Ryukyu Shimpo, Japan
Over 80 Percent of Rape Suspects from US Military Not Arrested
The Japanese government must strongly demand a revision to the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement to protect the dignity of the victims in our country.
Translated By Ethan Ferraro
16 January 2013
Edited by Rachel Smith
Japan - Ryukyu Shimpo - Original Article (Japanese)
Since 1996, of the 118 suspects who were members of the American military and charged with such heinous crimes as murder, burglary, arson and rape, 58 had their cases processed without arrest. Of the 35 suspects who were charged with rape, 30 — a shocking 85.7 percent — were processed without arrest. The only solution to this problem is a drastic revision to the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement.
In 1995, the American and Japanese governments agreed that they would improve the system for handling suspects accused of heinous crimes by having the American military transfer suspects to Japanese authorities before prosecution, when deemed necessary. However, this agreement has not been sufficient. The agreement between the American and Japanese governments appears meaningless.
This situation is a result of the vagueness of the agreement and the fact that American authorities only transfer suspects into the custody of Japanese officials at their own discretion. At the very least, this agreement must be changed to obligate the American authorities to transfer suspects to Japanese custody when the suspects are accused of a serious crime.
When reading through the National Police Agency statistical materials that have recently become public, it is not clear whether the Japanese requested that the suspects be transferred and the Americans refused or if the Japanese never requested the transfer in the first place. If there were examples of the Japanese authorities never even asking for the suspects to be transferred into their custody, it would become a major public relations problem.
When the Japanese government does not ask for a suspect to be handed over, they usually give the reason that the U.S. military is cooperating with the investigation. However, there are several examples of investigations being hindered by a suspect not being in Japanese custody.
In 1993, a rape suspect was supposed to be confined to the Kadena Air Base but managed to escape to America on a civilian flight. In 2003, the suspects of several burglary cases were able to meet while they were confined on base, and the prosecutor offered the following criticisms during the trial: “There is a strong possibility that they collaborated to ensure that their stories match. The defendants were left in an environment in which they could freely communicate, and we cannot expect anything from the U.S. military’s ability to watch over these defendants.”
When investigations have been hindered to such an extent, why are there so few cases of suspects being handed over before prosecution? Is the 1953 secret agreement between Japan and America still in effect? This agreement stated that, “In the case of an incident involving American military personnel, the incident will not be handled publicly and aside from particularly serious crimes. We have no intention of allowing the Japanese to exercise their jurisdiction over said crime.”* Evidence of this humiliating agreement was in the secret minutes of the committee for the U.S.-Japan alliance. If this agreement is still in use, it must be immediately disposed of.
Use of a better current agreement will not lead to a solution. The Japanese government must strongly demand a revision to the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement to protect the dignity of the victims in our country.
*This quote, while accurately translated, could not be verified.
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