[Editorial] Sentencing two U.S. Navy sailors for raping Okinawan woman Japan-U.S. Status-of-Forces Agreement needs to be revised

March 3, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Naha District Court sentenced one sailor to ten years in prison (12-years recommended), and the other, a petty officer third class, to nine years (10-years recommended) for the brutal rape of a young woman in Okinawa City last October.
The presiding judge pointed out, “This case is more heinous than similar cases.” The victim stated in her affidavit that she still feels fearful, painful and frustrated, and hopeless.

We can imagine how she feels both physically and mentally, and we highly commend these prison sentences that take the victim’s feelings into account. We want both the United States and Japanese governments to take the judgment seriously, to apologize to the victim, and do their best to compensate her and provide her with psychological care.

After the sentencing, the judge read out messages from citizen judges and himself, saying, “The accused may think that the sentences are severe, but the feelings of the victim and the citizen judges as Okinawans require severe punishment for this crime.”

One of the accused held the woman her tightly by the neck while violating her. They then robbed the victim. Surely there is nothing more contemptible than this type of behavior.

The citizen judges stated, “This is not discriminatory treatment of the accused because they are U.S. military personnel. We made a dispassionate decision.” They stated that they came to the decision by focusing on the cruelty of the crime without seeing U.S. military servicemen as having any special status. This can be seen as a level-headed decision.

In addition to the sentence, we commend the judgment because the messages from the citizen and presiding judges reflect the honest feelings of people in Okinawa who find themselves caught amidst irrational circumstances.

Since this incident crimes have continued to be committed by U.S. military personnel. The U.S. and Japanese governments should take heed of the messages from the citizen and presiding judges. The approach taken by both governments has lacked the seriousness required to prevent further crimes from occurring and to ensure fair treatment for the people of Okinawa.

At the time of the incident, the accused were about to transfer to a U.S. base in Guam. The petty officer third class, one of the accused, stated that he raped the victim because he did not think that he would be caught. The accused clearly did not understand the significance of their actions, and that they effectively trampled over a person’s human dignity. We strongly condemn the U.S. military’s moral education for creating this kind of servicemen.

We once again wish to remind all concerned that Okinawa is not an occupied territory nor a colony of the United States. U.S. military and civilian personnel should not exploit the Japan-U.S. Status-of-Forces Agreement (SOFA) to pull rank on Okinawan people.

The U.S. and Japanese governments should accept the messages from citizen and presiding judges and think deeply about what they represent. Crimes and incidents involving U.S. military personnel continue to occur, undermining confidence in the partnership between the United States and Japan while the both governments avoid the main issue by talking about improving the way the Status-of-Forces Agreement is implemented. Surely the time has come for both governments to recognize the abnormalities in what is an unfair SOFA, and take serious steps to revise the agreement.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

Go to Japanese

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