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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 May 14 - 20  > Japanese government’s submission to U.S. revealed in dealing with U.S. soldiers’ crimes
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2008 May 14 - 20 [US FORCES]

Japanese government’s submission to U.S. revealed in dealing with U.S. soldiers’ crimes

May 19, 2008
In dealing with U.S. military personnel’s crimes in Japan, the Japanese government has disputed the U.S. move to claim the “primary right to exercise jurisdiction” in only two cases.

In most cases, the United States has claimed the “primary right to exercise jurisdiction” on the grounds that the “offenses” were committed “while on official duty.”

Niihara Shoji, an analyst of international affairs, revealed this on May 17 in Tokyo, based on declassified materials he recently obtained at the U.S. National Archives.

The Japan-U.S. “Status of Forces Agreement” (SOFA) in Article 17, paragraph 3 (a) (ii) states, “The military authorities of the United States shall have the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over members of the United States armed forces or the civilian component in relation to offenses arising out of any act or omission done in the performance of official duty.”

The minutes to the agreement regarding the status of U.S. forces in Japan states, “Where a member of the U.S. military personnel is charged with an offense, a certificate issued by his commanding officer stating that the alleged offense, if committed by him, arose out of an act or omission done in the performance of official duty, shall, in any judicial proceedings, be sufficient evidence of the fact unless the contrary is proved.”

According to Niihara, the Japanese government disputed the U.S. claim that the act was “in the performance of official duty” in the 1974 shooting of Iejima Island residents and the 1957 “Girard Case”.

In the case of the incident in Iejima on July 10, 1974, two U.S. servicemen in a truck chased a young man who was mowing the grass on the U.S. auxiliary airfield on Iejima Island near Okinawa’s main island and fired a shot at him with a signal pistol.

Initially, the U.S. forces argued that they were not on ‘official duty,’ but later changed the position to assert that the U.S. servicemen were on official duty. The change took place after they received an urgent telegram from Washington. It was a joint message of the departments of state and defense, which eventually denied Japan the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over the case.

The telegram said that if the U.S. fails to exercise jurisdiction over such a case, it will adversely affect SOFAs the U.S. has with various foreign countries and cause a loss of servicemen’s morale.

Upon receiving this cable, the U.S. 5th Air Force in Japan issued a certificate stating that the two servicemen had been on official duty.

Foreign Minister Kimura Toshio requested the United States reconsider the matter. However, the Japanese government concluded a secret memorandum with the United States to the effect that Japan would not seek jurisdiction over the case.

In another case, in 1957, U.S. soldier William S.Girard fired a shot at and killed a Japanese woman who was picking up brass shell casings at the U.S. Army Somagahara training ground in Gunma Prefecture.

In this case, the U.S. forces voluntarily relinquished the right to jurisdiction to allow Japan to try him. In return, the Japanese government secretly promised to give Girard a light sentence.

Based on material of the U.S. Army’s bureau of legal affairs, Niihara also revealed the number of crimes committed by soldiers of the U.S. three forces in Japan (other than Okinawa) from December 1962 to November 1963.

Japan renounced almost all rights to jurisdiction and relinquished them to the U.S. side. (1) Japan held jurisdiction over 350 cases (or 10.2 percent) of the total of 3,433 offenses that should have been put under Japan’s jurisdiction; and (2) Japan accepted 2,448 cases (or 93.2 percent) of the total of 2,627 cases in which the U.S. requested that Japan hand over jurisdiction, he added.

Niihara pointed out that these unfair practices were made possible by many secret Japan-U.S. agreements, including one referred to in a report that then Special Assistant to the President for National Security Frank Nash submitted to President Dwight David Eisenhower in November 1957, titled, “UNITED STATES OVERSEAS MILITARY BASES”, stating, “These (Japan-U.S. agreements relating to the sharing of claims, jurisdiction over US personnel) are supplemented by a classified minute (CONF) in which the Japanese agree to waive their primary right to jurisdiction except in cases of material importance to Japan.” - Akahata, May 19, 2008
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