that the prosecutors, in most of these cases, have no intention at all to bring the suspects to trial.

Specifically, 74 percent of U.S. military personnel who committed sexual assaults and rapes, including those resulting in death or bodily injures, were not indicted, as were about 84 percent for trespassing, and about 93 percent for robbery. These figures are incomparably higher than in similar cases involving Japanese suspects. The rate of non-indictment in cases involving Japanese people is about 40 percent in trespassing cases and about 50 percent in robbery cases. There is no doubt that Japanese prosecutors are lenient toward U.S. military offenders.

The prosecutors tend to decide not to prosecute felonies committed by U.S. military personnel except for some extremely violent cases, and renounce Japan’s right to bring suspects to justice because Japan was forced to renounce its jurisdiction over such cases in a secret agreement with the United States.

The Japanese government on October 28, 1953 at the Right of Jurisdiction Subcommittee meeting of the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee signed the statement that reads, “The Japanese authorities do not normally intend to exercise the primary right of jurisdiction over members” of the U.S. military and their dependents, “other than in cases considered to be of material importance to Japan.”

In order to enforce the “secret agreement”, the Justice Ministry in its directive to prosecutors stated that the primary right of jurisdiction should be exercised over cases that are considered to be of material importance.

Even though the Japanese government denies the existence of the “secret agreement” with the United States, the Justice Ministry document implies that Japan is still bound by what the “secret agreement” states.

The Justice Ministry’s document also quotes Dale Sonnenberg, Lieutenant Colonel, Chief of International Law of the U.S. Forces in Japan at Yokota U.S. Air Force Base as stating, “Japan has faithfully carried out this understanding.”

The government assertion that there is no “secret agreement” is no longer tenable.

Defend national sovereignty

It is clear that the government’s policy of giving up its right to exercise the right of jurisdiction is actually encouraging U.S. military personnel in Japan to commit crimes. The government must change its policy of subservience to the U.S. in order to reduce crimes by U.S. military personnel.

The government should protect Japanese people’s lives and safety by immediately abrogating the “secret agreement” on Japan’s renunciation of the right of jurisdiction in disregard of Japan’s national sovereignty.
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